Give this quite literally impressionistic portrait of a slice of the South after the Civil War to readers with patience and...

RIVER MUSIC

Multiple perspectives tell pieces of the story of Rainy, a 10-year-old girl found as an infant.

She lives with Will Barnes, her foster father, who found her snuggled in the crook of a tree, and his son, Ben. Nearby lives Gabrielle, a New Orleans native who gave birth to Rainy while her husband, Jared, was away fighting the Civil War. Among others who fill out the cast are Marie Bijoux, Gabrielle’s mixed-race half sister; her husband, Pondichéry; and Robert Ray, an elderly neighbor who saw Marie Bijoux put Rainy in the tree. A mysterious African-American girl who drops a scattering of jewelry for Rainy to find sets off a sequence of events that reveals the tangled connections among the members of the community, both white and black. Sauerwein’s writing is as lush as the Spanish moss draping Southern live oak trees, but this slight novella doesn’t do it justice. Amid the multitude of perspectives, no clear protagonist emerges, nor is there much of a plot. What there is, though, is a kaleidoscopically effective vision of disparate, messy, complicated humanity.

Give this quite literally impressionistic portrait of a slice of the South after the Civil War to readers with patience and a love of language. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60898-186-1

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Namelos

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Interesting and well written but problematic in its conceptualization of a generic Africa and Africans.

THE HAWKWEED LEGACY

Witch queen Poppy Hawkweed returns in this sequel to The Hawkweed Prophecy (2016).

After the events of the last book, Poppy attempts to escape her new life as a witch queen by transforming into a swallow and migrating to Africa, though to what part of the vast continent is unclear. There, white Poppy’s taken in by a medicine maker, Mma, and her dark-skinned great-grandson, Teko. Though Mma and Teko are initially portrayed as likable characters, they eventually imprison Poppy, ostensibly for her own good, as they’ve seen a vision that she will be killed if she returns to England. Back in England, the third-person narrative perspective shifts among characters and times. There’s Poppy’s birth mother, Charlock, both in the present and when she was younger, as well as Leo, Ember, and Betony, Leo’s mother. Through the many lenses and back stories readers learn of Leo’s conception and what became of Betony, who left the witches to have her son. Teko eventually allows Poppy to escape, and once back in England, she’s bullied into taking up her queendom. But there are many twists and turns and painful betrayals to be hashed out before there’s a chance of happily ever after. Though themes of sisterhood are strong, most female relationships are interrupted, if not broken, by male intrusion. The real unbreakable bond in these stories is that between mother and child.

Interesting and well written but problematic in its conceptualization of a generic Africa and Africans. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60286-314-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Weinstein Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale.

THE CHOLO TREE

Boxed in by societal prejudices, a young Chicano struggles to find his identity.

Split into two separate periods, Chacón’s insightful novel portrays the trials of Victor Reyes, a death metal–loving, artistic teen who’s seemingly ill-fated in life. In the book’s first half, 14-year-old Victor recovers from a shooting—he was dead for a hair over 2 minutes—that leaves him with a fuzzy memory. Almost everyone, including his mom, believes he’s a cholo, a gangbanger destined for trouble. Though Victor tries his best to mend his relationship with his mom, he frequently ends up in incriminating situations. Meanwhile, Victor meets and falls for a feisty part-Mexican, part-Indian girl. The story moves at a meandering pace, which Chacón uses to sketch in disjointed details. Victor’s first-person narration doesn’t stand out in any particular way, but each of the diverse supporting characters features a distinct, if stereotypical, voice to fill in that void. The novel’s second half focuses on 17-year-old Victor, a senior succeeding in school and love. A supportive teacher helps him refine his artistic goals, pushing him to apply for art school. But Victor’s anger and past won’t let him go, and soon he’s knee-deep in the cholo life. Overall, the author employs a well-worn redemption arc, and the often clunky, self-conscious narration doesn’t really help to make it feel fresh: “They looked sort of geeky cool, like journalism students, the kind of kids that YA novels are written about.”

A well-meaning, awkward cautionary tale. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55885-840-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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