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DOWNTOWN BOY

Ten-year-old Juanito, son of migrant workers, is always the new kid. Eager to foster friendships, he must simultaneously avoid trouble with each group of kids he encounters. Expanding on the theme he introduced in his award winning Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas (2001), Herrera captures one year from his 1950s California childhood recounting, in first-person free verse, a boy’s fears, thoughts, loneliness and optimistic dreams when stability is challenged by the continual uprooting of a migrant nomadic lifestyle. Herrera succeeds in developing his main character with little more than the descriptive inner thoughts of his young narrator, incorporating certain Spanish phrases throughout the text. Unlike the overall positive uplifting atmosphere of the earlier picture book, this novel allows readers to feel pain, resignation and resilience to circumstances beyond a young boy’s control. Nevertheless, Juanito is faithfully sure that life will continue beyond the loss of his diabetic father’s ability to work, when he loses both legs to a gangrene infection. His stability is the continual love he receives from his parents. A poignant and lyrical look into a transient existence that may still apply today. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-439-64489-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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ASK ME NO QUESTIONS

Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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