A story for children and adults, full of historical details and humorous anecdotes.

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ALICE AT THE HOME FRONT

A strong-willed, patriotic young girl growing up during World War II dreams of being a war heroine in Tarantino’s (Life at the Café Berlitz: A Memoir of Paris, 2004) heartwarming tale.

It’s 1942 and precocious 11-year-old Alice Calder commits to the war effort as an airplane spotter. Even though Alice is told she is too young for such a job, she perches at her window with binoculars and a logbook—much to her mother’s dismay. The novel chronicles Alice’s adventures and misadventures as she volunteers at the Red Cross, encourages other kids to get involved in the war effort, and keeps in touch with her teenage friend, Jimmy, who flies planes for the Civil Air Patrol. She even looks for spies in her hometown of Providence, R.I., reporting any suspicious activity she sees to police. But she is most interested in Jimmy, whom she admires and has a crush on, even though she doesn’t yet understand her feelings toward him. Tarantino’s convincing narrative evokes Alice’s childlike excitement and fears. When Jimmy disappears after flying in a storm, Alice is extremely upset; her overactive imagination contributes to the overwhelming worry she feels for Jimmy. Desperate to see him again, Alice will do anything she can to help. But Alice doesn’t let much get her down. She perseveres through everything thrown her way, showing her courage, innocence, enthusiasm and zest for life. Her spirit and can-do attitude are engaging and inspiring. The story is unique in that it approaches this time period through a child’s eyes, while the dialogue and inner monologue are spot-on. There’s also an enjoyable balance of period details and characterization, which combine to transport readers back to the ’40s with a fresh perspective on a trying time.

A story for children and adults, full of historical details and humorous anecdotes.

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462068029

Page Count: 124

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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

NUMBER THE STARS

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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