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After the Ashes
     

After the Ashes

by SaraK. Joiner
 

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In 1883, on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, thirteen-year-old Katrien Courtland is determined to prove Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Unfortunately, nothing causes her Aunt Greet more angst than Katrien crawling around the muddy jungle collecting bugs in the name of science—and in the company of a native boy, no less! If only Katrien

Overview

In 1883, on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, thirteen-year-old Katrien Courtland is determined to prove Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Unfortunately, nothing causes her Aunt Greet more angst than Katrien crawling around the muddy jungle collecting bugs in the name of science—and in the company of a native boy, no less! If only Katrien would take an interest in running a household and making friends with other girls. But Katrien has no interest in changing, especially if it means socializing with the likes of mean Brigitta Burkhart. Then, one stifling afternoon, Katrien’s world turns upside-down when the nearby volcano Krakatau erupts with a terrifying blast. For days, a deathly ash rains down on the Javan coast. Amidst the chaos, Katrien knows her only hope of survival is to flee the jungle with the one person she vowed she’d never befriend.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/10/2015
Joiner uses the devastating 1883 eruption of the volcano Krakatau as the basis of her first book. When readers meet 13-year-old Katrien Courtlandt, she is writing an admiring letter to Charles Darwin from her home in Java, where she has just finished reading On the Origin of Species. In her spare time, she collects beetles to contribute to his research, but her father and aunt—believing she has become too unladylike and unsociable—limit her time in the jungle, try to teach her how to run a household, and encourage her to spend time with a “polite and kind” girl named Brigitta, rather than her native friend Slamet. When Krakatau erupts, ash fall and tsunamis wipe out the majority of the population of Katrien’s town, claiming the lives of many close to her; Katrien and Brigitta form a reluctant partnership, which transforms into a friendship. Joiner’s story is slow to start, but once the eruption and its aftermath are underway, it shifts into a breakneck, and often heartbreaking, coming-of-age survival story. Ages 10–up. Agent: Carrie Pestritto, Prospect Agency. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
09/01/2015
Gr 4–6—Based on the catastrophic explosion of the volcano island Krakatoa in 1883, Joiner's historical novel tells the story of 13-year-old Katrien, a Dutch girl who has spent her entire life in the Dutch East Indies. She feels most at home exploring the jungle with her best friend, Slamet, an indigenous boy, and collecting beetles to prove Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Katrien is also close to her father, who has encouraged her interest in the natural world, until recently when he seems to have joined forces with Tante Greet to teach Katrien to become "a productive member of society." After a series of events, both in the natural world and in Katrien's close-knit community, which foreshadow the impending disaster, Krakatoa erupts, leaving Katrien alone to navigate the destruction and chaos on her beloved island. She joins forces with another survivor, Brigitta Burkart, who had been Katrien's closest friend until Brigitta's 10th birthday when the two girls dramatically parted ways. Alone in the jungle with all familiar markings washed away by destructive waves, the girls make their way through realistically portrayed scenes of human loss, come to terms with their youthful misjudgments, and realize that their survival depends on mutual trust and collaboration. VERDICT Recommend this adventurous and often heart-stopping novel to fans of Katherine Rundell's Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (S. & S., 2014) and Andrea Davis Pinkney's The Red Pencil (Little, Brown, 2014).—Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA
Kirkus Reviews
2015-06-23
Joiner's debut novel draws readers in with familiar themes but raises the stakes by setting it during one of modern history's most violent natural disasters—the eruption of Mount Krakatau in 1883. Born in the Dutch East Indies, Katrien Courtlandt is Dutch by ancestry but Javanese by all other accounts. Katrien struggles to fit into the mold of a 13-year-old Dutch girl and would much rather be exploring the jungle with her best friend, indigenous boy Slamet, than learning how to sew from Tante Greet, who is trying to groom her into the perfect Dutch lady. Her carefree days end when Mount Krakatau erupts, spewing ash across the sky and snatching everything dear to her—her father, her aunt, her friend, and her home. As fate would have it, Katrien is thrown together with her nemesis, Brigitta, and the rivals must overcome their differences to survive not just the loss of their families, but also deadly tsunamis and extreme thirst and hunger. Despite contrived speech patterns (why do indigenous people speak Dutch translated into broken English and "in a thick accent" generations after the Dutch arrived?) and inaccuracies (a "kampong" is a village not a thatched cottage, and the so-called Javanese language used is actually Bahasa Indonesia), the story is saved by an intriguing, if at times incredible, storyline. Despite cultural slips, this heart-rending story of love and loss, family ties, and friendship will keep readers hooked till the end. (Historical fiction. 10-15)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780823434411
Publisher:
Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
08/01/2015
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
571,867
Product dimensions:
5.77(w) x 8.41(h) x 0.82(d)
Lexile:
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Sara K Joiner is the children’s coordinator at the Brazoria County Library System in Texas.

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