A solid, heartwarming tale about an orphan’s travails.


A young boy in 1827 struggles to keep his new home in this debut children’s book.

After losing his Russian father and Aleut mother in the same year, Misha Alexandrov must travel from Archangel, Alaska, to the Ross Fortress in Northern California. He is accompanying Dimitri Makarova, his father’s best friend, who is starting work as a carpenter in the settlement. But Misha’s stay in his new home is almost instantly beset by a run of bad luck, and Stepan Tarasov, the construction foreman, becomes convinced that the boy is a jinx. Tarasov insists that Misha must prove his worth to the settlement or else he will be sent back to Alaska and an uncertain future. Misha has found a community with Chilan, a Kashaya Native American boy who is his first friend, and Kanoa, the Hawaiian man who rooms with Misha and Dimitri. Misha does not want to return to Alaska, but there are few opportunities for a young boy to prove himself. He must take whatever work he can get, endear himself to his fellow settlers, and avoid the wrath of Tarasov if he wants to stay in his new surroundings. Tanaka’s story sheds light on a little-known component of California colonization and the multicultural settlement at the real Fort Ross in what is now Sonoma County. Though the novel uses the classic children’s-literature trope of an orphan, it works hard to emphasize the importance of families of choice and underscores the many ways that a boy can find mentors and guardians. The book’s main flaw is its pacing, as it seems to be in a rush to find completion, which comes at the cost of a fuller sense of the cast. Scenes that could be expanded and that would show Misha’s growth as a character to greater effect, such as the initial mistrust felt by the local villagers toward the boy, are rushed through in a handful of pages. The story is at its best when focusing on characterization, such as explaining Dimitri’s reasons for taking in Misha or fleshing out Kanoa.

A solid, heartwarming tale about an orphan’s travails.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-54484-6

Page Count: 152

Publisher: River's End Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2017

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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