A fine story of war, friendship, and taking a stand against injustice.

THE BICYCLE SPY

The Nazis have occupied France, and Marcel Christophe’s world is suddenly full of mysteries.

It’s 1942, and 12-year-old Marcel and his parents hate the German Occupation and the changes it has brought to their little town of Aucoin—the presence of soldiers, rationing, and shortages of food and gas. Now, since the Nazis have invaded the Free Zone, the streets have even more soldiers, and as it turns out, Marcel’s new friend, Delphine Gilette, and her family are in danger when it’s discovered that they are Jewish. Marcel makes frequent bread deliveries from his parents’ bakery on his bicycle, and when he discovers a note hidden in a loaf, he begins to realize that his parents are part of the Resistance. Their undercover work now must include helping Delphine and her family. “Why is your family doing all this?” she asks Marcel. “Because we have to. It’s the right thing to do. We can’t just give in to…them. We can’t,” he replies. McDonough’s third-person narrative tells Marcel’s story in simple, straightforward prose, seamlessly incorporating historical detail, including information about Marcel’s passion, the Tour de France.

A fine story of war, friendship, and taking a stand against injustice. (historical notes, glossary, further reading) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-85095-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people.

GROUND ZERO

Parallel storylines take readers through the lives of two young people on Sept. 11 in 2001 and 2019.

In the contemporary timeline, Reshmina is an Afghan girl living in foothills near the Pakistan border that are a battleground between the Taliban and U.S. armed forces. She is keen to improve her English while her twin brother, Pasoon, is inspired by the Taliban and wants to avenge their older sister, killed by an American bomb on her wedding day. Reshmina helps a wounded American soldier, making her village a Taliban target. In 2001, Brandon Chavez is spending the day with his father, who works at the World Trade Center’s Windows on the World restaurant. Brandon is heading to the underground mall when a plane piloted by al-Qaida hits the tower, and his father is among those killed. The two storylines develop in parallel through alternating chapters. Gratz’s deeply moving writing paints vivid images of the loss and fear of those who lived through the trauma of 9/11. However, this nuance doesn’t extend to the Afghan characters; Reshmina and Pasoon feel one-dimensional. Descriptions of the Taliban’s Afghan victims and Reshmina's gentle father notwithstanding, references to all young men eventually joining the Taliban and Pasoon's zeal for their cause counteract this messaging. Explanations for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan in the author’s note and in characters’ conversations too simplistically present the U.S. presence.

Falters in its oversimplified portrayal of a complicated region and people. (author’s note) (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-24575-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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