ALONG THE TRACKS

The author of The Boy from Over There (1988) bases this story about a boy in the USSR during WW II on the real experiences of a Polish family that later emigrated to Palestine. Told in the third person from various points of view, the novel's first section describes Rosa and Yitzhak's desperate flight from Lodz with their two children as the Nazis seal off the ghetto. They find a haven in the Crimea until Hitler invades Russia; then Yitzhak joins the Russian army while Rosa and the children again escape east. In the confusion of an air attack, Yankele, now eight, falls from their train and is lost. During the next four years—as narrated by Yankele, now prudently known as Yasha—the boy survives by stealing food, making fleeting alliances with other lost boys, snuggling into the ``Black Hotel'' (still-smoldering cinders piled by the railroads), and hopping trains whenever local merchants begin to recognize him. Against all hope, the family is reunited at the war's end. Yankele's experiences transform him from a trusting, dependent eight-year-old into a wily, self-reliant urchin who maintains an inner core of innocence even though he finds it difficult, once it's no longer necessary, to break the habit of thieving. Meanwhile, readers are exposed to a compellingly authentic picture of life in the likes of Tashkent and Samarkand during the war—a cruel world where the state effectively abandoned homeless children, but where some remnants of kindness and humanity survived. A gripping, evocative story; the translation is excellent. (Fiction. 11+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-395-55328-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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CLOCKWORK ANGEL

From the Infernal Devices series , Vol. 1

A century before the events of Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, another everyday heroine gets entangled with demon-slaying Shadowhunters. Sixteen-year-old orphaned Tessa comes to London to join her brother but is imprisoned by the grotesque Dark Sisters. The sisters train the unwilling Tessa in previously unknown shapeshifter abilities, preparing her to be a pawn in some diabolical plan. A timely rescue brings Tessa to the Institute, where a group of misfit Shadowhunters struggles to fight evil. Though details differ, the general flavor of Tessa’s new family will be enjoyably familiar to the earlier trilogy’s fans; the most important is Tessa’s rescuer Will, the gorgeous, sharp-tongued teenager with a mysterious past and a smile like “Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.” The lush, melodramatic urban fantasy setting of the Shadowhunter world morphs seamlessly into a steampunk Victorian past, and this new series provides the setup for what will surely be a climactic battle against hordes of demonically powered brass clockworks. The tale drags in places, but this crowdpleaser’s tension-filled conclusion ratchets toward a new set of mysteries. (Steampunk. 13-15)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4169-7586-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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