Erskine redeems many faults with a clear passion for racial justice and hope for change.

SEEING RED

Big changes are coming to small-town Virginia in 1972.

Inheriting not just his great-great-grandfather’s name, but his hair color too, 12-year-old Frederick Stewart Porter, aka Red, is grieving his father’s recent death. His mother wants to sell the family auto shop and generations-old Porter land to move closer to her relatives in Ohio. Red’s plan to thwart the sale becomes waylaid, however, by prejudice and family secrets. In his reflective, first-person narration tinged by references to pop culture of the time, he unknowingly joins a Klan-like group, which alienates him from his black, once–best friend, Thomas. As Red connects with Thomas’ great-grandmother Miss Georgia, he vows to find the land that once held a historic African-American church. His search inadvertently uncovers a mysterious map from the past, his family’s involvement in the church’s demise and even his namesake’s role in a murder. It also raises Red’s awareness of racial inequality and the meanings of legacy and family. There’s a lot going on, much of it clearly written to convey lessons. Add a teacher who encourages questioning authority, a bitter, generations-long dispute with violent neighbors, and a budding romance, and readers have a borderline didactic novel that raises too many issues with resolutions that are too quick. Still, there’s no question the author’s heart is in the right place.

Erskine redeems many faults with a clear passion for racial justice and hope for change. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-46440-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty.

GAME SEVEN

Sixteen-year-old Julio Ramirez Jr. dreams of being a junior Nacional and playing for Cuba against the best young players around the world.

Baseball is “practically a religion” in Cuba, and Julio’s father was like a Cuban god, an all-star pitcher for the Cuban National Team. Now, having defected, he’s a star for the Miami Marlins. But instead of pride, Julio feels resentment toward his father for abandoning his family to a life of poverty while he, the great El Fuego, lives the high life in Miami with his multimillion-dollar contract. Moreover, Julio’s baseball dreams may not come true: How can he be trusted to leave the country when his father defected; won’t he do the same? So Julio defects too, and in a tense and slightly comic scene, he drives to Florida in a green ’59 Buick that’s been converted into a boat. Julio’s reconciliation with his father is handled deftly in its poignant awkwardness, and baseball action is appropriately exciting, though the notion that Julio is allowed to hang out with his father during Game 7 of the World Series is seriously implausible. Volponi wisely shies away from a tidy, inspirational ending but does leave room for hope for reconciliation.

An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-78518-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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