Fourteen-year-old Celie always knew that “someday” the Swift River Valley, where she, her mother, and grandmother live would be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston, but she never dreamed that day would come just months before her graduation from eighth grade in the spring of 1938. The reality of the flooding of the town of Enfield was life changing for the three Wheeler women. Gran’s family had lived in the big 18-room house since the 1700s; she had buried her husband, her son (Celie’s dad), and a baby daughter on the land. Refusing to sell her property to the District Water Commission, Gran is the last holdout in the valley, denying that they must leave. The arrival of handsome Mr. Parker, driving his cool, yellow MG, who has come to convince Gran to sell, precipitates the bittersweet resolution. Celie’s crush on him disrupts her life-long friendship with Chubby; Mama hopes to start a new life in Chicago; and an auction of their household goods ends with Gran dying brokenhearted. A perceptive picture of small-town life that defines the meaning of “watershed” as the people must cope with wrenching change when their small Massachusetts town disappears. This “factitious” novel is one of an emerging trend of telling a story about a factual time or event with fictitious people. An author’s note and bibliographical sources provide grounding and the purposeful plot carries a strong message through the characters. Readers will understand how emotional ties to a place can define who you are. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-29317-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.


After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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