A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family.

FLYING THE DRAGON

When her cousin unexpectedly moves from Japan to Virginia, a Japanese-American girl finds their cultural differences embarrassing until kite fighting unites them.

Skye’s Japanese father has not seen his family since marrying her American mother and moving to Virginia. Skye knows some Japanese, but she’s an American kid, obsessed with soccer. Her Japanese cousin Hiroshi speaks some English, but he’s thoroughly Japanese and loves making and flying kites with his beloved grandfather. Everything changes when Hiroshi and his family relocate near Skye’s family for Grandfather’s cancer treatment. Skye’s parents enroll her in Japanese classes, jeopardizing her dream to play on the All-Star soccer team. Hiroshi, meanwhile, has lost his chance to compete in his town’s annual rokkaku kite battle. As Skye struggles with Japanese and Hiroshi struggles with English, both feel angry and frustrated. Ashamed because Hiroshi’s different, Skye fails to help him acclimate to fifth grade, where he feels like an alien. Hiroshi resents sharing Grandfather with Skye, until Grandfather’s health fails, and the cousins find common ground. Skye and Hiroshi’s American and Japanese perspectives emerge gradually through alternating chapters, while their grandfather functions as a pivotal character whose wisdom and legacy binds them. Details of Japanese language, culture and kite fighting enhance the diversity theme.

A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58089-434-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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90 MILES TO HAVANA

After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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