BRIGHTWOOD

Subtle and thought-provoking, the novel is entertaining and heartfelt as well as a gentle introduction to the world of...

An intriguing mix of fantasy, mystery, and mental illness.

Home alone at Brightwood Hall, 11-year-old Daisy worries about her missing mother with each passing day. Her unease grows when a stranger arrives—a man who seems to want Brightwood all to himself. Despite her naiveté, readers will connect with Daisy and her dilemma. Bound to her home by agoraphobia and a sense of duty to protect Brightwood, Daisy seeks helps from the black-and-white specter of a girl named Frank. Brilliantly conceived by Unsworth, Frank is both a figment of Daisy’s imagination and the embodiment of Daisy’s cognitive development and character growth. Frank knows what Daisy knows and nothing more, but she forces Daisy to confront the truth about her situation. Brightwood seems like a magical place filled with wonder, animate objects, and talking animals, but as Daisy battles her fears and fights back against the man who wants Brightwood, she slowly comes to terms with the possibility that Brightwood is a place built on unresolved grief and mental illness. The book’s compassionate handling of sensitive subject matter is a trade-off for its tidy, uncomplicated ending, which doesn’t allow readers to see the healing process between two of the book’s major characters. Daisy is never described beyond her black hair, adding further ambiguity to the text.

Subtle and thought-provoking, the novel is entertaining and heartfelt as well as a gentle introduction to the world of mental illness. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61620-330-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

NUMBER THE STARS

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

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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