PEREGRINE

In a sequel to her earlier Winter’s Hare (1996), Goodman has written a sensitive, informative, and profoundly moving portrayal of a 14-year-old widow on pilgrimage during the 12th century. Lady Edith’s husband and baby girl have recently died, but she cannot shed tears over their deaths. Feeling threatened by an obnoxious older, powerful man, Sir Runcival, who will force her to marry him, Edith goes on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Ostensibly putting herself out of his reach, she’s also unwittingly running from her sorrow. A strange wild girl, Rhiannon, begs for Edith’s protection as they travel through the English forest, and Edith takes her in. Rhiannon sees that Edith has buried her grief over her lost baby and prods her to face up to the loss. At last, as she visits Christ’s tomb, Edith allows herself to mourn for her lost child as Mary had mourned for hers, thus releasing herself from the silent torment that has stifled her life. Edith’s physical journey to Jerusalem parallels her emotional one. Goodman’s deft handling of Edith’s emotional turmoil lifts the book to a level beyond most popular young-adult novels. It would make a good companion to Francis Temple’s The Ramsay Scallop (1994) and would serve as a fitting introduction to The Canterbury Tales. Readers will not have had to read the earlier novel to enjoy this sequel. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-97729-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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