A SEA SO FAR

The lives of two teenage girls, each seeking a connection with her dead mother, intertwine as they recover from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. When the earthquake strikes, orphan Kate Keely loses her home to fire and flees with her aunt and Irish neighbors. They overcome their considerable problems, and a year later are running a boarding house. Jolie Logan, the sickly daughter of a wealthy doctor, loses her mother in the earthquake and becomes obsessed with restoring their house in her mother’s memory to exactly how it was before the quake. When Jolie needs a companion, Kate comes to live with the difficult girl. Kate’s dream is to visit Ireland, her mother’s home, leaving painful memories of San Francisco behind. Her wish comes true when they go to visit Jolie’s aunt in Ireland, but the trip jeopardizes Jolie’s precarious health. Kate, a personable, self-reliant protagonist, learns through leaving to value her home in San Francisco. Jolie, who struggles with a weak heart and inflamed joints, remains largely self-absorbed until just before the end. Interesting details about the earthquake, the train journey across the country, Ireland, and conditions for women at the time enliven the text. However, the realistic tone shifts jarringly with the introduction of an Irish doctor’s wife who has mystical powers for healing and predicting the future. The story closes on a sentimental note at odds with the earlier straightforward story. An enjoyable read but not in the league with Thesman’s strongest works, such as Rachel Chance (o.p.) and The Rain Catchers (1991). (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89278-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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