Autumn Street recaptured, in narrator Elizabeth's enveloping memory of the months when she, her sister, and her pregnant mother live with her Philadelphia grandparents while her father is off in the Pacific fighting World War II. Six-year-old Elizabeth is not cowed by the sedate, well-appointed home, or by her tight-lipped step-grandmother who has never lived with children; but she is more comfortable in the kitchen with wise Tatie—and with Tatie's fatherless grandchild Charles, Elizabeth's age, who seems to live a far more interesting life although on Autumn Street he's not allowed in the front of the house. Next door are the Hoffman twins, viewed through a haze of gossip and suspicion (their father, of German descent, disappeared at the beginning of the war; a spy?)—and through the backyard hedge, as Elizabeth and Charles see Noah kill a cat, abuse his pet duck, and torment his terrified, withdrawn brother Nathaniel. Elizabeth remembers Noah's dying of pneumonia, and the afternoon when she and Nathaniel, left to tend him while his mother goes for medicine ("Don't let him cry," she tells them), play noisily to drown out his cries. The neighborhood also has its demented derelict, a seemingly harmless fixture until, in the novel's terrible culmination, he slits Charles' throat in the dreaded woods at the end of Autumn Street: ". . . there was danger there, and we both know that, we could feel it in the snow and the silence, as small as we were." But Elizabeth is dizzy then with fever, Charles refuses to take her home, the children have just fought because some older boys upset Charles with a racial attack—and so she leaves him in the woods with the unknown danger. Noah's death earlier (and his perverse behavior), the loving, ample-bosomed black maid, the close but unequal black-white relationships, and the inevitable tragedy that Noah's death foreshadows—all give the story a touch of the ambience we associate with Southern fiction. Just once or twice, Lowry gives Elizabeth an egalitarian thought that would seem to be beyond her years. More often, she gives her a child's open sensitivity, a child's way of processing occurrences—her grandfather falls in the hall as the clock strikes; she is told next day that he had a stroke; and so she associates his illness with the clock, which she is sure is waiting to strike again—and a moving ability to recall an experience in its totality. At Thanksgiving dinner, having embarrassed her great-aunts with personal questions, Elizabeth is hauled off to the bathroom where her mother confirms that Grandfather once broke an engagement to Great-aunt Philippa. Elizabeth in turn confesses her love for Charles. "There was a kind of rapture, standing in the small, immaculate bathroom beside my mother, smelling her perfume, feeling the slippery, perfect oval of pale blue soap, and then the rough texture of the thick towel, talking about secret things.

Pub Date: April 23, 1980

ISBN: 0395278120

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.


A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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