An epic muddle, all in all.

READ REVIEW

LES MISÉRABLES

In typically buoyant cartoons, Williams presents a précis of Hugo’s epic.

It’s hard to imagine an illustrator less suited to this exhausting story and vice versa. In sequential panels large and small, Valjean and the other characters appear in picturesquely patched and rumpled costume. The background slums, sewers and, in later scenes, barricades are atmospherically stained and littered with detritus, but even during the most desperate and tragic events there are smiles and stage antics on view. Small birds, busy rats and cats, sprigs of garland and like decorative motifs add entertaining distractions within the pictures and along the borders of every page. Furthermore, even if portions of the dialogue enclosed in the speech balloons are credibly translated from the original, some of them have a jarringly jocular ring: “Since I am not arrested and I have things to do, I’m going”; “The old geezer and his daughter are on their way.” In contrast to the lively, fluidly drawn watercolors, the lines or blocks of narrative running beneath every picture offer a dry, past-tense plot summary that may possibly be helpful to assignment-driven slackers but go on long enough to try the interest of younger readers.

An epic muddle, all in all. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7476-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace.

WAR STORIES

Two young people of different generations get profound lessons in the tragic, enduring legacy of war.

Raised on the thrilling yarns of his great-grandpa Jacob and obsessed with both World War II and first-person–shooter video games, Trevor is eager to join the 93-year-old vet when he is invited to revisit the French town his unit had helped to liberate. In alternating chapters, the overseas trip retraces the parallel journeys of two young people—Trevor, 12, and Jacob, in 1944, just five years older—with similarly idealized visions of what war is like as they travel both then and now from Fort Benning to Omaha Beach and then through Normandy. Jacob’s wartime experiences are an absorbing whirl of hard fighting, sudden death, and courageous acts spurred by necessity…but the modern trip turns suspenseful too, as mysterious stalkers leave unsettling tokens and a series of hostile online posts that hint that Jacob doesn’t have just German blood on his hands. Korman acknowledges the widely held view of World War II as a just war but makes his own sympathies plain by repeatedly pointing to the unavoidable price of conflict: “Wars may have winning sides, but everybody loses.” Readers anticipating a heavy-handed moral will appreciate that Trevor arrives at a refreshingly realistic appreciation of video games’ pleasures and limitations. As his dad puts it: “War makes a better video game….But if you’re looking for a way to live, I’ll take peace every time.”

This weave of perceptive, well-told tales wears its agenda with unusual grace. (Fiction/historical fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-29020-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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