Although based on true accounts, this story does not quite match the gravitas of this fascinating piece of history.

READ REVIEW

THE TASTE OF RAIN

Gwen and her Girl Guides group fight for survival during the Japanese occupation of China during World War II.

The daughter of American Christian missionaries, Gwen has lived in boarding schools in northern China. For the last two years, the Weihsien mission school has been used as an internment camp by the Japanese, who closely guard the students and staff. Gwen’s teacher, Miss E., has taken it upon herself to buoy her students’ morale. Gwen complies with Miss E.’s efforts, repeating her Girl Guide rules to mitigate the effects of the harsh living conditions. Tensions arise with the death of one student and the escape of two others, and all the while Gwen questions her complex feelings toward her parents. Gwen’s first-person narrative unfolds in the present tense with limited description and ends with the arrival of American troops, leaving the conditions of the school and Gwen’s ultimate fate to readers’ imaginations. Gwen, Miss E., and the other primary characters present as white with diversity limited to the Japanese guards, a kindly Japanese officer, and Chinese laborer Lu (referred to as a “coolie,” acknowledged as a slur in the author’s note but in line with the era). The italicized Japanese dialogue tends toward one- or two-word commands.

Although based on true accounts, this story does not quite match the gravitas of this fascinating piece of history. (resources) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2026-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Rich, complex, and confidently voiced.

THE LINE TENDER

Lucy finds solace in her late mother’s passion for shark biology during a summer that brings a new grief.

First-person narrator Lucy and neighbor Fred are compiling a field guide to animals they find near their Rockport, Massachusetts, home. Lucy is the artist, Fred the scientist, and their lifelong friendship is only just hinting that it could become something more. Lucy’s mother, who died of a brain aneurysm when Lucy was 7, five years earlier in 1991, was a recognized shark biologist; her father is a police diver. When a great white is snagged by a local fisherman—a family friend—video footage of an interview with Lucy’s mother surfaces on the news, and Lucy longs to know more. But then another loved one dies, drowned in a quarry accident, and it is Lucy’s father who recovers the body—in their small community it seems everyone is grappling with the pain. Lucy’s persistence in learning about the anatomy of sharks in order to draw them is a kind of homage to those she’s lost. Most of the characters are white; a marine scientist woman of color and protégée of Lucy’s mother plays a key role. Allen offers, through Lucy’s voice, a look at the intersection of art, science, friendship, and love in a way that is impressively nuanced and realistic while offering the reassurance of connection.

Rich, complex, and confidently voiced. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3160-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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