Growing up, like birth and like death, involves struggle, but Mira’s largely spared its messy, painful side; this is...

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MIRA IN THE PRESENT TENSE

Puberty, first love and a grandparent’s death figure in this gentle coming-of-age debut from the U.K., winner of Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize in 2011.

On her busy 12th birthday, Mira, a budding artist of Indian-Jewish heritage, gets her first period, dreams about the Rwandan boy in her writing class and agrees to help her ailing Nana Josie paint her coffin. Among her presents is a diary in which she’ll record her next five weeks. Like Judy Blume’s Margaret, Mira desires and fears growing up, but there the two part ways. Grappling with life’s big questions, Margaret finds adult answers unsatisfactory, conflicting and contradictory; disillusioned, she’ll find her own. Mira’s journey is less stressful than reflective, studded with mature insights and wry reflection as she absorbs life lessons from her elders, especially Nana Josie, who, having lived a full life, now orchestrates her approaching death. (Movingly portrayed in realistic detail, her looming death and Mira’s sorrow are the novel’s strong suit.) Title notwithstanding, Mira’s passivity and the largely conflict-free plot are distancing. Because readers first learn that Mira’s bullied two pages before she fights back, her triumph has little impact.

Growing up, like birth and like death, involves struggle, but Mira’s largely spared its messy, painful side; this is adolescence as adults would like it to be, not as children live it. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5149-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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