After he punches a nobleman’s deserving son, 11-year-old Leo must flee or face prison, so he takes to the road in a Poland being torn apart by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Determined to make for the sea and find a way to America, he is joined by artful dodger Tomasz, a likable, streetwise 14-year-old on a quest of his own. Along the way, they encounter their share of misfortune as well as a series of adults, some kindly and helpful, others only interested in taking advantage of the youths. The sense of place and time is strongly conveyed, including poverty, brutal prejudice and an unfair class system. The two main characters are reasonably well developed, and the obstacles they face are never minimized in this coming-of-age tale. But sentence structure rarely varies, colorful imagery that would have lifted it to a higher level is lacking and the plot-driven narrative moves forward at a measured, too-predictable pace. These factors all conspire to keep this from rising above a crowded field. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4022-4377-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...


Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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A luscious, shivery delight.


After losing almost everything in the Great Depression, Ellie’s family moves to the Maine woods on Echo Mountain to start a farm—then tragedy strikes.

Not long after getting them established in their new life, Ellie’s father is struck on the head by a falling tree and lapses into a monthslong coma, his recovery unlikely. Never feeling threatened by the wilderness the way her mother and older sister, Esther, do, Ellie takes over many of her beloved father’s chores, finding comfort and confidence in the forest. She’s fully mindful of her place in the natural world and her impact on the plants and animals she shares it with. After she becomes determined to use the resources of the woods, however novel and imaginative the application, to save her father, conflict with her mother and Esther increases sharply. Led by a dog, Ellie discovers elderly Cate—called “hag” and shunned as a witch—badly injured, living alone in a cabin on the mountaintop. Cate fully understands the 12-year-old’s slightly supernatural sense. Cate’s grandson, Larkin, Ellie’s age, flits in and out of the tale before finally claiming his place in this magnificently related story of the wide arc of responsibility, acceptance, and, ultimately, connectedness. Carefully paced and told in lyrical prose, characters—all default White—are given plenty of time and room to develop against a well-realized, timeless setting.

A luscious, shivery delight. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-55556-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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