TALES OF A DEAD KING

Rudimentary skulduggery on an Egyptian archaeological dig—for kids who take to Myers' no-frills storytelling, simple set-ups, and good sense. Teens John Robie and Karen Lacey find themselves at a seedy Aswan hotel—with only a mysterious note to explain the absence of Dr. Erich Leonhardt, John's unknown archaeologist great-uncle. Egyptian-enthusiast John, less put-out than archaeology-buff Karen, is more inclined to stick around; he also gives a thought to the family connection. But signs that "someone doesn't want us hanging around" keep stubborn smartie Karen on the spot too. The enusing one-upmanship between the two, conveyed with a shade of self-mocking rue from John's viewpoint, is the story's strongest feature—though Myers does craftily manage a tie-in with the Tutankhamun show (supposed source of John's interest) and with some basic Egyptology: the unknown site of monotheist Akhenaton's modest burial. John guesses that the nonexistent ship Sibuna, mentioned in Dr. Leonhardt's letter, stands for Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld—meaning that somebody was after, him. Karen reasons from his note-paper (never mind, flimsily, how) that the professor is still around; she remembers that "an Ahmed somebody" was said to have been helping him; she deduces from a letter that the professor had been set back by not receiving a grant from the University of Chicago—hence his need for the two of them. But—John and Karen, together: Didn't the professor's search sound like Tutankhamun-tomb-finder Howard Carter's reference to "the last great mystery of the period"—i.e., the site of Akhenaton's burial? Didn't Akhenaton have Nubian connections, from around Aswan? Isn't the elusive Ahmed supposed to be a Nubian? Dr. Leonhardt is found, the tomb properly isn't—and had it been, the professor notes, it would have held no treasure: the greedy kidnappers had nothing to gain. As for John and Karen, a little real archaeological work is in the offing. "I'd really dig that," says John—(almost) bringing down the curtain on a consciously, likably corny note. Unlike more strenuous efforts, the one grows on you by degrees.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1983

ISBN: 0153003758

Page Count: 89

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983

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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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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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