A bittersweet but hopeful take on loss, trauma, and the many meanings of family.

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THE KEY TO EVERY THING

Traumatized by past neglect at the hands of an alcoholic parent, an “almost-sixth-grader” faces her phobia of being alone after her elderly friend is injured.

Tash resents that she has to go to camp while her loving great-uncle and custodian, Kevin, goes to New Zealand. She’d rather stay with her whimsical elderly neighbor, Cap’n Jackie, and hear her stories. Isolated by agoraphobia and grief, Cap’n Jackie retreats into a fantasy while Tash is away: An old key summons a magical dragon/dolphin and the spirits of her cat, Mulligan, and her partner, Vanessa. Tash had angrily thrown the key at Cap’n Jackie before leaving, a gesture with greater consequences than she realizes. While Tash is at camp, the friends’ brief handwritten correspondence reveals their mutual quick tempers as well as their bond. When Tash returns, she learns that Cap’n Jackie has been admitted to a rehab facility after breaking her hip—and, it seems, her spirit. Tash vows to find the key and make amends, not realizing that her solo mission is preparing her for being alone in a different way. (Readers, however, may notice some heavy foreshadowing.) Though her affection for Tash is clear, Cap’n Jackie herself is little more than a lonely old person—feistiness notwithstanding—whose ultimate function is to help Tash learn a life lesson or two. But Tash’s volatile emotions and Kevin’s gentle steadiness ring true, adding dimension to the tear-jerking trope. The book seems to adhere to the white default.

A bittersweet but hopeful take on loss, trauma, and the many meanings of family. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9566-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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