A heartfelt but meandering tale about a resourceful Indian student.

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PETALS OF CHILDHOOD

SMILING GEMS

A fourth-grader helps underprivileged kids and learns a valuable lesson in this debut children’s novel.

Although Sona is smart and attends a prestigious international school in India, her grades aren’t what her mother expects. Often, the girl lacks focus and constantly wonders about the world around her. On her mother’s birthday, Sona and her parents visit an orphanage. Later, Sona worries about the orphans’ education and well-being. Her mother, who works for an organization teaching underprivileged kids, explains that children can get a good education anywhere— “where they get it is secondary.” Still, Sona wants to help. With the assistance of teachers, parents, and friends, she ensures that deprived and orphaned children participate in One Spectrum, her school’s extracurricular competition. Sona also urges Aunt Nyla, her mother’s friend and colleague, to help a boy named Pawan, who works at a tea stall. Despite Pawan’s limited education and poverty, he joins Sona’s community, inspiring many with his intelligence, cartography skills, and humility. One Spectrum is a huge success and Sona realizes that education and wealth don’t equal superiority. In this novel, Upadhyay offers a heartwarming message that emphasizes the importance of empathy, education, and literacy. A short, helpful glossary of terms is also included. The narrative delivers some nice lines like “Sona lived in an imaginative world where butterflies hovered over math textbooks and pencils danced.” But other literary devices are unusual (“Earth was a plump girl who…asked…the planets to get her desserts…if the planets did not bribe Earth by providing…desserts, she would say negative things about them”). Some significant facts are randomly inserted in the text rather than smoothly incorporated into the story. For example, Upadhyay describes late in the book how Sona’s mother lived in an orphanage as a kid. Integrated into the tale early on, this background would have added an intriguing element to Sona’s character. And topics and settings sometimes oddly skip around within the same paragraphs and sentences (“After spending the day with…children, she returned home. At 9 p.m., the party had just begun…guests were arriving at the venue”).

A heartfelt but meandering tale about a resourceful Indian student.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5437-0173-9

Page Count: 66

Publisher: PartridgeIndia

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2018

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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