FAIR WEATHER

Into the quiet, routinized farm life of 14-year-old Rosie, older sister Lottie, and younger brother Buster comes a letter from Aunt Euterpe in Chicago, inviting them to the 1893 World’s Fair. What ensues is a comic romp as the siblings and their scoundrelly Granddad descend on the World’s Fair, going from the pavilions of the White City to the Midway (in Aunt Euterpe’s words, “a sinkhole of corruption”). The story has a split personality of sorts: at the start, it shows every sign of being a coming-of-ager, with Rosie and Lottie both poised to advance into womanhood. When the party arrives in Chicago, however, the oversized character of Granddad hijacks the narrative. The plot devolves into a sitcom—the major players being the happily unrefined Granddad and Aunt Euterpe (a wannabe member of the gentry who is in perpetual mourning for her dead husband), and, of course, the World’s Fair itself. When he restrains himself, Peck (A Year Down Yonder, 2000, etc.) is a master of evocative prose (“White electricity had lit the world and erased the stars . . . It was Greece and Rome again, and every column and curlicue lit by an incandescent bulb”). And if he goes over the top (both Buffalo Bill and Lillian Russell make wildly unlikely cameo appearances), he does it here with a contagious sense of exuberance. Not up to its promise, but good fun nonetheless. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2516-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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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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