A possible discussion starter, though enigmatic to a fault.

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GRADUATION DAY

A subtle reminder that education is a gift no amount of bullying can spoil.

Or at least that might be the point of this wordless, metaphorical head-scratcher. In a school situated in a drab neighborhood beneath tracks that are, in the first scene, being used to ship war materiel, a graduation ceremony is about to begin. As the students, depicted as elementary-age children, line up in their gowns, one sniggering graduate shoots a seed into the back of another’s head. The victim, smiling, picks up and pockets the seed. Later, after everyone else is swept away by proud parents, the bespectacled child adds the seed to a big jar full of similar ones, which are all then taken out to the schoolyard to plant in the cracks between paving stones. Parda depicts the setting and a racially and ethnically diverse cast of children and adults in dull or neutral tones, which sets up a vivid visual contrast as the seeds sprout, grow, and finally surround the school in a shining glory of golden sunflowers. In a final view the flowers are seen to be starting to spread, and the neighborhood looks a little less run-down.

A possible discussion starter, though enigmatic to a fault. (Picture book. 11-18)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913866-7-3

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti.

ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN

Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle meets Left for Dead/The Walking Dead/Shaun of the Dead in a high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse, complete with baseball (rather than cricket) bats.

The wholesome-seeming Iowa cornfields are a perfect setting for the emergence of ghastly anomalies: flesh-eating cows and baseball-coach zombies. The narrator hero, Rabi (for Rabindranath), and his youth baseball teammates and friends, Miguel and Joe, discover by chance that all is not well with their small town’s principal industry: the Milrow corporation’s giant feedlot and meat-production and -packing facility. The ponds of cow poo and crammed quarters for the animals are described in gaggingly smelly detail, and the bone-breaking, bloody, flesh-smashing encounters with the zombies have a high gross-out factor. The zombie cows and zombie humans who emerge from the muck are apparently a product of the food supply gone cuckoo in service of big-money profits with little concern for the end result. It’s up to Rabi and his pals to try to prove what’s going on—and to survive the corporation’s efforts to silence them. Much as Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker (2010) was a clarion call to action against climate change, here’s a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat, while the considerable appeal of the characters and plot defies any preachiness.

Not for the faint of heart or stomach (or maybe of any parts) but sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-22078-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A gripping, nuanced story of the human cost of conflict appropriate for both children and adults.

THE NIGHT DIARY

In 1947, Nisha’s beloved country is being torn apart—and so is her family.

Nisha and her twin brother, Amil, celebrate their 12th birthday in their beloved town of Mirpur Khas, India, a month before their country receives independence from the British and splits into India and Pakistan. Painfully shy, Nisha, who lost her mother in childbirth and feels distant from her stern father and her elderly grandmother, is only able to speak freely with the family cook, a Muslim man named Kazi. Although Nisha’s mother was Muslim, her family is Hindu, and the riots surrounding Partition soon make it impossible for them to live in their home safely despite their mixed faith. They are forced to leave their town—and Kazi. As Nisha and her family make their way across the brand-new border, Nisha learns about her family history, not to mention her own strength. Hiranandani (The Whole Story of Half a Girl, 2013) compassionately portrays one of the bloodiest periods in world history through diary entries Nisha writes to her deceased mother. Nisha’s voice is the right mix of innocence and strength, and her transformation is both believable and heartbreaking. Nisha’s unflinching critiques of Gandhi, Nehru, and Jinnah are particularly refreshing in their honesty.

A gripping, nuanced story of the human cost of conflict appropriate for both children and adults. (Historical fiction. 11-adult)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2851-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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