Young readers will come away inspired by these portraits of courageous ordinary people.

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THE SURRENDER TREE

POEMS OF CUBA’S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

Tales of political dissent can prove, at times, to be challenging reads for youngsters, but this fictionalized version of the Cuban struggle for independence from Spain may act as an entry to the form.

The poems offer rich character portraits through concise, heightened language, and their order within the cycle provides suspense. Four characters tell the bulk of the story: Rosa, a child who grows up to be a nurse who heals the wounded, sick and starving with herbal medicine; her husband, José, who helps her move makeshift hospitals from cave to cave; Silvia, an orphaned girl who escapes a slave camp so that she may learn from Rosa; and Lieutenant Death, a hardened boy who grows up wanting only to kill Rosa and all others like her. Stretching from 1850 to 1899, these poems convey the fierce desire of the Cuban people to be free.

Young readers will come away inspired by these portraits of courageous ordinary people. (author’s note, historical note, chronology, references) (Fiction/poetry. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8674-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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It's a rouser for all times.

THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE

During the Middle Ages, an itinerant girl of about 12 or 13 who knows "no home and no mother and no name but Brat" finds refuge one night by burrowing into a village dung heap where the warm, rotting muck will protect her from the bitter cold.

In the morning she is taken in by a sharp-tongued woman who turns out to be Jane, the midwife. Brat is such a hard worker that before long she is accompanying Jane to birthings, where she cleans up after the work is done and acts as the midwife's "gofer" whenever necessary. Jane begins to trust her with some of the secrets of her trade, but when Brat is asked to help with a difficult birth and fails, she runs away ashamed not only of her lack of knowledge, but for her belief that she was ever worthy of learning. How Brat comes to terms with her failure and returns to Jane's home as a true apprentice is a gripping story about a time, place, and society that 20th-century readers can hardly fathom. Fortunately, Cushman (Catherine, Called Birdy, 1994) does the fathoming for them, rendering in Brat a character as fully fleshed and real as Katherine Paterson's best, in language that is simple, poetic, and funny. From the rebirth in the dung heap to Brat's renaming herself Alyce after a heady visit to a medieval fair, this is not for fans of historical drama only.

It's a rouser for all times. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 27, 1995

ISBN: 978-0-395-69229-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s...

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THE POET X

Poetry helps first-generation Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batista come into her own.

Fifteen-year old Xiomara (“See-oh-MAH-ruh,” as she constantly instructs teachers on the first day of school) is used to standing out: she’s tall with “a little too much body for a young girl.” Street harassed by both boys and grown men and just plain harassed by girls, she copes with her fists. In this novel in verse, Acevedo examines the toxicity of the “strong black woman” trope, highlighting the ways Xiomara’s seeming unbreakability doesn’t allow space for her humanity. The only place Xiomara feels like herself and heard is in her poetry—and later with her love interest, Aman (a Trinidadian immigrant who, refreshingly, is a couple inches shorter than her). At church and at home, she’s stifled by her intensely Catholic mother’s rules and fear of sexuality. Her present-but-absent father and even her brother, Twin (yes, her actual twin), are both emotionally unavailable. Though she finds support in a dedicated teacher, in Aman, and in a poetry club and spoken-word competition, it’s Xiomara herself who finally gathers the resources she needs to solve her problems. The happy ending is not a neat one, making it both realistic and satisfying. Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance.

Poignant and real, beautiful and intense, this story of a girl struggling to define herself is as powerful as Xiomara’s name: “one who is ready for war.” (Verse fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266280-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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