BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

The Petersons, first met in Tug of War (1990) as Latvian refugees in Poland and Germany, have now (1948) arrived in Toronto, thanks to the sponsorship of kind Helen and Ivar Fraser and the promise of a job teaching Latin for father Lukas. But plans immediately go awry: Lukas has a heart attack and can't work, while Ivar's new job takes him to Alberta; still, the Frasers pay the hospital bill and provide emergency funds and a new place to live. The new landlady, though, is grasping and unfriendly and, while all three children find jobs, Hugo's in construction and his twin Astra's at a dry cleaners are grueling and leave them little energy for the education they nonetheless manage to continue. Tomas, 12, works long hours as a delivery boy. Each meets suspicion and prejudice but also makes real friends, and not just among fellow immigrants. Latvian traditions are maintained while the members of the family begin to adopt Canadian ways. The end of their first year finds them in work better suited to their talents, and able to buy a plot where they'll soon build a house. Alternating episodic vignettes concerning the three young people, Lingard builds an authentic picture of immigrants starting over; though the Petersons have many things in their favor, including good luck as well as their drive and intelligence, their experiences are representative of more than this particular setting. Solid and interesting. (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-525-67360-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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