CHASING ORION

It seems unfair to 11-year-old Georgie Mason that in Indiana’s summer heat she can’t go swimming or even to the movies for fear of catching polio. It is “simply and horribly unbelievable,” however, that her teenage neighbor Phyllis is living in an iron lung, viewing the world through mirrors like Tennyson’s tower-bound Lady of Shalott. Georgie’s struggle with the cosmic implications of her neighbor’s plight—and her rising fear that Phyllis might be seducing her brother Emmett into helping her die—form the core of this gut-punching, often very funny novel that asks serious questions about our corporeal selves, faith, power, alienation, euthanasia and, it being 1952, the relative importance of saddle shoes. Lasky creates an unusually credible, likable 11-year-old voice and expertly maps Georgie’s emotional terrain, a rich landscape shaped by literature and peppered with sound bites such as “I was very malaised” and “I like reasons for stuff.” A truly extraordinary page-turner that embraces life’s big and small aspects with humor and a healthy respect for its profound contradictions. (Historical fiction. 11 & up)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3982-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.

PRISONER B-3087

If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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A gripping, nuanced story of the human cost of conflict appropriate for both children and adults.

THE NIGHT DIARY

In 1947, Nisha’s beloved country is being torn apart—and so is her family.

Nisha and her twin brother, Amil, celebrate their 12th birthday in their beloved town of Mirpur Khas, India, a month before their country receives independence from the British and splits into India and Pakistan. Painfully shy, Nisha, who lost her mother in childbirth and feels distant from her stern father and her elderly grandmother, is only able to speak freely with the family cook, a Muslim man named Kazi. Although Nisha’s mother was Muslim, her family is Hindu, and the riots surrounding Partition soon make it impossible for them to live in their home safely despite their mixed faith. They are forced to leave their town—and Kazi. As Nisha and her family make their way across the brand-new border, Nisha learns about her family history, not to mention her own strength. Hiranandani (The Whole Story of Half a Girl, 2013) compassionately portrays one of the bloodiest periods in world history through diary entries Nisha writes to her deceased mother. Nisha’s voice is the right mix of innocence and strength, and her transformation is both believable and heartbreaking. Nisha’s unflinching critiques of Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah are particularly refreshing in their honesty.

A gripping, nuanced story of the human cost of conflict appropriate for both children and adults. (Historical fiction. 11-adult)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2851-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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