A GROUP OF ONE

Irreverent and sassy, Tara-My-Stara (as her hip mom calls her) is determined to be a “regular Canadian,” not a hyphenated one. Gilmore (Mina’s Spring of Colors, not reviewed, etc.) has lived in India, England, and Canada, just like Rohini, Tara’s mom, and she writes realistically about this family from India who don’t emphasize their cultural background to any great degree. Tara’s Social Studies teacher and some of the kids in her class want to define her as different (in positive and negative ways), but she resists this notion, knowing that she has lived in Ottawa all her life. Her 15-year-old typical teenager’s life is upset by two other events. She meets Jeff, a young man who has just moved to town, and her paternal grandmother, a staunch Indian Nationalist, comes to visit for the first time. Naniji seems most critical of her son’s wife, Rohini, her Western ways, and her lack of traditional respect, but she is probably saddened by the fact that her son chose to live in Canada with his bride. Tara takes her mother’s side and refuses to warm up to her grandmother until a school assignment encourages Tara to interview her. When she learns more about her family’s role in Gandhi’s “Quit India” campaign in 1942, she begins to realize that her grandmother is more than just a stern old woman who can’t adjust to new ways. Tara’s first-person narrative flippantly relates the ups and downs of contemporary family life and the on-again, off-again relationships with Jeff and Erin, her longtime best friend, but her teenage voice tends to veer toward an overuse of words like “crappy.” This independent heroine wrestles with the themes of cultural identity and personal individuality, adolescent issues in Canada and the US. Development of some minor characters is weak (Raj, the father, never comes to life), but Tara, Rohini, and Naniji are strong women who fight back against the tone of didacticism that sometimes floats to the surface. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6475-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Explanatory note; reading list.

DRAGON'S GATE

From the Golden Mountain Chronicles series

Yep illuminates the Chinese immigrant experience here and abroad in a follow-up to The Serpent's Children (1984) and Mountain Light (1985).

After accidentally killing one of the hated Manchu soldiers, Otter (14) flees Kwangtung for the "Golden Mountain"; he finds his adoptive father Squeaky and Uncle Foxfire in the Sierra Nevada, where thousands of "Guests" are laboriously carving a path for the railroad. Brutal cold, dangerous work, and a harsh overseer take their toll as Squeaky is blinded in a tunnel accident, Foxfire is lost in a storm, and other workers are frozen or half-starved. By the end, toughened in body and spirit, Otter resolves never to forget them or their sacrifices. Foxfire and Otter consider themselves only temporary residents here, preparing for the more important work of modernizing their own country while ridding it of Manchu, Europeans, and, especially, the scourge of opium. America is a dreamlike place; English dialogue is printed in italics as a tongue foreign to most of the characters; and though Otter befriends the overseer's troubled son, such social contact is discouraged on both sides. In a story enlivened with humor and heroism, Yep pays tribute to the immigrants who played such a vital role in our country's history.

Explanatory note; reading list. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-022971-3

Page Count: 276

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1993

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