Six stories of varying types have been chosen by an author who is familiar with the Vietnamese people in their own country and in the US. Although she gives no specific sources (an incongruity in an otherwise careful production), she acknowledges several Vietnamese friends who assisted her. Garland (In the Shadow of the Alamo, not reviewed, etc.) makes a significant contribution with her informative introduction about the history and culture of Vietnam and her helpful explanations after each tale. For example, “Chu Cuoi—the Man in the Moon” is followed by a description of Tet Trung Thu, the Moon Festival, which comes two weeks after the lunar New Year. Garland also describes natural phenomena, such as banyan trees, water buffalo, and monsoons, as well as cultural practices, such as the custom of arranging marriages, and expertly links these to the context of the stories. The last story, “The Bowmen and the Sisters,” has some familiar themes. A good sister displays kindness and receives a great reward while a mean sister behaves in a nasty manner and is severely punished. Because the story is about the encounters between the majority culture of the Viets and the minority culture of the moi, now known as montagnards or mountain people, the author has a chance to explain the place of these people with Vietnamese society. Hyman (The Serpent Slayer, 2000, etc.) uses India ink and acrylic paint with a delicate, yet bold hand to create affecting portraits, and realistic paintings of the flora and fauna of the region. Wondrous cameos of dragons lead off each story. This unusual collection of tales will work best for individual readers as they drink in the details of the stories, the background materials, and the paintings. (Folktales. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-224200-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001


Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021


Whirls of tiny, brightly dressed people’some with wings—fill Kleven’s kaleidoscopic portraits of sun-drenched Los Angeles neighborhoods and landmarks; the Los Angeles—based authors supply equally colorful accounts of the city’s growth, festivals, and citizens, using an appended chronology to squeeze in a few more anecdotes. As does Kathy Jakobsen’s My New York (1998), Jaskol and Lewis’s book captures a vivid sense of a major urban area’s bustle, diversity, and distinctive character; young Angelenos will get a hearty dose of civic pride, and children everywhere will find new details in the vibrant illustrations at every pass. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-525-46214-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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