DARBY

It takes the naïveté of a nine-year-old girl to light the wick of a chain of events that will affect racial bias in a small southern community. The term racial equality isn’t in Darby’s vocabulary, but in her daily life she’s certainly aware of the differences between herself and Evette, her best friend, whose father is one of the tenant farmers for Darby’s father. The girls go to separate schools; Evette has shabby clothes, lives in a tumbledown cabin, and is dirt poor. In 1926 in South Carolina, it’s a way of life. It’s Evette who excites Darby about becoming a newspaper girl when she tells her about her aunt who lives in New York City and writes for a newspaper. Mr. Salter at the newspaper likes Darby’s first essay on why toads are safe and her next, about her blind Great Uncle Harvey. That’s before a young black boy is beaten to death for trying to steal a chicken. When Mr. Salter decides to publish Darby’s article on racial injustice, he calls it “a lesson in humanity from the mouth of a child.” But her “lesson” begins an upheaval in the county that incites the Ku Klux Klan, cross-burning, and violence. It’s Darby’s voice that makes this story memorable, both the Southern colloquial cadence and expressions of innocent observations, e.g., Darby wanted to “take an eraser and rub the KKK out of my head like lines of chalk on a blackboard.” The root of this work stems from a series of oral history interviews the author conducted—and that’s what makes it ring with truth. Darby symbolizes how one person, even a child, can make a difference. (Historical fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-1417-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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BEOWULF

“Hear, and listen well, my friends, and I will tell you a tale that has been told for a thousand years and more.” It’s not exactly a rarely told tale, either, though this complete rendition is distinguished by both handsome packaging and a prose narrative that artfully mixes alliterative language reminiscent of the original, with currently topical references to, for instance, Grendel’s “endless terror raids,” and the “holocaust at Heorot.” Along with being printed on heavy stock and surrounded by braided borders, the text is paired to colorful scenes featuring a small human warrior squaring off with a succession of grimacing but not very frightening monsters in battles marked by but a few discreet splashes of blood. Morpurgo puts his finger on the story’s enduring appeal—“we still fear the evil that stalks out there in the darkness . . . ”—but offers a version unlikely to trouble the sleep of more sensitive readers or listeners. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7636-3206-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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