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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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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CLOCKWORK ANGEL

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 1

A century before the events of Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, another everyday heroine gets entangled with demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Sixteen-year-old orphaned Tessa comes to London to join her brother but is imprisoned by the grotesque Dark Sisters. The sisters train the unwilling Tessa in previously unknown shapeshifter abilities, preparing her to be a pawn in some diabolical plan. A timely rescue brings Tessa to the Institute, where a group of misfit Shadowhunters struggles to fight evil. Though details differ, the general flavor of Tessa’s new family will be enjoyably familiar to the earlier trilogy’s fans; the most important is Tessa’s rescuer Will, the gorgeous, sharp-tongued teenager with a mysterious past and a smile like “Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.” The lush, melodramatic urban fantasy setting of the Shadowhunter world morphs seamlessly into a steampunk Victorian past, and this new series provides the setup for what will surely be a climactic battle against hordes of demonically powered brass clockworks. The tale drags in places, but this crowdpleaser’s tension-filled conclusion ratchets toward a new set of mysteries. (Steampunk. 13-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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