ACROSS THE POND

An emotionally perceptive story of awakening compassion for self and others.

A new life in a new country does not, at first, bring the fresh start Callie hoped for.

Seventh grader Callie; her 7-year-old brother, Jax; and their parents leave San Diego after inheriting a castle in the Scottish countryside. Callie’s parents, who as grad students rented a cottage on the grounds and became close to the late owner, Lady Whittington-Spence, begin much-needed renovations. Callie, who departed California ostracized by her friends, imagines the cachet of being the exotic American in her new school. However, while the ebullient Jax quickly settles in, Callie embarrasses herself on her first visit to the local school. Burning with shame, she persuades her parents to let her try home schooling and (eventually) makes friends with Sid, the prickly granddaughter of her parents’ gardener. Most excitingly, she uncovers a journal kept by one Pippa Spence when she was evacuated to the Highlands during World War II. Pippa was a keen bird-watcher, and, as Callie reads her journal, excerpts of which are interspersed, and explores the grounds and its bird life with Sid, she starts to put down roots and gain a new perspective on painful events back home. This character-driven story of introspection and growth will appeal to thoughtful readers. The intensely awkward self-consciousness of the middle school years is presented with realistic sensitivity and insight. Main characters are White, and there is natural, realistic diversity in the supporting cast.

An emotionally perceptive story of awakening compassion for self and others. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-7121-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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