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EVE BUNTING is the author of many acclaimed books for young readers, including the Caldecott Medal--winning Smoky Night. She lives in Southern California. PETER SYLVADA's first picture book, A Symphony of Whales, won the Christopher Medal and was named a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year and a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children. He lives in Cardiff, California.
Gr 2-4-With her noted skill in presenting difficult topics with clarity and sensitivity, Bunting has written an inspiring story based on the true experience of a Bosnian family forced to flee their country during the recent civil war. Eight-year-old Viktor watches as his father walks away to join the Liberation Army, and knows that soon he, his mother, and younger sister, Marina, will be forced to leave their home, just one step ahead of the approaching enemy forces. Already, strangers pass through Viktor's town on their way to the border. One man leaves his two golden fish with the family, explaining that, "An extra day or two of life is as important to a fish as it is to us." But just a few days later, as they ready themselves to depart, Viktor releases the fish into their pond. After days of walking and weeks of living in a refugee camp, the boy and his mother and sister share a glorious reunion with Papa and eventually return home. The land is ravaged by war and their home is destroyed but the fish have survived, even thrived-they and their offspring fill the pond. The simple, elegant language is at once moving and eloquent when juxtaposed with Sylvada's expressive oil paintings. The artist's palette of rich earth tones and striking brushwork reflect the strong emotional tenor of the story. Focusing on the fearsome impact of war upon families and children, and on those things that allow people to retain their humanity, this book deserves to be introduced and discussed.-Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Sylvada's (A Symphony of Whales) eerie autumnal oil paintings provide the emotional backdrop for another Bunting tale of a family forced into exile (So Far from the Sea). After Papa leaves to join the underground in his war-torn country, life for the eight-year-old narrator, Viktor, his five-year-old sister, Marina, and their mother grows increasingly grim. "Every day we heard distant gunshots and saw smoke rise into faraway skies," while strangers fleeing the conflict share terrible stories. The only bright spot is the pair of goldfish one refugee leaves behind. Marina names them Gleam and Glow and dotes on them. But when the threesome finally departs for the border, they must leave the fish behind, so Viktor releases them into the family's pond. After a long stay in a refugee camp and a tearful reunion with their father, the family returns to find their home devastated but the pond full of fish, "as shimmery and dazzling as melted gold." This image of hope and renewal strikes a strong keynote in Bunting's bittersweet story (inspired by true events in the Balkans, she explains in an afterword). The narrative brims with poetic similes while Sylvada's thick brush strokes and somber palette produce images that are at once stark and dreamlike. The artwork reveals the bleakness of both landscape and emotions in a time of war. Ages 6-9. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"Dramatic and energetic . . . This is a universal story that testifies to life rising from the ashes."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "One can't help respecting Bunting for the sensitivity she brings to issues like war, poverty, race, and immigration."--The New York Times Book Review "Compassionate, sobering, hopeful, and wise."--Child Magazine "Against the story's grim backdrop, hopeful themes prevail."--Los Angeles Times