An imperfect look at an all-too-real evil.

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GHOST BOYS

This novel, set in 2004, looks at modern-day human trafficking through the experiences of Munna, an Indian boy.

After the shameful death by suicide of his elder sister, Asha, and the subsequent shunning of his family by his neighbors and community, 15-year-old Munna turns to his uncle for help finding work so that he can support his mother and two other sisters, Reshma and Meena. But Uncle Suraj sells him from their village into slavery to a man known only as Master-ji in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Deeba. Munna is tasked with heading a sheik’s ousbah, or camel farm. At the farm, Munna is shocked by how the child jockeys—some as young as 2—are treated and realizes he is as trapped as they are. The story is told in a literary third person that gives its subjects dignity: “Munna settled into the dusty rhythm of life at the ousbah, soaking in everything about camels as fast as a thirsty man in a desert would gulp down water.” The book is well-researched (Nanji provides a list of sources for further reading), and it captures the violent horrors that these enslaved boys experience (starvation, corporal punishment). But the white savior–inspired denouement—in an unbelievable plotline, Munna is befriended by Avra, an expatriate Canadian teenager, who helps him—and a too-coincidental happy ending mar an otherwise informative book.

An imperfect look at an all-too-real evil. (discussion questions) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-988449-13-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Mawenzi House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK GODS

Percy Jackson takes a break from adventuring to serve up the Greek gods like flapjacks at a church breakfast.

Percy is on form as he debriefs readers concerning Chaos, Gaea, Ouranos and Pontus, Dionysus, Ariadne and Persephone, all in his dude’s patter: “He’d forgotten how beautiful Gaea could be when she wasn’t all yelling up in his face.” Here they are, all 12 Olympians, plus many various offspring and associates: the gold standard of dysfunctional families, whom Percy plays like a lute, sometimes lyrically, sometimes with a more sardonic air. Percy’s gift, which is no great secret, is to breathe new life into the gods. Closest attention is paid to the Olympians, but Riordan has a sure touch when it comes to fitting much into a small space—as does Rocco’s artwork, which smokes and writhes on the page as if hit by lightning—so readers will also meet Makaria, “goddess of blessed peaceful deaths,” and the Theban Teiresias, who accidentally sees Athena bathing. She blinds him but also gives him the ability to understand the language of birds. The atmosphere crackles and then dissolves, again and again: “He could even send the Furies after living people if they committed a truly horrific crime—like killing a family member, desecrating a temple, or singing Journey songs on karaoke night.”

The inevitable go-to for Percy’s legions of fans who want the stories behind his stories. (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8364-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A LONG WALK TO WATER

BASED ON A TRUE STORY

Salva Dut is 11 years old when war raging in the Sudan separates him from his family. To avoid the conflict, he walks for years with other refugees, seeking sanctuary and scarce food and water. Park simply yet convincingly depicts the chaos of war and an unforgiving landscape as they expose Salva to cruelties both natural and man-made. The lessons Salva remembers from his family keep him from despair during harsh times in refugee camps and enable him, as a young man, to begin a new life in America. As Salva’s story unfolds, readers also learn about another Sudanese youth, Nya, and how these two stories connect contributes to the satisfying conclusion. This story is told as fiction, but it is based on real-life experiences of one of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan. Salva and Nya’s compelling voices lift their narrative out of the “issue” of the Sudanese War, and only occasionally does the explanation of necessary context intrude in the storytelling. Salva’s heroism and the truth that water is a source of both conflict and reconciliation receive equal, crystal-clear emphasis in this heartfelt account. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-25127-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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