SIGNS OF LIFE

Dreamed memories of an ancient life that may-have-been and a wistful, would-be romance thaw Hannah's grief over the death of her twin sister, Molly. In France to view the Lascaux cave paintings, Hannah, 17, can't find the appetite for lunch, let alone cultural expeditions with her parents. Molly's death six months ago has made it emotionally impossible for them to return to their usual summer grounds. Stefan, a young juggler with a travelling circus, reminds Hannah how to laugh; vivid dreams of the cave paintings' creation result in her more philosophical outlook on life's minor passages and major ones. To the credit of Ferris (Relative Strangers, 1993, etc.), the dream/reincarnation sequences are not as hokey as they sound in summary, and yet how improbable they are—the ancestors speak as freely of the paintings as self-conscious Soho artists. The mood of the book, a compression of overlapping incidents and motifs (so- called ``gypsy'' sayings, Hannah's mother emerging from grief- induced lethargy, the love story that is ultimately another good- bye), settles sorrow on readers like a cloak before releasing them, along with the characters, from the pain. A bittersweet evocation of the mourning process. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 25, 1995

ISBN: 0-374-36909-7

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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