Published posthumously, an effective exploration of both character and times.

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ISABEL'S WAR

A young woman comes of age with World War II looming in the background.

It is summer, 1942, and World War II is less than a year old for the United States. Isabel Brandt, 12, and her parents are vacationing at a small, unstylish resort in the Catskills. As they arrive she is teetering on the edge of adolescence; while not selfish, she is self-absorbed. Also visiting at Moskin’s Shady Pines is Helga, a German refugee, the somewhat-older niece of Mrs. Brandt’s best friend. The beautiful, sophisticated older girl is a mystery Isabel is determined to solve, especially when circumstances force her to live with the Brandts. As Helga’s unhappy story unfolds, Isabel’s world widens, and she begins to appreciate others and take brave stands, even trying to bring German concentration camps to the attention of others. The evocation of wartime is real; this view is from someone who was there. Isabel’s experiences of school, friends, a boy, movies, crooners, rationing and her brother’s enlistment combine with what she learns about Helga’s life and tortured secret to summon the times and authentically evoke a girl becoming a person aware of others, thus adding value to her life and the lives of others.

Published posthumously, an effective exploration of both character and times. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-939601-27-8

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Lizzie Skurnick/Ig

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and...

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS

Coming soon!!

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-395-53680-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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