Extraordinary. (Short stories. 8 & up)

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THE GREAT WAR

STORIES INSPIRED BY ITEMS FROM THE FIRST WORLD WAR

A group of celebrated writers, including Michael Morpurgo, A.L. Kennedy, David Almond and John Boyne, reflects on simple artifacts from World War I to create a collection of short stories.

The items themselves are simple, even mundane. A wartime butter dish. A compass. A school magazine. But the stories themselves, ranging in setting from the apex of the war to its centenary now, combine each small treasure with a child's point of view to say something profound about memory and loss and what it means to wage war. In Timothée de Fombelle's “Captain Rosalie,” a small girl imagines herself a secret spy as she works to uncover the code that will let her read her father's letters. Tanya Lee Stone's story in verse, “A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” takes readers from America's racially divided cities to Belleau Wood, where a young musician learns that “Maybe making something of yourself is as / simple / as…walking, no / marching / straight into the center of / fear / all while playing a horn." Each story, lovingly crafted, shows a different facet of war in the same way that each artifact reflects something different about the time. Perhaps most moving is Tracy Chevalier's “When They Were Needed Most,” in which a small boy's theft of a cigarette from a Christmas package meant for soldiers becomes the very thing that saves his father's life. Black-and-white illustrations by Kay and photos and descriptions of each artifact complete the whole. 

Extraordinary. (Short stories. 8 & up) 

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7554-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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