Droll, moving, resonant.

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ONE LAST SHOT

Shy, imaginative, lonely Malcolm Greeley, 12, has absorbed the message that he’s not good enough so fully that it’s become a voice in his head, predicting he’ll fail, blaming him after it happens.

When it comes to Little League, the voice sounds suspiciously like his dad’s, a former college athlete. Malcolm enjoys beating his dad playing miniature golf at Fritz’s, a shabby, quirkily furnished venue, until his dad enters him in a tournament, hiring a former nationally ranked golfer to coach him. Malcolm glumly accedes—the subject of his parents’ mounting arguments, Malcolm tries to avoid triggering them. Seedy and out of shape, coach Frank has hidden depths and, like Lex, the girl Malcolm meets at Fritz’s, helps Malcolm see his world differently. Major characters are white; several names suggest Asian ancestry. Structured like a golf game and employing golf analogies—with plenty of context for non–golf-conversant readers—the novel cuts between the tournament Malcolm’s currently playing and his journey to it. The voices he hears are not mental illness markers but opinions and beliefs he’s internalized. At its best, the novel is first-rate, masterfully conveying Malcolm’s anxious monitoring of rising marital conflict he’s at a loss to fix. Lex is a compelling character, comfortable in her skin, and rewardingly, Frank defies expectations. Watching Malcolm free himself from his need to fix others’ problems is exhilarating even if the neat ending partly undermines that message.

Droll, moving, resonant. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-264392-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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