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ONLY OPAL

THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL

Born about 1900, Opal Whiteley was five when she was sent to live with an Oregon loggers' family after her parents "went to Heaven." She kept a diary "of my fifth and sixth year," during which she stayed home from school to do laundry for "the mama where I live," who found her a "nuisance" and frequently struck her; made pets of a crow ("Lars Porsena"), a mouse ("Felix Mendelssohn"), and several other animals; confided in a "grand" tree ("...Michael Raphael...He has an understanding soul") and mourned when it was felled; visited a girl with "no seeing," who enjoyed the flowers she brought; and wondered whether "Kind God" might allow her parents to be her "Guardian Angels." Boulton, a poet who (according to the jacket) is the "author" of "a full adaptation of Opal's diary," is cited by LC as author of this book, but according to the publisher these quaint, naive, wonderfully telling words are Opal's own, selected from the complete diary as it has survived. A note explains that the original was torn into "a million pieces" by a stepsister, then pieced together and published in the 20's—a tantalizing glimpse of Opal's subsequent life, otherwise unrevealed here. Cooney's illustrations are perfect—delicate and beautifully observed, her misty landscapes make an elegant setting for a thoughtful, sturdy child, finding her gentle but indomitable way among strangers who have no conception of her true quality. A touching, fascinating portrait. (Autobiography/Picture book. 4+)

Pub Date: March 23, 1994

ISBN: 0698115643

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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REFUGEE

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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