Shows how, for refugees, the struggle for survival doesn’t end when you leave home.

The 1992 Serbian invasion and subsequent massacre of Muslims and Catholics in Bosnia comes out of the blue for 11-year-old Kenan.

One day he’s playing soccer with his friends, and the next, they’re treating him like an outsider. His teacher, Mr. Miran, threatens to shoot him in the street. Why? Because Kenan is Muslim. And so begins his story of survival. Escaping Bosnia with his family, after passing through checkpoints with the constant fear of being thrown into internment camps, they land in Vienna as refugees, stripped of all their belongings. Once financially and socially thriving, now they survive on the generosity of strangers, shepherded from home to home. Just as Kenan is adapting to Vienna, learning German and memorizing the trolley routes, his family is brought to small-town Connecticut. While his parents begin minimum-wage jobs, Kenan starts school and learns to deal with language barriers and bullying, all the while keeping up with the progression of the war in Bosnia. The question of whether they can ever return home never once leaves his mind. Based on true events in Trebinčević’s life, this account reflects aspects of the stories of millions of refugees fleeing war. At times, the level of detail feels excessive and the story too drawn out, but this title shows how, despite cultural and geographic differences, people everywhere are sometimes drawn to malice but more often to generosity and good.

Shows how, for refugees, the struggle for survival doesn’t end when you leave home. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-43987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


Certain to steal hearts.

In this follow-up to 2020’s The One and Only Bob, Ruby the elephant is still living at Wildworld Zoological Park and Sanctuary.

She’s apprehensive about her Tuskday, a rite of passage for young elephants when she’ll give a speech in front of the rest of the herd. Luckily, she can confide in her Uncle Ivan, who is next door in Gorilla World, and Uncle Bob, the dog who lives nearby with human friend Julia. Ruby was born in an unspecified part of Africa, later ending up on display in the mall, where she met Ivan, Bob, and Julia. The unexpected arrival of someone from Ruby’s past life on the savanna revives memories both warmly nostalgic and deeply traumatic. An elephant glossary and Castelao’s charming, illustrated guide to elephant body language help immerse readers in Ruby’s world. Goofy, playful, and mischievous Ruby is fully dimensional, as she has shown her bravery during the many hardships of her young life. Applegate deftly tempers themes of grief and loss with compassion and humor as Ruby finds her place in the herd. The author’s note touches on climate change, the illegal ivory trade, and conservation efforts, but the highly emotive framing of the story through the memories of a bewildered baby elephant emphasizes the impact of lines such as “ ‘in Africa,’ I say softly, ‘there were bad people,’ ” without offering readers a nuanced understanding of the broader context that drives poaching.

Certain to steal hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9780063080089

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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