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Children's Literature Reviews
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Fall-out
Gudrun Pausewang ; translated by Patricia Crampton.
London ; New York : Viking, 1994.
171 p. ; 21 cm.

Best Books:

Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High, Thirteenth Edition, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 1995 ; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States

Reviews:

Janice Del Negro (Booklist, Sept. 15, 1995 (Vol. 92, No. 2))
An accident at a nuclear power plant forces 14-year-old Janna to assume the responsibility of finding a way to safety when the government's disaster plans collapse. Translated from the German, the novel is a grim, unflinching, but fast-paced disaster tale with a strong message that does not overwhelm either the story or the characters. The panic of an endangered population and the lack of untainted resources are brought home with stark emotional impact through Janna's story of personal loss. Most frightening of all is the refusal of those spared the brunt of the disaster to recognize the meaning of the tragedy. A serious, challenging novel, barely skirting despair, this is certain to provoke a great deal of discussion. Category: Older Readers. 1995, Viking, $13.99. Gr. 7-12.

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 1995)
When the siren howled on a Friday morning in May, Janna's teacher and her classmates assumed it was just another fire drill. A PA announcement sending all students home by the quickest route throws everyone into a state of turmoil, and the panic level continues to rise when rumors of a radioactive leak at a neighboring nuclear power plant are confirmed. Although directed by the police to "move at once to a closed room and shut all the doors and windows," Janna's neighbors instead begin a mass exodus of the area. Home alone with her younger brother, Janna decides to leave as well, and the two set off on their bicycles The horrors which follow are only too realistic, from "everyone for himself" survival tactics to the inescapable tragedy of radiation sickness to the eventual political and social stigma of the accident's survivors. Originally published in Germany, this harsh story, finely told, raises moral and ethical questions about the use of potentially devastating technology. CCBC categories: FICTION FOR TEENAGERS. 1995, Viking, 172 pages, $13.99. Ages 14-16.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1995)
First published in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster, this tale of a teenager robbed of her childhood by a nuclear accident comes down hard on the human tendency to deny reality. Acting on garbled reports of an accident at the nearby Grafenrheinfeld power plant, Janna, 14, snatches her small brother Uli and joins what becomes a panic-stricken flight out of town. Separated from her parents and the rest of her family, she sees Uli run down by a reckless motorist, then wanders in shock through deadly wind and rain, before being taken to a temporary hospital. There she stays, losing her hair and some weight, until she is judged well enough to be released into the care of an aunt. Janna has become a "hibakusha" (a Japanese term applied to Hiroshima survivors), a statistic and social problem, regarded with both pity and fear. As she sees those around her shifting responsibility for the incident and stubbornly clinging to an illusion of normality, her numbness turns to anger. By the end, she has become a witness, her hairlessness a badge of defiance. Pausewang writes with some passion, although the stilted translation and unfamiliar place names--not to mention a bleak view of human nature--may distance some readers from the tragedy she describes. Karen Hesse's Phoenix Rising (1994) explores similar moral issues more convincingly. 1995, Viking, $13.99. © 1995 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
This German novel about a nuclear disaster certainly makes a strong impression, but it is more sensational than sensitive in tackling urgent social issues. Janna, the 14-year-old heroine, becomes one of thousands of orphans and refugees when a catastrophic accident occurs at a nuclear power plant. In the terrifying opening sequences, Janna and her younger brother, Uli, set off by bicycle to escape the ominous ``cloud'' blowing in their direction: they pedal madly alongside stalled traffic, vehicles filled with panicked people who have evacuated their homes. Uli falls off his bike into the path of an oncoming car and, in a characteristically unflinching passage, the reader learns that his head, ``half shrouded by the cap, lay strangely flattened, in a pool of blood which was visibly widening.'' Many elements of Pausewang's apocalyptic scenario reflect distinctly German preoccupations-Janna's grandparents, who also refuse to talk about their experiences in WWII, are abroad at the time of the disaster, and they utterly ignore all the news about it; citizens cannot believe that the government has ordered police and soldiers to gun down certain survivors. This is harsh, frightening fare for young readers, who may also be put off by a decidedly British, often awkward translation. Ages 10-up. (May)

Roger Sutton (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September 1995 (Vol. 49, No. 1))
When the ABC alert siren begins to wail (on page one-this book does not mess around), Janna goes home to her younger brother and tries to sort out what has happened and what they should do. Radioactivity has been released from the nearby Grafenrheinfeld nuclear reactor following an accident, and Janna's parents and baby brother are out of town. A frantic phone call from their parents tells the children to leave for safety with neighbors, but the neighbors have already left and Janna and Uli are on their own. This is not an adventure story: Uli is killed in the mad rush out of town; later, when Janna is suffering radiation sickness in a makeshift hospital, she finds out that her parents and the baby and her grandmother are all dead as well. Refusing to disguise her bald head with a wig or scarf, Janna becomes a voice for the Hibakusha, the radiation victims, who have taken their name from the survivors of Hiroshima. Janna-and the book-are unrelenting in their message, but the hectoring tone is intense, raw, and convincing. Although Janna's hair begins to grow back in as the story ends, there's no real hope, false or otherwise; while Janna bears witness to those who think it won't happen again, she-and we-remember Chernobyl. The contemporary German setting is immediate and resists science-fictionalizing; Janna is not always the most endearing of heroines, but kids will listen to her. R*--Highly recommended as a book of special distinction. (c) Copyright 1995, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1995, Viking, 172p, $13.99. Grades 5-9.

Subjects:

Nuclear power plants--Accidents--Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.P28455 Fal 1994
95163052 [Fic]
0670861049
9780670861040
9780670861040
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