Tragedy and hope collide in this promising middle-grade debut.

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM

Japanese native Yuriko Ishikawa lives in Hiroshima with Papa, Aunt Kimiko, and annoying cousin Genji during the turmoil of World War II in Burkinshaw’s historical novel.

War seeps its way into every aspect of Yuriko’s life. Constant air-raid sirens and drills interrupt her daydreams, and the drone of “B-sans” (American B-29s) flying overhead fills her ears. She’s clumsy with exercises using bamboo spears as weapons, and when she and her best friend, Machiko, play jazz on the record player, they must do it in secret because all things American are banned. At home, a double wedding is planned, and new family members—Papa’s second wife, Sumiyo-san, and Aunt Kimiko’s second husband, Akira-san—move in. Will she ever have time alone with Papa again? Despite the necessity of participating in the war effort, Yuriko and her family do their best with normal activities, such as celebrating Oshagatsu (New Year’s) and the Cherry Blossom Festival. When a shocking family secret is revealed, Yuriko is shattered, but nothing can prepare her or her community for the unthinkable devastation about to hit their city. Chapter epigraphs of radio-show transcripts, newspaper headlines, and propaganda posters set the chilling tone. Told with reverence and authenticity, Yuriko’s journey is inspired by the author’s mother’s real-life experiences growing up in Hiroshima and surviving that tragic day on Aug. 6, 1945.

Tragedy and hope collide in this promising middle-grade debut. (afterword, bibliography, glossary, statistics about Hiroshima) (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63450-693-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

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

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. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure

THE GOOD THIEVES

A Prohibition-era child enlists a gifted pickpocket and a pair of budding circus performers in a clever ruse to save her ancestral home from being stolen by developers.

Rundell sets her iron-jawed protagonist on a seemingly impossible quest: to break into the ramshackle Hudson River castle from which her grieving grandfather has been abruptly evicted by unscrupulous con man Victor Sorrotore and recover a fabulously valuable hidden emerald. Laying out an elaborate scheme in a notebook that itself turns out to be an integral part of the ensuing caper, Vita, only slowed by a bout with polio years before, enlists a team of helpers. Silk, a light-fingered orphan, aspiring aerialist Samuel Kawadza, and Arkady, a Russian lad with a remarkable affinity for and with animals, all join her in a series of expeditions, mostly nocturnal, through and under Manhattan. The city never comes to life the way the human characters do (Vita, for instance, “had six kinds of smile, and five of them were real”) but often does have a tangible presence, and notwithstanding Vita’s encounter with a (rather anachronistically styled) “Latina” librarian, period attitudes toward race and class are convincingly drawn. Vita, Silk, and Arkady all present white; Samuel, a Shona immigrant from Southern Rhodesia, is the only primary character of color. Santoso’s vignettes of, mostly, animals and small items add occasional visual grace notes.

Narrow squeaks aplenty combine with bursts of lyrical prose for a satisfying adventure . (Historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1948-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more