A modern-feeling hero is our tour guide through a vicious war that devastated southern France. The year is 1206, the place is the Languedoc region of France and Peter and John’s adolescent religious debates have been growing more heated. As religious conflict between the Catholic Church and the Cathar heresy increases, the boys—best friends all their lives—can’t avoid the tension. Though both are good Catholics, Peter humorlessly disapproves of John’s thirst for knowledge, and by the time the Albigensian Crusade begins three years later, the boys have parted. Peter’s become the right-hand man of the fanatic inquisitor leading the Crusade. John, on the other hand, has served first a troubadour, secondly the Viscount of Carcassonne and finally the heretic Beatrice. The more John learns, the more he questions both the Catholic Church and the gentle, idealized Cathars. The characters are thin, uninteresting vehicles for this historically accurate view of the Crusade, but the densely gruesome journey will please enthusiasts of historical wars. (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-55470-096-7

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Key Porter Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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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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Stronger on 17th-century historical detail than plot or character, this overblown series opener stars a dimwitted, unlikable Amsterdam teenager who suddenly finds himself heir to a family business tottering on the edge of bankruptcy. With conniving banker Hugo van Helsen pulling strings to complete their downfall in the wake of a disastrous trading expedition to the primitive Americas, the Windjammers need a miracle to save them. Leading a faintly Dickensian cast, sullen Adam Windjammer blunders about searching for such a miracle, having his fat repeatedly pulled from contrived fires by the far brighter and more competent Jade, Van Helsen’s adventurous, neglected daughter—until, after many trite set pieces and clumsily introduced clues, the search becomes superfluous when the Windjammers’ workmen voluntarily step forward to pay the family’s debts. Right. Richardson sets the stage for sequels from the first chapter on, but few readers are likely to want to read them. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-811-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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