THE HOUSE OF WINDJAMMER

Stronger on 17th-century historical detail than plot or character, this overblown series opener stars a dimwitted, unlikable Amsterdam teenager who suddenly finds himself heir to a family business tottering on the edge of bankruptcy. With conniving banker Hugo van Helsen pulling strings to complete their downfall in the wake of a disastrous trading expedition to the primitive Americas, the Windjammers need a miracle to save them. Leading a faintly Dickensian cast, sullen Adam Windjammer blunders about searching for such a miracle, having his fat repeatedly pulled from contrived fires by the far brighter and more competent Jade, Van Helsen’s adventurous, neglected daughter—until, after many trite set pieces and clumsily introduced clues, the search becomes superfluous when the Windjammers’ workmen voluntarily step forward to pay the family’s debts. Right. Richardson sets the stage for sequels from the first chapter on, but few readers are likely to want to read them. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-811-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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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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BEYOND PARADISE

During WWII in the Philippines, American citizens trapped in the war zone were imprisoned for years by the Japanese, events that provide the context for Hertenstein’s first novel, which focuses on one 14-year-old, Louise. Louise’s minister father is captured in Manila, leaving her and her weak-willed mother to face life alone with other Baptist missionaries on an outlying island. The colony escapes into the hills for a time, but is discovered and interned in a concentration camp. Eventually they are moved to Manila, and later to the notorious camp, Los Banos. One of Louise’s friends is discovered with a radio and executed; food is scarce; people are dying. Hertenstein writes with sensitivity, although the story is often disjointed, e.g., the news that the colony has been taken prisoner comes in a letter Louise writes to her sister, instead of through Louise’s natural-sounding first-person narration, which filled the first 60 pages. When the Japanese disappear from the camp, Louise, now almost 18, rejoices that finally there will be “No bowing, no bayonets,” yet bowing and bayonets, major features of Japanese concentration camps, have hardly been mentioned. A first work that is shakily compelling, often uplifting, and certainly promising. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16381-5

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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