EQUINOX

Autumn’s world is shaken when her father suggests they leave their cherished island refuge for the mainland. Harley and Autumn are fine in their low-key life removed from the hustle bustle of the big city where Mom spends her week at the Whale Museum. Killingsworth (Circle Within a Circle, 1994) lets the tide and barometer readings along with Autumn’s new journal become metaphors for the storm that shakes this 14-year-old at the intrusion of adult concerns into her child’s consciousness. Self-conscious prose and mental wanderings that mirror the action combine with an adult sensibility to create one of those stultifyingly precious non-stories. Valuable for the introduction of an adult lesbian relationship of a caring parent, unfortunately this presents no real sense of child. Wise, caring old friends like the art professor who lives in the lighthouse always with the exact right words and the child herself acts more like 40 than 14. Immediately on discovery of photos that make the facts about her mother clear, Autumn says, “I need to imagine them together, with friends and alone in the dark. I need to feel, somehow, their affection for each other and to know most of all that it does not include me.” The carefulness of the language and the artificiality of the sentiment are juxtaposed to create an appealing book for lovers of language who desire neither plot, character, nor reality. Some of the details, such as the making of paper and the improvised shower for the house without running water, help to carry readers past the musings. Any teen seeking refuge from life’s care who puts on a George Winston CD and curls up in a big chair with a lunch of French bread, cheese, and an apple will find a soul sister in Autumn. For the rest, the symbols are a little too obvious, the pace a little too slow and the sentiments a little too easy. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6153-3

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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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 Boyle’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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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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