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JUNIOR'S DREAM / EL SUEÑO DE JUNIOR

A straightforward, touching account that nevertheless doesn’t go very deep.

Together in their 1951 Chrysler station wagon, the Hernández family makes their annual seven-hour journey from Piedras Negras, Mexico, to West Texas to harvest cotton.

Papá, Mamá, Lala, Esmeralda, Juan Daniel, Oscar, and Junior are a loving, prayerful, and playful traditional Mexican family. Almost 14, narrator Junior is the eldest and, like his siblings, has picked cotton since he was 8—the age each Hernández child joins the workforce. What initially reads like a story about a farm-working family’s experience turns out to be, as the title suggests, more about Junior’s hopes for himself as a growing young man. Will he ever fall in love like his parents or be a hardworking man like his father? A romantic, oftentimes nostalgic tone accompanies Junior’s true-to-age concerns—born of Alvarado’s own experiences—with the exhausting work of picking cotton and the racism that comes with it creating more of an atmospheric backdrop than a central theme. When a near-death experience pulls Junior’s narration even further inward, the story loses grounding and momentum. Readers seeking a more descriptive and emotionally nuanced take on a young person’s experience during a harvest would appreciate Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck (2013). Baeza Ventura’s Spanish translation follows the original English version, which adds a richness to the story for Spanish-language readers.

A straightforward, touching account that nevertheless doesn’t go very deep. (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-55885-900-5

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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NOWHERE BOY

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high...

Two parallel stories, one of a Syrian boy from Aleppo fleeing war, and another of a white American boy, son of a NATO contractor, dealing with the challenges of growing up, intersect at a house in Brussels.

Ahmed lost his father while crossing the Mediterranean. Alone and broke in Europe, he takes things into his own hands to get to safety but ends up having to hide in the basement of a residential house. After months of hiding, he is discovered by Max, a boy of similar age and parallel high integrity and courage, who is experiencing his own set of troubles learning a new language, moving to a new country, and being teased at school. In an unexpected turn of events, the two boys and their new friends Farah, a Muslim Belgian girl, and Oscar, a white Belgian boy, successfully scheme for Ahmed to go to school while he remains in hiding the rest of the time. What is at stake for Ahmed is immense, and so is the risk to everyone involved. Marsh invites art and history to motivate her protagonists, drawing parallels to gentiles who protected Jews fleeing Nazi terror and citing present-day political news. This well-crafted and suspenseful novel touches on the topics of refugees and immigrant integration, terrorism, Islam, Islamophobia, and the Syrian war with sensitivity and grace.

A captivating book situated in present-day discourse around the refugee crisis, featuring two boys who stand by their high values in the face of grave risk and succeed in drawing goodwill from others. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-30757-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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