A worthy introduction to the Christian faith for young readers.

JOEL AND THE 34TH CHRISTMAS

In this middle-grade book, a humble innkeeper gets a new lease on life after he sees the crucified Jesus Christ.

Joel, a lonely, older widower, owns the most prosperous inn in Bethlehem. He makes the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, and while traveling, he sees a crucified man, left for dead. On his return trip, Joel meets Claude, who traveled to ask the crucified man to heal him. Joel soon remembers that, 33 years before, he’d turned a pregnant woman named Mary away from his inn and offered her the stable; the baby who was born there was Jesus Christ—who grew up to be the crucified man. As Joel learns more about Jesus, he befriends various people in and around his inn, including a shy servant named Elizabeth and an affable songwriter named Cody. Joel’s former solitude gives way to a life of friends and laughter, and he ultimately decides to celebrate Jesus’ 34th birthday later that year, inviting the ill and downtrodden of Bethlehem into his inn. After Joel dies the following morning, his spirit wakes in the presence of Jesus and, ultimately, salvation. In this short fable, Dittrich (The Secret of the Magic Penny, 2016) creates a story about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that effectively shows how the events affected everyday people. The fairy tale–like prose style is appropriate for such a story, but it doesn’t allow Dittrich to flesh out Joel and his friends as distinct individuals. This is mitigated somewhat by the frequent full-page, full-color illustrations that clearly depict key scenes, such as Joel meeting Claude on the road or Joel encountering Jesus in the final act. Dittrich occasionally inserts Bible verses into the dialogue, complete with citations, to further ground the tale in tradition. The large amount of text on each page, as well as the narrator’s habit of interpreting events, makes this title most suitable for a preteen audience.

A worthy introduction to the Christian faith for young readers.

Pub Date: March 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973618-22-5

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2018

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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