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IN SEARCH OF MOCKINGBIRD

Believing that the tattered copy of To Kill a Mockingbird she carries around is her only connection to her dead mother, bookish Erin is angry when her newly engaged father gives her the woman’s teenaged diary as a 16th-birthday present. Reading that her mom also wanted to be a writer and even wrote to Mockingbird author Harper Lee, Erin acts on her long-held wish to meet her literary idol. Set over the course of a few days in 1986, and featuring a strong sense of the American landscape, Erin travels the thousand-plus miles from St. Paul, Minn. to Monroeville, Ala. on a bus. Along the way, she is shepherded by two quirky guardians: Sedushia, a middle-aged exotic dancer, and Epps, a big, protective computer geek. With a first-person narrative that is eloquent and credible, and prose that is restrained and economical, Ellsworth makes Erin’s unlikely coming-of-age trip convincing. Designed to look like an old journal, the story’s searching-for-mother theme should make it especially appealing to older fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie (2000) and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice Books. An engaging road trip. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8050-7236-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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