Careful, serious, indelible.



In a caste system based on birth order, a lowly middle child wants to matter.

It’s the late 21st century. Tools are mostly powered by hand, and cars are rare. Eldests—children born first in their family—are revered. Schools tout their bravery and heroism daily in compulsory chants. Then, at age 14, they go to military camp, never to be seen again. They’re fighting the Quiet War, so named because their sacrifice allows everyone else to live quietly, unbothered. Eleven-year-old “Maggie-middler” doesn’t think much about the war, but she wants attention. Forbidden at all costs from interacting with those who live outside the town limits (“shame upon the wanderers,” says the chant), Maggie makes friends with a wanderer girl anyway—then decides to turn the girl’s father in to the mayor. Debut novelist Applebaum’s prose sings. Forbidden air outside the town’s boundary carries the scent “of crisp, red apples” even though there are no apple trees nearby. Trios of alliterated adjectives shift as Maggie’s awareness grows: Wanderers are “Dirty. Dangerous. Deceitful,” but when Maggie sees one victimized, he’s “Bleeding, battered, bruised.” Maggie’s unpredictable route to heroism involves a secret that renders moot any textual confrontation of the “eldest edict” readers might hope for, but it’s nonetheless satisfying. Characters seem white by default save one family whose name hints at South Asian origins. Disability and disfigurement are depicted gently, with respect.

Careful, serious, indelible. (Dystopian fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31733-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...


The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...


Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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