AT THE CROSSING PLACES

It’s the year 1200, and young Arthur de Caldicot is at the crossing-places, those murky, in-between places not quite defined: dawn and dusk, New Year’s Day, the foreshore, and the times and places of our lives where change is likely. Arthur is living in the Marches—part English, part Welsh—beginning a new life as squire for Lord Stephen at Holt Castle. He now knows that Sir John and Lady Helen are not his real parents; he knows his father is a murderer but doesn’t know his real mother. In this second of the planned trilogy, Crossley-Holland (The Seeing Stone, 2001, etc.) takes readers along with Arthur de Caldicot through the seeing stone Merlin gave him to witness the drama of the Arthurian tales: Arthur’s coronation, Excalibur, the Round Table, Morgan Le Fay, Sir Gawain, and the Holy Grail. Certain themes and moral ideas continue from the first volume: “Who we are isn’t only a matter of blood; it’s what we make of ourselves.” “If God loves us all the same, why doesn’t He treat us all the same?” Arthur grows up with guidance from Lord Stephen, Merlin, and the lessons of the seeing stone. This is a handsome volume with 101 chapters, a spacious design, and page decorations based on 13th-century ornamental lettering. Though many issues are left up in the air by the end of the lengthy work, the ending itself is a crossing-place. Arthur is not home nor has he made it to Jerusalem. He is living his dream of being a squire on a Crusade, but he yearns to be home, too. He has yet to find his mother, and he wonders about his new relationship with Winnie de Verdon. Readers will look forward to the third installment of this grand epic tale to see what Arthur makes of himself. (cast of characters, author’s note, word list) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-439-26598-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Levine/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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