Skillful characterization carries this quiet novel along.

READ REVIEW

BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD

A young girl’s first-person narrative of her journey through grief to acceptance.

After her father’s death in an airplane accident, 12-year-old Wren is enveloped in a cloud of grief. With no body to bury, she mitigates her sadness by burying the animals she finds dead along the road. Wren’s mother retreats into anger, leaving Wren to feel abandoned by both parents. After several brief moves, the mother and daughter, both white, end up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where Wren continues the bird-watching she so loved with her father. Through a school assignment, Wren learns that Pete’s Pond, her birding locale, is slated to be destroyed to expand a landfill. She and her project partner, Theo, who’s also white, lead a protest to stop the plan. Wren wrestles with whether to compromise her values to join the popular girls at school, deciding instead to be true to herself. By the predictable but satisfying ending, Wren has grown, with the help of Theo, whose mother previously died, toward acceptance, forgiveness, and a new definition of family. While it’s preachy in parts, the maudlin is averted by Wren’s authentic voice and the inclusion of engaging characters and substantive issues, ranging from peer pressure and bullying to infidelity and environmental concerns.

Skillful characterization carries this quiet novel along. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62370-749-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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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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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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