DAWN OF FEAR

A study not a story, really, demonstrating—decisively—just what the title says. Until he and Pete and Geoff build the camp in the ditch, Derek doesn't worry about the air raids; scrambling to the shelter is routine unless you're lucky and, lagging behind, get a look at the Hurricanes intercepting the bombers. Then the camp is smashed by the White Road gang, Geoff's blackbird egg is broken, and Derek's darts, and Pete's prized six-shooter is gone; they'll have revenge, says Tom who's about to go into the Merchant Navy and seems very big, very responsible and resolute, to the younger boys. But the mudball ambush turns into a rough and tumble battle and then, worse, Tom and Johnny Wiggs, long-time antagonists, face each other alone, waiting to spring: "This was the bomb about to go off." The hate that he's seen lodges in Derek, bringing fear that he can't handle; and that night a bomb kills Pete, his lodestone, "and the world he would live in from now on would be a different world." In the sense that the boys have no options, there is no plot; insofar as they are done to, not doers, they are not protagonists; and to that extent the book is handicapped, especially for the reader as young—not more than ten—as the boys here. Their delineation is sure (from a snatch of dialogue you might know them individually and jointly) and Tom, being a surprise, is an uncommon quantity in a juvenile. The book has many excellences but it remains problematic.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 1970

ISBN: 0152061061

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1970

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

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REFUGEE

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.

NORTHWIND

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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