Exciting, tragic, and gritty.

ESCAPE FROM CHERNOBYL

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster changes the lives of three Soviet teenagers.

Yuri, who’s 16, his 13-year-old cousin, Alina, and their friend Sofiya live comfortable lives in Pripyat, Ukraine—until the morning of April 26, 1986. Yuri is a loyal Soviet citizen and an intern at the power plant who dreams of joining the ranks of nuclear engineers. He is mopping the floors when he hears the explosions of the reactor accident. Sofiya’s father, a nuclear engineer, warns her to stay inside and rushes to the plant to help. Meanwhile, Alina, who is portrayed with what seems to be undiagnosed OCD, is forced to leave her friend and cousin behind as her family is secretly hustled out of the city by a Communist Party official who knows the truth. All characters are presumably White. Though the author admittedly takes a few liberties and the story is fictionalized, the book is well researched and vividly portrays the Chernobyl disaster. The author includes details that paint a picture of the time and place, sprinkling italicized Russian terms and their explanations throughout. He walks a delicate line in dealing with these tragic and politically complex events, mostly with success. A few gory moments may disturb some readers, but excluding them would sanitize the human cost of the disaster. Political maneuvering and corruption are introduced but are insufficiently explored as a cause of the tragedy.

Exciting, tragic, and gritty. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-71845-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Remarkable.

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  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Book

PRAIRIE LOTUS

A “half-Chinese and half-white” girl finds her place in a Little House–inspired fictional settler town.

After the death of her Chinese mother, Hanna, an aspiring dressmaker, and her White father seek a fresh start in Dakota Territory. It’s 1880, and they endure challenges similar to those faced by the Ingallses and so many others: dreary travel through unfamiliar lands, the struggle to protect food stores from nature, and the risky uncertainty of establishing a livelihood in a new place. Fans of the Little House books will find many of the small satisfactions of Laura’s stories—the mouthwatering descriptions of victuals, the attention to smart building construction, the glorious details of pleats and poplins—here in abundance. Park brings new depth to these well-trodden tales, though, as she renders visible both the xenophobia of the town’s White residents, which ranges in expression from microaggressions to full-out assault, and Hanna’s fight to overcome it with empathy and dignity. Hanna’s encounters with women of the nearby Ihanktonwan community are a treat; they hint at the whole world beyond a White settler perspective, a world all children deserve to learn about. A deeply personal author’s note about the story’s inspiration may leave readers wishing for additional resources for further study and more clarity about her use of Lakota/Dakota. While the cover art unfortunately evokes none of the richness of the text and instead insinuates insidious stereotypes, readers who sink into the pages behind it will be rewarded.

Remarkable. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-78150-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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