Disturbingly plausible, definitely thought- and discussion-provoking.

READ REVIEW

YOU CAN'T SEE THE ELEPHANTS

Seeing evidence that a neighbor’s children are being abused, a young teenager looks for adult help and finds none in this disquieting German import.

Summering with her grandparents in a quiet small town and largely left to her own devices, 13-year-old Mascha is shocked to see bruises and other wounds on the two children—Julia, 9, and 7-year-old Max—of the local car dealer. After later witnessing a violent scene through their window, she hastens to tell her grandma, who responds with a blanket denial: “They’re good people. Everyone here knows that. Those things don’t happen here!” Despite similar responses from other adults, she nerves herself for a 911 call but (realistically) is so nervous and inarticulate that she’s dismissed as a prankster. In desperation, she kidnaps the children with a wild story about their parents being suddenly called away, locks them in an abandoned house, and struggles to keep them quiet and fed. Unsurprisingly, this ill-conceived scheme turns nearly to disaster when searchers find the supposed runaways. Kreller delivers a powerful tale centered on three young people who are out of their depth (“When Daddy whips us, he has a reason,” insists Julia, fierce and secretive) and get no help from a community that, like most, values peace and privacy over all.

Disturbingly plausible, definitely thought- and discussion-provoking. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17209-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A mixed bag for epilepsy representation; satisfying as a friendship tale.

TALKING TO ALASKA

Two very different kids who need the same dog realize they both sometimes feel like they’re walking around on Mars.

Parker and Sven, two White 13-year-olds, are both nervous starting a new year at their school in the Netherlands. Parker’s recovering from a traumatic experience, and Sven hasn’t adapted to his epilepsy diagnosis. The first day of school begins badly for both of them: Sven, trying to impress people, gives Parker a mean nickname, then closes the day with a very public seizure. He frequently experiences generalized tonic-clonic seizures and can no longer bike or swim, and he has a service dog, Alaska, whom he resents. But only four months ago, Alaska was Parker’s pet. In alternating perspectives, Parker and Sven confront trauma, grief, and how they feel like aliens at school. The premise that Parker’s former house pet is now Sven’s skilled seizure dog after only one month of training bends credulity to the breaking point in a novel packed with little informational lessons about epilepsy and service animals. The book was translated from the original Dutch into British English, and although the text has been largely Americanized, it frequently uses the word fit for seizure—considered ableist and pejorative phrasing in the U.S. (though not in the U.K.). On the other hand, it’s wonderful to see a helmet normalized for a disabled protagonist who’s prone to falls.

A mixed bag for epilepsy representation; satisfying as a friendship tale. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78607-880-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Rock the Boat/Oneworld

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Carrick (Melanie, 1996, etc.) sensitively explores the pain of a parent’s death through the eyes, feelings, and voice of a nine-year-old boy whose world turns upside down when his father becomes terminally ill with cancer. Through a fictional reminiscence, the story explores many of the issues common to children whose parents are ill—loss of control, changes in physical appearance and mental ability, upsets in daily routine, experiences of guilt and anger, the reaction of friends, and, most of all, a fear of the unknown. Although the book suffers from a pat ending and the black-and-white sketches emphasize the bleakness of the topic, this title is a notch above pure bibliotherapy and will fill a special niche for children struggling to deal with the trauma of parental sickness and death. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-84151-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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