A fine, old-fashioned-feeling coming-of-age tale set in the World War I skies.

WINGS OF WAR

Sixteen-year-old Edward Simpson dreams of being a pilot, and World War I affords him the opportunity.

It’s the early days of flying machines, and Edward’s uncle Horst, who builds various kinds of airplanes to fly the Saskatchewan skies in 1914, is in the thick of it, saying, “We will soar like the birds and laugh at the poor people on the ground below.” He arranges for Edward to go to flight school in Montana. From there, Edward goes to the Royal Flying Corps in England and off to war. H.G. Wells had predicted air battles in the clouds and bomb-carrying flying machines capable of destroying whole cities, and soon Edward sees firsthand the killing capabilities of his beloved flying machines. But he literally feels above it all, thinking, “If only I could stay up here forever, free from the insanity below.” Though he loses friends and acknowledges the death and destruction below, he is able to put the war at a distance and be realistic about his role in it: “It’s what I am, and I cannot deny that.” Wilson writes eloquently about one boy’s love of flight and his dream of flying. Though dialogue is sometimes used didactically to teach readers the history of flight, Edward’s narrative is thoroughly engaging.

A fine, old-fashioned-feeling coming-of-age tale set in the World War I skies. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-38567-830-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

  • Newbery Honor Book

HEART OF A SAMURAI

BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF NAKAHAMA MANJIRO

In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro joined four others on an overnight fishing trip. Caught by a severe storm, their small rowboat was shipwrecked on a rocky island. Five months later, they were rescued by the crew of a whaling ship from New Bedford. Manjiro, renamed John Mung, was befriended by the captain and eventually lived in his home in New Bedford, rapidly absorbing Western culture. But the plight of his impoverished family in Japan was never far from Manjiro’s mind, although he knew that his country’s strict isolationist policy meant a death sentence if he returned. Illustrated with Manjiro’s own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy’s adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner is the perfect companion to Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy, by Rhoda Blumberg (2001). (historical note, extensive glossary, bibliography.) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8981-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it’s...

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  • Newbery Honor Book

ECHO

A multilayered novel set in turbulent times explores music’s healing power.

Sweeping across years and place, Ryan’s full-bodied story is actually five stories that take readers from an enchanted forest to Germany, Pennsylvania, Southern California, and finally New York City. Linking the stories is an ethereal-sounding harmonica first introduced in the fairy-tale beginning of the book and marked with a mysterious M. In Nazi Germany, 12-year-old Friedrich finds the harmonica in an abandoned building; playing it fills him with the courage to attempt to free his father from Dachau. Next, the harmonica reaches two brothers in an orphanage in Depression-era Pennsylvania, from which they are adopted by a mysterious wealthy woman who doesn’t seem to want them. Just after the United States enters World War II, the harmonica then makes its way to Southern California in a box of used instruments for poor children; as fifth-grader Ivy Lopez learns to play, she discovers she has exceptional musical ability. Ryan weaves these stories together, first, with the theme of music—symbolized by the harmonica—and its ability to empower the disadvantaged and discriminated-against, and then, at the novel’s conclusion, as readers learn the intertwined fate of each story’s protagonist.

A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it’s worth every moment of readers’ time. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-439-87402-1

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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