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Fourteen-year old Adem, an Albanian boy, lives in Serb-occupied Kosovo. Adem hates existing in a constant state of terror. Every week, friends and family are beaten, teargassed, and killed. The Albanians are helpless, and even passive resistance can get you killed--as is Adem's sister Fatmira, gunned down while reading a protest poem. Now Adem must decide how to survive this never-ending nightmare--with or without his family.
Eleven-year-old Zana enjoys her village life in Kosovo, even though she never feels entirely safe. Her family of Kosovo-born Albanians are ruled by the Serbian police and army. They want to destroy anyone fighting for an independent Kosovo. When bombs explode around Zana's village, her life fills with terror and tragedy. Still she remembers her father's words: "Don't let them fill your heart with hate. " But that's hard when those that were her friends are now her enemies.
Reeve McLain, Jr. --Junebug--has a big dream that keeps him going. He dreams that someday he and his younger sister and mother will move from the awful housing project where drugs, gangs, and guns are part of everyday life. Junebug's tenth birthday is coming up, and he knows the gangs and drug dealers will be after him to join them. But he has a big birthday plan to keep his hope alive. He's going to launch his glass-bottle collection filled with notes of his dreams and wishes. Maybe some way, somehow, Junebug's dream will come true.
Jasmyn is horrified when her single mother is called up from the army reserves to go to Saudi Arabia at the start of the Persian Gulf War. Her mother is gone two days later, leaving Jasmyn with Jake, her mother's boyfriend and the father of her baby half brother. Suddenly Jas finds herself in charge of running the house and caring for the baby. Now there's no time for practice with her school basketball team. Jas can't understand why her mother has a job that forces her to leave her children. If only Jake were a more responsible adult. Feeling abandoned and overwhelmed, Jas wonders how much longer this can go on.
"An artfully told story . . . The history, the land, and the determination of a band of refugees to care for each other are vividly evoked in this important work. " -- Starred review, Kirkus Reviews In the dry spring of 1999, eleven-year-old Stephen Majok watches as his friend Wol joins a circle of dancers. Wol is celebrating - only fourteen, he is engaged to Stephen's sister. Wol wants to marry because he might join the guerrillas in southern Sudan and fight the northern government soldiers. He wants a wife to remember him. Stephen thinks Wol is crazy. Children should study. But because of the civil war, there has been no school in their village for over a year. All Stephen has left from his student days is his books and one precious pencil, and the hunger for knowledge. Then, suddenly - but not unexpectedly - exploding bombs are heard in the tiny village. Stephen's mother tells him to hurry, pack his bag, and hide beyond the forest with Wol and their friend Deng. Stephen grabs his geography book, his pencil, and little else. He does not want to leave his mother and sister. He does not want to leave the life he loves. In her latest portrayal of "children caught in the cultural crossfire" (School Library Journal), Alice Mead emphasizes the attachment all humans have to the small place on earth we call home, and our resistance to being displaced, even when our very lives are threatened.
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