Powerful and deeply moving.

THE SECRET OF THE VILLAGE FOOL

A gentle, unassuming man’s courage and fortitude saves a Jewish family during the Holocaust in this tale taken from history.

When the Nazis conquered Poland and took over their village, Munio, Milek, Mama, Tata and all the Jews of the village were in immediate danger. True to form, the Nazis quickly burned the synagogue and began roundups of whole families and all the young boys. Their neighbor Anton, a kind, simple man many call a fool, brings girls’ clothing for the boys to disguise themselves temporarily. Then he prepares a hiding place under his house, basically an earthen dugout where they and two girls whose families were taken away will spend the remaining years of the war. Anton is their only contact, constantly risking his life to feed them and keep them safe. Amazingly, at the very moment of near discovery, the Nazis are driven from the village. Modern children are so far removed from the Holocaust that it is extremely difficult to convey its horrors. Upjohn makes this true story personal, immediate and accessible without resorting to bathos or sentimentality. Benoit’s sepia-tinted, ominously shadowed illustrations convey darkness, fear and uncertainty. An afterword accompanied by copious photos tells of the participants’ eventful postwar lives, including Anton’s induction at Yad Vashem as Righteous among Nations. Young readers will need some guidance and input from knowledgeable adults.

Powerful and deeply moving. (Picture book. 8-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-926920-75-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Second Story Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and...

ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS

Coming soon!!

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-395-53680-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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