A gritty story filled with hope and idealism.

BORN BEHIND BARS

A young boy is forced to leave the Chennai jail that is the only home he’s ever known.

When Kabir is deemed too old to stay and is sent out into the world all alone, separated from his wrongfully imprisoned mother, he decides to search for the family of the father he has never met to try to save his mother from her unjustly long sentence. Armed with faith, instinctive wits, and the ability to run fast, Kabir escapes danger and meets Rani, a teenage girl from the marginalized Kurava, or Roma, people who is traveling with her parrot. She teaches Kabir, who has a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, about caste dynamics and survival on the streets. She accompanies him to Bengaluru, where Kabir eventually meets his paternal grandparents. Along the way, their experiences reveal the invisibility of low-caste people in Indian society, tensions between neighboring states over water supplies, and the unexpected kindness of helpful strangers. Kabir’s longing for freedom and justice underscores bittersweet twists and turns that resolve in an upbeat conclusion, celebrating his namesake, a saint who sought to unify Muslims and Hindus. Kabir engages readers by voicing his thoughts, vulnerability, and optimism: While his early physical environment was confined within prison walls, his imagination was nourished by stories and songs. This compelling novel develops at a brisk pace, advanced by evocative details and short chapters full of action.

A gritty story filled with hope and idealism. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11247-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Readers will be rooting for Bryan to make the right choices even as they understand the wrong ones.

TIGHT

A loner navigates a dangerous relationship.

Bryan is a quiet, Afro–Puerto Rican sixth-grader living in Brooklyn. He enjoys comic books, video games, and keeping to himself. Pa, recently released from prison, and Bryan’s sister, Ava, encourage him to be tough. Ava mocks him for being a “momma’s boy,” and Pa tells him it’s better to be feared than liked. Ma, however, encourages Bryan to use his brains instead of his fists. Ma introduces Bryan to Mike, a slightly older black boy who uses the services at the community center where Ma works; she says he “seems nice” and “gets good grades,” and Bryan needs a friend. Soon Mike and Bryan become so close that they say they’re brothers—but Mike isn’t as good as Ma and others think. Bryan gets swept up in Mike’s influence and begins to behave badly in small ways, throwing rocks at cars from rooftops and practicing his mother’s handwriting so he can forge excuses from school. After Pa violates his parole and is arrested again, Bryan’s behavior escalates, including cutting class and hopping onto moving trains. Through Bryan’s believable, emotionally honest first-person narration, Maldonado skillfully shows a boy trying to navigate parental desires and the societal expectations of his Brooklyn neighborhood while trying to figure himself out.

Readers will be rooting for Bryan to make the right choices even as they understand the wrong ones. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4055-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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