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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Superficial but kind of fun.


Take a magic-carpet ride to far-flung and seldom-seen locations.

Readers can follow a young, pale-skinned, khaki-clad adventurer as they set out on their magic carpet to explore unusual, unexpected, and sometimes dangerous spots around the world. Locations visited include the exclusive interior of Air Force One, the remote depths of the Mariana Trench, and the (potentially) fatal shores of Brazil’s Snake Island, among others. Each adventure follows a uniform template, whereby the location is introduced in a sweeping double-page painting with an introductory paragraph followed by another spread of images and facts. The illustrations are attractive, a bit reminiscent of work done by the Dillons in the 1970s and ’80s. Alas, while the text correctly states that the Upper Paleolithic art in France’s Lascaux cave features only one depiction of a human, the introductory illustration interpolates without explanation a probably Neolithic hunting scene with several humans from a Spanish site—which is both confusing and wrong. Trivia fans will enjoy the mixture of fact and speculation about the various locations; a small further-reading section in the back points to more information. While the potentially off-putting choice of magic carpet as conveyance is never explained, there is a disclaimer warning readers that the book’s creators will not take responsibility if they suffer calamity trying to actually visit any of these places. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Superficial but kind of fun. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5159-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Magic Cat

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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