GATHERING THE DEW

In this historical first-person narrative, Nakri Sokha, a 12-year-old girl living in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in 1975, has her world shattered overnight. A day that starts with Nakri’s classical dance class ends with heavy bombing. By the next morning, the Sokha family wakes to find their city taken over by communist Khmer Rouge. Nakri and her older sister, Teeda, are sent to one refugee camp, her older brother to another. Her father, a teacher, is taken away by the Khmer Rouge and killed for being too educated while Nakri’s mother is forced to stay behind with her younger brother. Readers follow Nakri and her sister to the work camp and watch painfully as they struggle to overcome the starvation and physical abuse. Nakri manages to keep herself alive, but Teeda dies from malaria. When the Khmer Rouge is dismantled four years later, Nakri reunites with her family and they flee to America. When the family settles in Philadelphia, Nakri, through her love of classical dance, is finally able to process her tremendous grief as she adjusts to the strange excesses of American life. Ho’s (Maples in the Mist, 1996, etc.) narrative, arranged in four compact parts, manages to cover a lot of ground, but never strays from the intimacy of Nakri’s strong, but vulnerable, voice. Teeda also shines as Nakri’s idealistic and talented older sister, though the other family members lack emotional depth. The author takes on this shocking slice of world history with the appropriate amount of detail and sensitivity for a young audience, but the difficult subject matter makes it better suited for more mature readers. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-38197-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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

THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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