PARK'S QUEST

In a multilayered novel filled with themes of reconciliation and renewal, the two-time Newbery winner draws parallels between a boy's quest for the family of his father, killed in Vietnam, and the Arthurian legends. Park's pretty mother, grieving and withdrawn, has told Park nothing of his origins, so, when Park is 11 and the Vietnam War Memorial is being dedicated in Washington, his need to know increases and he convinces his mother to let him visit his paternal grandfather on a Virginia farm. There Park discovers the existence of his Uncle Frank, Frank's Vietnamese wife and stepdaughter (Thanh, six months younger than Park)—plus an inarticulate grandfather, paralyzed by strokes. Thanh is "sassy" and competitive, full of life and mischief, and at first has no use for Park; but she is also wise and generous at heart; when she and Park discover that they are half-brother and sister, it advances their growing friendship. Park has long had the habit of imagining himself a knight errant or long-lost heir; in truth, he is finally both, but not in the conventional terms of his fantasies. Using elegantly chosen symbols, Paterson entwines noble legend with contemporary realism; and the two worlds merge when the pure springhouse water Thanh defends so fiercely when she first meets interloper Park is shared by the two and their grandfather. Park's quest is a fine journey of discovery, and the characters he meets are uniquely memorable.

Pub Date: April 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140342621

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1988

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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HATCHET

A prototypical survival story: after an airplane crash, a 13-year-old city boy spends two months alone in the Canadian wilderness. In transit between his divorcing parents, Brian is the plane's only passenger. After casually showing him how to steer, the pilot has a heart attack and dies. In a breathtaking sequence, Brian maneuvers the plane for hours while he tries to think what to do, at last crashing as gently and levelly as he can manage into a lake. The plane sinks; all he has left is a hatchet, attached to his belt. His injuries prove painful but not fundamental. In time, he builds a shelter, experiments with berries, finds turtle eggs, starts a fire, makes a bow and arrow to catch fish and birds, and makes peace with the larger wildlife. He also battles despair and emerges more patient, prepared to learn from his mistakes—when a rogue moose attacks him and a fierce storm reminds him of his mortality, he's prepared to make repairs with philosophical persistence. His mixed feelings surprise him when the plane finally surfaces so that he can retrieve the survival pack; and then he's rescued. Plausible, taut, this is a spellbinding account. Paulsen's staccato, repetitive style conveys Brian's stress; his combination of third-person narrative with Brian's interior monologue pulls the reader into the story. Brian's angst over a terrible secret—he's seen his mother with another man—is undeveloped and doesn't contribute much, except as one item from his previous life that he sees in better perspective, as a result of his experience. High interest, not hard to read. A winner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1987

ISBN: 1416925082

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987

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