OTHELLO

Lester has taken on an immensely ambitious task, rewriting Shakespeare's tale and making a bridge to the play. A few of the bard's words are incorporated, and the basic plot is maintained, but this is primarily a literary venture. Reflecting modern sensibilities, Lester makes Othello black, enslaved by Moors, and shifts the story (it's not clear why) to England. Iago is also black, negating racism as a factor in his villainy. No longer is the title character burdened either by human flaws or falling sickness. With interpretive license and undue force, Lester makes his Othello a superman: he is apparently untraumatized by enslavement; speaks Arabic, Italian, English, etc.; he is a superb warrior; and having the wisdom of all humankind and a heart of gold, he is unable to recognize evil. Even murder springs from honor rather than the all-too-human flaw of jealousy. Unfortunately, enjoying this will be affected by one's reaction to or familiarity with domestic violence on both the minute and grand scales (the O.J. Simpson case, for example). To many readers, it will be troubling when Desdemona says, ``I want to greet each day with love burning as fiercely as the pain in the arrow-pierced heart of a deer,'' and is too foolish to see trouble brewing. She remains a traditional victim who ``asks for it'' and is just a means of exacting revenge for Lester's central characters, Othello and Iago. In spite of sensibilities over race and gender, this is a worthy effort for its exploration of the poison of jealousy, whether based on love or ambition. Lester revitalizes what for many would remain an unread text, through the all-too-fashionable concepts of notoriety and controversy, and the familiar old process of sedition. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-590-41967-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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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