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

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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Tales that “lay out your options for painful and interesting ways to die.” And to live.

PERCY JACKSON'S GREEK HEROES

In a similarly hefty companion to Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods (2014), the most voluble of Poseidon’s many sons dishes on a dozen more ancient relatives and fellow demigods.

Riordan averts his young yarn spinner’s eyes from the sex but not the stupidity, violence, malice, or bad choices that drive so many of the old tales. He leavens full, refreshingly tart accounts of the ups and downs of such higher-profile heroes as Theseus, Orpheus, Hercules, and Jason with the lesser-known but often equally awesome exploits of such butt-kicking ladies as Atalanta, Otrera (the first Amazon), and lion-wrestling Cyrene. In thought-provoking contrast, Psyche comes off as no less heroic, even though her story is less about general slaughter than the tough “Iron Housewives quests” Aphrodite forces her to undertake to rescue her beloved Eros. Furthermore, along with snarky chapter heads (“Phaethon Fails Driver’s Ed”), the contemporary labor includes references to Jay-Z, Apple Maps, god-to-god texting, and the like—not to mention the way the narrator makes fun of hard-to-pronounce names and points up such character flaws as ADHD (Theseus) and anger management issues (Hercules). The breezy treatment effectively blows off at least some of the dust obscuring the timeless themes in each hero’s career. In Rocco’s melodramatically murky illustrations, men and women alike display rippling thews and plenty of skin as they battle ravening monsters.

Tales that “lay out your options for painful and interesting ways to die.” And to live. (maps, index) (Mythology. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8365-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

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