BEYOND THE ATTIC DOOR

A modern-era parable about Noah’s Ark.
The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial provides the backdrop for Del Campo’s short, charming fiction debut. After school ends, 11-year-old Lulu and her 7-year-old brother, Buddy, visit their grandmother in the rural outback of Missouri, where the upcoming Scopes trial has become the favorite topic of dinner-table conversation. Their parents, grandmother and scientist/inventor uncle Hugh are all ardently religious folks who believe in the primacy of the Bible, and they all think it’s scandalous that some people are saying that “The Trial of the Century” portends the end of religion. When the children ask Hugh what he thinks, he firmly tells them that “evolution is not a scientific fact; it’s merely an assumption with no observational evidence.” When he’s reminded that his insistence on teaching that assertion cost him his job at “a very prestigious university,” he scoffs, insisting that “[a]ll the evidence points directly to an intelligent creator; there is no denying it.” Lulu and Buddy tell him that the kids in their class don’t think the story of Noah’s Ark actually happened, but Hugh insists that the story is true—and it’s an assertion that comes back to haunt him. Del Campo provides a series of neat plot twists that lead to the children’s discovering that Hugh has built a time machine in his attic. They use it, accidentally, to send themselves back in time to the rainy day just before the ark’s launch. Hugh and the kids’ father follow them, and they all confront the reality of the ark—and the imminent danger of the flood. The author soon delivers a fast-paced climax in which they all make their escape. Back in the present, the children’s grandmother provides the book’s overriding message, stoutly reassuring them that “[f]aith means believing with your heart and not with your eyes.” It’s a tidy moral, but Del Campo’s prose style as she delivers it is never labored or heavy-handed. The book’s brevity and thoughtfulness may make it an ideal supplement for Bible study classes, in which it may prompt lively discussion.

A well-turned time-travel adventure story with a biblical edge.

Pub Date: June 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1490837079

Page Count: 102

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2014

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THE NIGHT OF LAS POSADAS

A wondrous occurrence, an ancient tradition, and an elderly nun’s abiding faith are the basis of this moving Chirstmas tale from dePaola (26 Fairmount Avenue, p. 629, etc.). Sister Angie is overjoyed when her niece Lupe and her husband are selected to play Mary and Joseph—here, Maria and José—for Las Posadas, the reenactment of the journey into Bethlehem. When Sister Angie becomes ill and Lupe and Roberto become stranded in a heavy snowstorm, it seems as if the celebration will be delayed. However, a couple arrives just in time to take the place of the missing players. The whole village participates in the procession, from the singers who follow Mary and Joseph, to the “devils” who attempt to prevent the weary travelers from finding lodging. After several rebuffs, the couple arrives at the gates of the courtyard; these open and the entire assembly enters to celebrate. When Lupe and Roberto finally show up, the other couple is nowhere to be found. The story takes a supernatural twist when Sister Angie discovers that the figures in the church’s manger scene have come to life, temporarily, for the procession. The mysteries and miracles of the season are kept at bay; this simple narrative spells everything out, resulting in a primer on the tradition. Richly hued, luminescent illustrations radiate from the pages; an introduction and author’s note provide additional information. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23400-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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JEREMY

THE TALE OF AN HONEST BUNNY

1886

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-670-88104-X

Page Count: 82

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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