SIGNS OF LIFE

Dreamed memories of an ancient life that may-have-been and a wistful, would-be romance thaw Hannah's grief over the death of her twin sister, Molly. In France to view the Lascaux cave paintings, Hannah, 17, can't find the appetite for lunch, let alone cultural expeditions with her parents. Molly's death six months ago has made it emotionally impossible for them to return to their usual summer grounds. Stefan, a young juggler with a travelling circus, reminds Hannah how to laugh; vivid dreams of the cave paintings' creation result in her more philosophical outlook on life's minor passages and major ones. To the credit of Ferris (Relative Strangers, 1993, etc.), the dream/reincarnation sequences are not as hokey as they sound in summary, and yet how improbable they are—the ancestors speak as freely of the paintings as self-conscious Soho artists. The mood of the book, a compression of overlapping incidents and motifs (so- called ``gypsy'' sayings, Hannah's mother emerging from grief- induced lethargy, the love story that is ultimately another good- bye), settles sorrow on readers like a cloak before releasing them, along with the characters, from the pain. A bittersweet evocation of the mourning process. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 25, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-36909-7

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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 Boyle’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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ASK ME NO QUESTIONS

Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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