Inspired by the story of the late Creole fiddler Canray Fontenot, Doucet ( Why Lapin’s Ears Are Long, 1997) tells of 14-year-old Felix LeBlanc and his passion for music. Told in the first person and set in 1914 in the Cajun community of rural Louisiana, the novel exudes the flavor of the time and place and offers up a smattering of French, defined in a helpful glossary. When Felix hears his Uncle Adolphe play his fiddle, his soul is transported and he determines to become a fiddler himself. Felix’s mother, however, forbids her son to take up the instrument or even to utter the word fiddle at home. Readers will feel that the lady doth protest too much though her vehemence is plausible: she fears that her son, like her brother Adolphe, will become a vagabond and reject family and responsibility. The close-knit Cajuns scorn the idea of going against one’s family, but Felix knows in his heart that he must play music. In secret he painstakingly builds a fiddle out of a wooden cigar box and a length of cypress wood. After teaching himself to play, Felix disguises himself in costume and mask and joins a Mardi Gras band, but his secret is revealed when he falls off the parade wagon. He suffers broken bones and worse: his fiddle is burned and he faces the continued repudiation of his mother. In an ending that is not entirely believable, he meets up with Uncle Adolphe while both are running away from their constraining lives. Adolphe urges Felix to go back and gives the boy his own precious fiddle. Upon his return, Felix discovers that his mother has undergone a complete change of heart, having realized that her opposition has caused him to take drastic measures. All is forgiven, and she even encourages Felix to play the fiddle, a family heirloom. This will be a hard sell—too bad because it’s well written and Felix is an admirable, fully realized character. Many readers won’t relate to the unfamiliar setting or the passion for Cajun fiddling; this remains to be enjoyed by those who would follow their own passion no matter the context. (author’s note, glossary, lyrics) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2000

ISBN: 0-618-04324-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000


Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006


Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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