A poignant and eloquent reflection on tradition, family, friendship, and tragedy.

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PRAIRIE SONATA

A young girl’s assumptions about life are challenged by the arrival of a new teacher in Rabin’s historical YA novel.

In Canada’s vast Manitoba prairie sits the fictional town of Ambrosia. It has a thriving Jewish community that’s made up of immigrants who fled the Russian pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s here, in 1948, that readers meet 11-year-old Mira Adler, who narrates this coming-of-age tale. She’s a happy, imaginative youngster who attends the Peretz School, a learning center that teaches “English” studies in the morning and Jewish studies in the afternoon. The latter classes are taught primarily in Yiddish, a language that Rabin uses liberally in dialogue and narration throughout the novel, always followed by helpful translation. Mira states that “my world was an untroubled one, and in my naiveté and innocence, I assumed that it was the same for everyone.” That changes after the arrival of Chaver Bergman, a new, young Yiddish teacher. “There was something affecting and melancholy about him,” Mira says, “engendering rachmonos (pity) rather than gleeful mischief.” When he offers Mira private violin lessons, they build a friendship that leads him to share the story of his tragic past. Born in Czechoslovakia, he’s a tormented, guilt-ridden Holocaust survivor who was once a virtuoso violinist but no longer plays. His instruction is verbal, inspiring Mira with visual images of music that inflect Rabin’s prose with moments of beauty with joyful and mournful tones: “He told me to imagine leaves swirling in the wind when playing Vivaldi’s ‘Autumn’ from The Four Seasons, each little leaf being carried aloft on a current of cool air.” Her descriptions of daily life, traditional foods, and celebrations paint an evocative portrait of second-generation Jewish diaspora life in the West. And Mira’s growing awareness of anti-Semitism outside her small enclave provides readers with a timely reminder of the need to remain vigilant against bigotry. Overall, it’s a compelling work with a wistful longing for days of childhood innocence.

A poignant and eloquent reflection on tradition, family, friendship, and tragedy.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-7636-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A solid introduction for budding lovers of the Bard.

HAMLET

From the Campfire Graphic Novels series

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

The timeless tale of the young and disaffected Danish prince who is pushed to avenge his father’s untimely murder at the hands of his brother unfolds with straightforward briskness. Shakespeare’s text has been liberally but judiciously cut, staying true to the thematic meaning while dispensing with longer speeches (with the notable exception of the renowned “to be or not to be” soliloquy) and intermediary dialogues. Some of the more obscure language has been modernized, with a glossary of terms provided at the end; despite these efforts, readers wholly unfamiliar with the story might struggle with independent interpretation. Where this adaptation mainly excels is in its art, especially as the play builds to its tensely wrought final act. Illustrator Kumar (World War Two, 2015, etc.) pairs richly detailed interiors and exteriors with painstakingly rendered characters, each easily distinguished from their fellows through costume, hairstyle, and bearing. Human figures are generally depicted in bust or three-quarter shots, making the larger panels of full figures all the more striking. Heavily scored lines of ink form shadows, lending the otherwise bright pages a gritty air. All characters are white.

A solid introduction for budding lovers of the Bard. (biography of Shakespeare, dramatis personae, glossary) (Graphic novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-93-81182-51-2

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom.

CHAIN OF GOLD

From the Last Hours series , Vol. 1

Clare’s (Ghosts of the Shadow Market, 2019, etc.) latest is set in the Shadowhunter world in the 20th century’s first decade (with frequent flashbacks to the previous one).

Teenage offspring of the Herondales, Carstairs, Fairchilds, and other angel-descended Nephilim continue their families’ demon-fighting ways amid a round of elegant London balls, soirees, salons, picnics, and romantic intrigues. James Herondale, 17-year-old son of Will and Tessa, finds himself and his “perfectly lethal dimple” hung up between two stunning new arrivals: Cordelia Carstairs, red-haired Persian/British wielder of a fabled magic sword, and Grace Blackthorn, an emotionally damaged but (literally, as the author unsubtly telegraphs) spellbinding friend from childhood. Meanwhile, a sudden outbreak of demonic attacks that leave more and more Shadowhunters felled by a mysterious slow poison plunges James and a cohort of allies into frantic searches for both a cause and an antidote. Ichor-splashed encounters with ravening boojums and even one of hell’s own princes ensue—all leading to final hints of a devastating scheme to destroy the Nephilim in which James himself is slated to play a central role. Characters have a range of skin tones, but ethnic diversity adds no texture to the portrayals; there is a lesbian cousin who wears traditionally male clothing and two young gay men (one tortured, the other less so).

Busy, busy, busy…with portents of doom. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3187-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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