SO LOUD A SILENCE

A moiled, disappointingly passionless view of a people burdened by grief and fear after years of unchecked violence. Told that his aunt Petrona is ill, Juan, 17, leaves his family in Bogot† for Punta Verde, her country estate, where he learns that it's not sickness, but loneliness and fear that have prompted her request for company. Fear of what? Despite plenty of hints, Juan repeatedly needs to have it spelled out: Military troops and guerilla forces have become interchangeable in their terrorist tactics and lack of discipline, and the death toll has been rising almost daily. Juan meets a confusingly large number of campesinos, and Jenkins (Celebrating the Hero, 1993, etc.) shields him, and readers, from any direct experience with soldiers or mayhem—it's all secondhand or offstage. Several subplots are shoehorned in: Petrona reveals that she's actually his grandmother; and while revelations about his father's past are changing Juan from an archetypally sullen teen to a loving son, he meets and falls for Chia, a librarian who, after plenty of clumsy foreshadowing, is killed by a bomb. There is little sense of place and no reason given for the violence. Also missing is the terrifying immediacy of Frances Temple's A Taste Of Salt (1992) and, as is found in Louise Moeri's The Forty-Third War (1989), a clear vision of a society in which warfare is endemic. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-525-67538-8

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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