Poignant, inspiring debut novel of loss, belonging and being true to yourself

SCHOOL OF CHARM

After her father’s death, 11-year-old Brenda “Chip” Anderson feels lonely and alienated when she’s transplanted from New York to Mt. Airy, N.C.

A tomboy and “daddy’s girl,” Chip loved hanging out in the woods with her father, but now Mama moves the family to Mt. Airy to live with Grandma, who takes an instant dislike to Chip and focuses on entering Chip’s two sisters in the Miss Dogwood 1977 beauty pageant. As former pageant winners, Grandma and Mama become obsessed with grooming Chip’s sisters for the pageant, leaving her to grieve and adjust on her own. Chip’s father always told her she was “perfect just being” herself, but now she’s confused. When she discovers Miss Vernie’s School of Charm, “free to those who need it,” Chip enrolls, hoping to surprise Mama and Grandma by secretly entering the pageant. Miss Vernie assures her students they will be most beautiful if they are themselves, but Chip learns the hard way by trying to become a “brand-new Brenda.” The quiet, gentle plot progresses slowly, allowing Chip to heal, form new friendships and assimilate Miss Vernie’s unorthodox charm lessons before becoming a “brand-new Chip.”

Poignant, inspiring debut novel of loss, belonging and being true to yourself . (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-220758-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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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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