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THE HEN WHO DREAMED SHE COULD FLY

A subtle morality tale that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Published to great success in Korea, Hwang’s short novel is an adroit allegory about life.

Sprout’s a caged laying hen on a small farm. Sprout yearns for freedom, for a chance to mother one of the eggs taken from her. She has given herself the name Sprout because she "wanted to do something with her life, just like the sprouts on the acacia tree," something she only sees in her rare glimpses of the world outside flourishing in the barnyard. In her discontent, Sprout grows morose, frail, only to find herself culled from the flock and tossed into the "Hole of Death." Sprout, near suffocation, hears a warning from Straggler, a stray mallard duck tagging along with the farm’s other ducks. She’s in danger of being scavenged by a weasel. That night, Sprout slips into the barn with the other farm animals, but she’s shunned. The lonely Sprout decides to follow Straggler and one of the other ducks out beyond the farm. The other duck is killed, but Sprout finds her egg. With brave Straggler standing watch for the deadly weasel, Sprout broods the egg, thinking, "My dreams are coming true." But after the egg hatches, she begins to comprehend that Baby, as she calls him, will grow to become Greentop, a duckling with his own destiny. Hwang has penned an anthropomorphic allegory with allusions to prejudice, to sacrifice and to the recognition of destiny, a fable in the vein of classics like Charlotte’s Web and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Hwang’s story of Sprout also speaks of family and love, of courage and loss, and of the value of the individual in the face of mindless conformity. Translator Kim does stellar work in rendering the tale into colloquial English, and the narrative is decorated with minimalist pen-and-ink drawings from the Japanese artist Nomoco.

A subtle morality tale that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-14-312320-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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