NO LAUGHTER HERE

This exquisitely written short novel tackles an enormous and sensitive subject. Ten-year-old Akilah waits for her friend Victoria to return to Queens from a summer trip to Victoria’s birthplace, Nigeria. But when Victoria returns, she’s different. She won’t leave her house or even say hello. Eventually she returns to school but gives only one-word answers; she seems wilted and stunned. Where is her laughter, her sharp wit, her academic sparkle? Akilah stays confused until Victoria finally talks: in complete ignorance, she was taken by her family to Nigeria specifically to undergo female genital mutilation. As Akilah, sickened, begins to comprehend, so does the reader. Williams-Garcia pulls no punches: the operation’s consequences are clearly explained, not gratuitously but for truth. Eye-opening and grounded solidly in the present, this piece has absolutely non-generic characters and allows a shocking subject various points of view (all black) without sacrificing a moral compass. Unapologetic, fresh, and painful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-688-16247-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2003

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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