THE SHAKERESS

An unusual coming-of-age novel, both for its subject and its focus. Naomi and her three siblings are living with her Aunt Thankful in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1828. Their parents and her youngest brother perished in a fire, and her aunt’s pinched ways and threat to break up the family lead Naomi bravely to Canterbury, New Hampshire. There, as she hoped, the Shaker community takes the children in. They are separated by gender, but Naomi rejoices not only as her brothers and sister thrive under the Shaker way, learning and doing, but also as she strives to find her own place. She learns herbal medicine, even as her mother had, but decides to leave the community to seek more. She finds a place in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, staying with a family and working as healer and herbalist. She even falls in love. But she is still searching, and eventually finds answers in the preaching of those who speak of a Joseph Smith and what he heard from God in founding the Mormon faith. What is noteworthy about this story is the intensity with which it treats spiritual questions: the place of prayer; the path to faith; the meaning and mystery of the divine. Along with trying to find out what she wants to be when she grows up and whom she will love, Naomi longs for spiritual nourishment in a direct and unaffected way. There’s no question that there is some proselytizing here, and the plot is sometimes overly complex. There’s some awkward language, although it is well written for the most part. It treats two less-well-known religions, but its strength is in its recognition of the spiritual quest. Engaging as historical fiction and for the honest way it approaches belief. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 30, 2002

ISBN: 1-886910-56-1

Page Count: 216

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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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The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a...

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. 

Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. 

The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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