IF I HAVE A WICKED STEPMOTHER, WHERE’S MY PRINCE?

Lucy Norton not only has a new stepmother to contend with, but her father has uprooted her cozy West Coast existence and taken her across the continent to Long Island. Dad commutes to his job in San Francisco, leaving Lucy with the wicked stepmother and the two evil little stepsisters. Lucy’s new high school seems like a hostile environment until the most popular boy in school smiles at her, sending her stock flying through the roof. At home, Lucy suffers the indignity of living in the basement with no furniture while everyone else lives in relative luxury. She is, of course, made to do chores while the stepsisters get away with murder. Her stepmother and stepsisters are shallow, materialistic, spoiled and even dishonest. But things work out for Lucy in the end. Everyone finally appreciates her, plus she finds her true prince—and he is not the captain of the basketball team. The Cinderella theme here is beaten to a cliché-ridden pulp. Unoriginal and vapid. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-0960-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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WHIRLIGIG

At once serious and playful, this tale of a teenager’s penitential journey to four corners of the country can be read on several levels. While attempting to kill himself on the highway after a humiliating social failure, Brent causes a fatal accident for another motorist, Lea Zamora. His sentence requires a personal act of atonement, if the victim’s family so desires; Lea’s mother hands him a bus pass and tells him to place pictorial whirligigs in Maine, Florida, Washington, and California as monuments to her daughter’s ability to make people smile. Brent sets out willingly, armed with plywood, new tools, and an old construction manual. Characteristically of Fleischman (Seedfolks, 1997, etc.), the narrative structure is unconventional: Among the chapters in which Brent constructs and places the contraptions are independent short stories that feature the whirligigs, playing significant roles in the lives of others. Brent encounters a variety of travelers and new thoughts on the road, and by the end has lost much of the sense of isolation that made his earlier aspirations to be one of the in-crowd so important. The economy of language and sustained intensity of feeling are as strongly reminiscent of Cynthia Rylant’s Missing May (1992) as are the wind toys and, at least in part, the theme, but Fleischman’s cast and mood are more varied, sometimes even comic, and it’s Brent’s long physical journey, paralleled by his inner one, that teaches him to look at the world and himself with new eyes. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5582-7

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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