MIDGET

A teenager frees himself from his older brother's surreptitious abuse and his own physical deformities in this psychological thriller. After years of enduring nocturnal taunts, Joseph has grown to despise his twisted, seizure-prone body and brother Seb in equal measure; watching the boats off shore and in the local boatyard provide his only comfort. When, to his delight, an old boatwright wills him a small sailboat, Joseph discovers his ability to anticipate, and even control, wind and wave. He wins several races, infuriating Seb, who attempts to murder Joseph. Does Joseph hate Seb enough to kill him? After engineering an accident that leaves Seb close to death, he realizes that he has committed an evil act. In a wrenching final scene, Joseph finds peace by trading his own life for Seb's, a resolution more shocking than just. Bowler becomes a different writer when his characters are on the water, envisioning and describing races and other marine episodes more vividly than incidents on land. Joseph is a compelling figure, unable to read or write, virtually unable to speak, but sharply alert and—in the course of his first-person narration—articulate about his feelings. Seb is less convincing, not as scary as the publically genial, privately vicious abusers in books such as Kristen Randle's The Only Alien On the Planet (1994), but that hardly detracts from this unsettling work. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-689-80115-7

Page Count: 159

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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