THE APPLE TART OF HOPE

When Meg’s family travels to New Zealand for six months, her best friend, Oscar, suffers a series of humiliations that lead him to try and take his own life.

After receiving the news of Oscar’s disappearance, Meg’s family returns to Ireland to find everyone searching. But after weeks without luck, only Meg and Oscar’s brother, Stevie, refuse to give up the hope that Oscar is still alive. Meg begins to piece together the events that led to Oscar’s desperate plummet off the town’s pier. Chapters told from Oscar’s point of view show that he is alive but in hiding. The two interlocking stories reveal the terrible plan designed to break Oscar’s spirit as well as the person responsible at its heart. While this is a sweet story of friendship and first love, it is also a road map for keeping hope alive. And while Oscar temporarily loses his way, he is quick to point out that others should never stop searching. Clueless adults, an over-the-top mean girl, and a picturesque small-town atmosphere all come together to make this a quiet story that may be the tiny push that someone thinking of giving up needs to keep going. Meg, a prototypical pale, Irish redhead, and Stevie, who uses a wheelchair and is absolutely indomitable, make a formidable team.

Sweetly satisfying. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3561-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel.

MAPPING THE BONES

A Holocaust tale with a thin “Hansel and Gretel” veneer from the author of The Devil’s Arithmetic (1988).

Chaim and Gittel, 14-year-old twins, live with their parents in the Lodz ghetto, forced from their comfortable country home by the Nazis. The siblings are close, sharing a sign-based twin language; Chaim stutters and communicates primarily with his sister. Though slowly starving, they make the best of things with their beloved parents, although it’s more difficult once they must share their tiny flat with an unpleasant interfaith couple and their Mischling (half-Jewish) children. When the family hears of their impending “wedding invitation”—the ghetto idiom for a forthcoming order for transport—they plan a dangerous escape. Their journey is difficult, and one by one, the adults vanish. Ultimately the children end up in a fictional child labor camp, making ammunition for the German war effort. Their story effectively evokes the dehumanizing nature of unremitting silence. Nevertheless, the dense, distancing narrative (told in a third-person contemporaneous narration focused through Chaim with interspersed snippets from Gittel’s several-decades-later perspective) has several consistency problems, mostly regarding the relative religiosity of this nominally secular family. One theme seems to be frustration with those who didn’t fight back against overwhelming odds, which makes for a confusing judgment on the suffering child protagonists.

Stands out neither as a folk-tale retelling, a coming-of-age story, nor a Holocaust novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-25778-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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BAMBOO PEOPLE

Well-educated American boys from privileged families have abundant options for college and career. For Chiko, their Burmese counterpart, there are no good choices. There is never enough to eat, and his family lives in constant fear of the military regime that has imprisoned Chiko’s physician father. Soon Chiko is commandeered by the army, trained to hunt down members of the Karenni ethnic minority. Tai, another “recruit,” uses his streetwise survival skills to help them both survive. Meanwhile, Tu Reh, a Karenni youth whose village was torched by the Burmese Army, has been chosen for his first military mission in his people’s resistance movement. How the boys meet and what comes of it is the crux of this multi-voiced novel. While Perkins doesn’t sugarcoat her subject—coming of age in a brutal, fascistic society—this is a gentle story with a lot of heart, suitable for younger readers than the subject matter might suggest. It answers the question, “What is it like to be a child soldier?” clearly, but with hope. (author’s note, historical note) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58089-328-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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