Written to express the power of claiming an ownership of one’s education and the bonds of community, the narrative fails to...

In this fictionalized story of community organizing and uplift, nonwhite South African families band together to make their community school a place where students feel safe, cared for, and encouraged to awaken their dreams.

Salmina Arends is a black girl and sixth-grader at the imagined Manyano School. (“Manyano” is a Xhosa word meaning “coming together, or unity.”) The school is consistently under siege by skollies, an Afrikaans word for vandals or gang members, and litter is everywhere. When a new principal is able to leverage new computers for the school and they are subsequently stolen, he recognizes something must change. He calls for the community to take ownership of the school, and many of the otherwise unemployed family members begin an industrious schoolyard brick-making project that turns around the culture of the school and reaches into the soul of the community it serves. The afterlife of the apartheid regime in South Africa lingers in the story, but many of the book’s insights into post-apartheid South Africa live between the lines. In the afterword readers learn of the real-life school the episode is based on—and of the unfulfilled promise of universal education. This is crucially missing from the feel-good primary narrative, as is a direct confrontation of the causes of South Africa’s ills.

Written to express the power of claiming an ownership of one’s education and the bonds of community, the narrative fails to live up to what it teaches by reducing and erasing when more hard work and commitment were needed. (glossary, maps, bio of Nelson Mandela) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-59572-779-4

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Star Bright

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2017


From the Swindle series , Vol. 1

Eleven-year-old Griffin Bing is “the man with the plan.” If something needs doing, Griffin carefully plans a fix and his best friend Ben usually gets roped in as assistant. When the town council ignores his plan for a skate park on the grounds of the soon-to-be demolished Rockford House, Griffin plans a camp-out in the house. While there, he discovers a rare Babe Ruth baseball card. His family’s money worries are suddenly a thing of the past, until unscrupulous collectables dealer S. Wendell Palomino swindles him. Griffin and Ben plan to snatch the card back with a little help. Pet-lover Savannah whispers the blood-thirsty Doberman. Rock-climber “Pitch” takes care of scaling the house. Budding-actor Logan distracts the nosy neighbor. Computer-expert Melissa hacks Palomino’s e-mail and the house alarm. Little goes according to plan, but everything turns out all right in this improbable but fun romp by the prolific and always entertaining Korman. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-439-90344-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008


After Castro’s takeover, nine-year-old Julian and his older brothers are sent away by their fearful parents via “Operation Pedro Pan” to a camp in Miami for Cuban-exile children. Here he discovers that a ruthless bully has essentially been put in charge. Julian is quicker-witted than his brothers or anyone else ever imagined, though, and with his inherent smarts, developing maturity and the help of child and adult friends, he learns to navigate the dynamics of the camp and surroundings and grows from the former baby of the family to independence and self-confidence. A daring rescue mission at the end of the novel will have readers rooting for Julian even as it opens his family’s eyes to his courage and resourcefulness. This autobiographical novel is a well-meaning, fast-paced and often exciting read, though at times the writing feels choppy. It will introduce readers to a not-so-distant period whose echoes are still felt today and inspire admiration for young people who had to be brave despite frightening and lonely odds. (Historical fiction. 9-12)


Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59643-168-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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