A tribute to refugees that shows them as the courageous survivors of unimaginable trauma.

YARA'S SPRING

Yara was only 10 when the Arab Spring began and Syria became the center of a brutal civil war.

By the time she was 14, the old days when she skipped through the streets to meet her friend Shireen for dance classes were gone. Aleppo was split in two, and anyone trying to cross between East and West Aleppo could be shot dead by snipers. Yara spent her days indoors behind boarded-up windows as President al-Assad’s helicopters mercilessly dropped bombs. One of these bombs kills Yara’s parents and leaves her trapped under rubble. Miraculously, she, her Nana, and her little brother survive, and they—along with Shireen and her twin brother—begin a slow, hazardous journey to Jordan. They endure long weeks of zigzagging through back roads, bribing corrupt soldiers, and facing danger, thirst, and exhaustion. Even once she reaches safety in Canada, Yara wrestles with guilt and ambivalence over leaving Syria; the trauma and anxiety of losing one’s home, family, and friends never fading. The novel, inspired by Saeed’s own experiences, confronts reality head-on with no attempt at romanticizing the fight for democracy or the unimaginable conditions children are forced to face in their struggle for safety. Through Yara’s eyes, readers are taken inside Syria—and through the emotions of love, loss, and steadfastness in the face of death.

A tribute to refugees that shows them as the courageous survivors of unimaginable trauma. (map, author’s note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-440-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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GOODBYE STRANGER

Three interwoven narrative strands explore the complicated possibilities of friendship in early adolescence.

Bridge (formerly Bridget) finds increasing confidence as she navigates her seventh-grade year, while, in unsent letters to his absent grandfather, classmate Sherm expresses grief and anger over changes in his family. And an unnamed, slightly older child in a second-person narrative spends a single miserable day avoiding school for reasons that are revealed at the turning point. Stead explores communication and how messages—digital or verbal, intentional and inadvertent, delivered or kept private—suffuse the awkward, tentative world of young teens leaping (or sometimes falling) from the nest in search of their new selves. From Bridge’s cat-ears, worn daily from September through mid-February, to Sherm’s stolid refusal to respond to his grandfather’s texts, the protagonists try on their new and changing lives with a mixture of caution and recklessness. Stead adroitly conveys the way things get complicated so quickly and so completely for even fairly ordinary children at the edge of growing up with her cleareyed look at bullies and their appeal (one girl is “truly genius at being awful”), as well as her look at impulsiveness and the lure of easy sharing via text. She captures the stomach-churning moments of a misstep or an unplanned betrayal and reworks these events with grace, humor, and polish into possibilities for kindness and redemption.

Superb. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74317-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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