THE BIG BURN

Born of sparks from trains, the working fires of homesteaders and miners, the campfires of hoboes, and lightning coursing down from the summer sky, the fires joined as a wall of flame, an “orange hell” that consumed two-and-a-half-million acres of public forest land by the time it was done. It was called the Big Burn, and “August 20, 1910, would be remembered as the day the mountains roared.” Ingold (Airfield, 1999, etc.) develops the stories of three teens involved in and affected by the drama of the raging fires. Their narratives are leisurely developed, and it is almost two-thirds of the way into the long novel before the pace of their stories escalates to parallel the rise of the fire itself. Jarrett, the brother of the forest ranger, Lizbeth, the homesteader determined to keep her land, and Seth, the enlisted man in the all-black Twenty-fifth Infantry hoping to find and prove his courage, are the three characters whose lives intertwine in the face of a natural disaster. When the fires finally join and the story picks up its pace, an exciting tale ensues. The air turns orange, the gale-force winds rage, trees tumble through the air like sticks, and the roar of the fire bounces off of the canyon walls as the fire sweeps through Idaho and into Montana. Readers with a taste for sprawling tales will find their efforts rewarded. An afterword by the author and suggestions for further reading will inform readers more about this spectacular but little-known event in American history. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-216470-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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

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 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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The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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