THE BROKEN BOY

When the Ferrises move in next door, where Solly Freedom's aged friend Mrs. Sawyer used to live, Solly's family takes their oddities in stride; after all, Solly's parents came of age in the 60's and have their own idiosyncracies. They are taken aback, however, when Daniel, apparently seeking refuge from his parents' shouting matches, becomes a frequent, silent presence in their home; but Solly and Daniel are soon friends; and when it develops that Daniel is mentally ill, the Freedoms are warmly supportive. Meanwhile, Daniel discovers the diary of Mrs. Sawyer's disabled son Martin, and concludes from Martin's soul-searching about his own condition and his war-traumatized father's death that there may be more for him in his next life. There are more than enough parallels and images here: every male is in some sense a ``broken boy,'' while several people are summed up as ``buffalo dimes'' or as ``annuals'' or ``perennials.'' Ackerman makes her point—life involves many repairs and much forgiveness—but then belabors it explicitly. And there are odd glitches: Why does the healthy, intelligent, albeit wheelchair-bound, Martin live in a ``hospice,'' apparently unemployed? How did his infirm mother manage alone for five years after he moved out? Still, the dialogue is witty and offbeat, the situation engrossing, the characters perceptively drawn, and the outcome moving and credible—though Daniel may not recover from his suicide attempt, others are seeking new reconciliations as a result of it. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-399-22254-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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THE TEQUILA WORM

Sofia, growing up in an urban Latino neighborhood in McAllen, Texas, has a chance to attend an expensive boarding school in Austin on scholarship. Like her father, Sofia lives the life of the mind, rich with story and possibility. How can she convince her mother to let her take this opportunity? By learning to dance and showing her that she can leave home and still learn to become a good comadre. Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia’s story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout—all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-74674-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

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 Boyne’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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