A worthwhile-enough read for kids particularly interested in history and/or horses.

READ REVIEW

THE WINTER HORSES

Kerr, well-known for his best-selling World War II thrillers for adults (A Man Without Breath, 2013, etc.), enters YA territory with a compelling but ultimately flawed tale of saving the last Przewalski’s horses from Nazi invaders. 

Elderly Max has been caretaker of the Ukrainian nature preserve Askaniya-Nova all his life, from its inception by a gallant German baron at the beginning of the century through torture and destruction during World War I and even now, as the Nazis invade. Max initially believes the Germans will, like his former master, be kind to him and the animals in the preserve, particularly the small herds of Przewalski’s horses, some of the last on Earth of a very ancient breed. Meanwhile, Kalinka, a 15-year-old Jew orphaned by a German pogrom, has escaped to the steppe and makes friends with two of the remarkable horses, who are renowned for both their wildness and their cunning. Fast-paced action and interesting history (Askaniya-Nova still exists; the horses have been restored there) keep readers turning the pages, but the distant, omniscient point of view will prevent them from becoming truly engaged in the characters’ plight. Flat dialogue often sounds as though it’s coming from a tour guide, not a Russian peasant, and the abrupt ending doesn’t fully satisfy. Though marketed for teens, it reads more like an adventure for children.

A worthwhile-enough read for kids particularly interested in history and/or horses. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-75543-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here.

INFINITE SKY

Tragedy emerges from the commonplace miseries of everyday life in this evocative mood piece.

Thirteen-year-old Iris lives with her dad and older brother, Sam, in rural England. Until recently, Iris and Sam had a mum as well, but she’s taken off to Tunisia on a mission to find herself. Now Sam’s associating with ruffians, Dad’s taken to drinking, and Iris is avoiding her best friend, unable to bear the smug pity. When a few caravans of Irish “travelers” squat illegally in Dad’s paddock, Iris sees the possibility of something fresh and untainted in her life. But Dad and Sam loathe the travelers, calling them “Gypsies,” “parasites” and worse. Iris strikes up a friendship—and maybe more?—with 14-year-old Trick, but her father becomes increasingly erratic as he sees his control over his family slipping away. Her Dad repeatedly threatens eviction, and Iris must decide whom to believe in the face of petty crime. A senseless act of violence leads to heavily foreshadowed tragedy. This brief, gloomy debut concludes tidily though with an unclear trajectory: After a summer’s adventure, everyone’s right where they started yet nothing’s the same, mirroring the intransigence of hate.

Readers who don’t need endings tied up with tight little bows will find much to think about here. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-0658-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty.

GAME SEVEN

Sixteen-year-old Julio Ramirez Jr. dreams of being a junior Nacional and playing for Cuba against the best young players around the world.

Baseball is “practically a religion” in Cuba, and Julio’s father was like a Cuban god, an all-star pitcher for the Cuban National Team. Now, having defected, he’s a star for the Miami Marlins. But instead of pride, Julio feels resentment toward his father for abandoning his family to a life of poverty while he, the great El Fuego, lives the high life in Miami with his multimillion-dollar contract. Moreover, Julio’s baseball dreams may not come true: How can he be trusted to leave the country when his father defected; won’t he do the same? So Julio defects too, and in a tense and slightly comic scene, he drives to Florida in a green ’59 Buick that’s been converted into a boat. Julio’s reconciliation with his father is handled deftly in its poignant awkwardness, and baseball action is appropriately exciting, though the notion that Julio is allowed to hang out with his father during Game 7 of the World Series is seriously implausible. Volponi wisely shies away from a tidy, inspirational ending but does leave room for hope for reconciliation.

An entertaining tale of baseball, family and loyalty. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-78518-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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