Addresses serious issues with sensitivity and compassion, but the lightweight narrative lacks substance.

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SPAGHETTI RAIN

A 12-year-old girl experiences a year of discovery and transformation in Srager’s debut YA novel.

In the fall of 1949, Ruthie Treglia is a bright, sensitive tomboy growing up in the Washington Heights section of New York City. A high IQ test score means that at 13, she’ll start high school a year earlier than her peers. The coming year brings many changes for Ruthie, and she decides to keep a journal that she calls RR, or Ruthie’s Reflections, in which she records her everyday joys and frustrations and the pivotal events that ultimately shape the course of her teenage years. Over the course of the year, Ruthie spends time with her best friend, Karen; overcomes social awkwardness at a New Year’s Eve party; and has lunch at the Stork Club with her flamboyant aunt. She also reconnects with her Jewish heritage and learns about the flights of her friends’ families from the Nazis during World War II. Ruthie’s experiences culminate in a road trip to Florida, where she encounters racial and religious prejudice. Srager’s coming-of-age story has a solid, focused structure and a likable protagonist in Ruthie. Presenting the story in the form of a journal gives the narrative a sense of immediacy and shows how Ruthie matures during the year. Friendships are important to Ruthie, and Srager deftly weaves details from the lives of Ruthie’s friends into the narrative, presenting a well-developed picture of her social life. Ruthie’s concerns about leaving her friends behind when she starts at a new school and her nervousness about beginning her first real romantic relationship may resonate with readers experiencing similar situations. Despite the novel’s successes, the narrative suffers at times from a lack of development. Srager’s short novel progress with brief, fast-paced chapters—so fast that the development of key characters, such as Ruthie’s father, Joe, is frequently impeded.

Addresses serious issues with sensitivity and compassion, but the lightweight narrative lacks substance.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491705148

Page Count: 138

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2014

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

NUMBER THE STARS

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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