FLOWERS ON THE WALL

Rachel, the Jewish heroine of this story, is trapped indoors, first by illness, then by the lack of shoes, and finally, by the invasion of Poland by the Germans in 1939. This story of persecution and poverty opens with Rachel's father still working at his store in Warsaw; soon, though, his business is taken over and he and his son, Nat, work as porters- -jobs once delegated to horses. Rachel is forced to remain inside all winter, and through the small pleasures that break up the monotony of Rachel's ordeal—such as guessing whose feet are passing the basement apartment's only window—Nerlove (Thanksgiving, 1990, etc.) makes clear the pain of this exile. With a cast-off paint set, Rachel and her father paint flowers on the walls of their apartment; the dusky moss tones of the illustrations, echoing the somber tone of the text, come temporarily alive with the brightly petaled foliage that seems to herald more hopeful times. Then Rachel's family is ousted, first to the Warsaw ghetto and then to Treblinka. This strong, sad ending, despite the dire true story behind Rachel's circumstances (an old photo was Nerlove's inspiration), means that this book is best given to readers who already have a context for understanding it; that such horrors against humanity are treated with understatement makes them no less terrifying. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-50614-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1996

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THE LEMONADE WAR

From the Lemonade War series , Vol. 1

Told from the point of view of two warring siblings, this could have been an engaging first chapter book. Unfortunately, the length makes it less likely to appeal to the intended audience. Jessie and Evan are usually good friends as well as sister and brother. But the news that bright Jessie will be skipping a grade to join Evan’s fourth-grade class creates tension. Evan believes himself to be less than clever; Jessie’s emotional maturity doesn’t quite measure up to her intelligence. Rivalry and misunderstandings grow as the two compete to earn the most money in the waning days of summer. The plot rolls along smoothly and readers will be able to both follow the action and feel superior to both main characters as their motivations and misconceptions are clearly displayed. Indeed, a bit more subtlety in characterization might have strengthened the book’s appeal. The final resolution is not entirely believable, but the emphasis on cooperation and understanding is clear. Earnest and potentially successful, but just misses the mark. (Fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 23, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-75043-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

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In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of...

HONEY

Melody Bishop's peaceful life with her widower father is upset when the annoying 6-year-old next door comes home from the beauty parlor with some gossip.

The 10-year-old has already noticed her father's increased distraction and a new tendency to whistle, so when Teeny Nelson reports that "Henry's been bitten by the love bug," Melody is avid to know more. With her best friend, biracial Nick Woo, at her side, she goes to the Bee Hive beauty salon to investigate. What she discovers there rocks her world not once but twice, as salon owner Bee-Bee has information about Melody's mother, who died in childbirth and about whom her father never speaks. Weeks gets the small moments right: Melody's exasperation with Teeny and the way it turns to sympathy when the little girl's mother threatens a spanking; her affectionate resignation when her grandfather, who has emphysema, sneaks out to the garage for a smoke. And Melody's close relationship with her loving father is sweetly evoked. But other elements fail to cohere. Obvious misdirection leads Melody to a critical misunderstanding that never amounts to more than a plot contrivance, and the mystical visions of Bee-Bee's dog, Mo, who has an unknown connection to Melody, strain credulity.

In all, it's an unsuccessful follow-up to Weeks' Pie (2011), but word-loving Melody is appealing, and her appended list of nail-polish colors is somewhat amusing. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-46557-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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