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Special List: Michael L. Printz Award Winner 2021
  1 Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a true story)
Author: Nayeri, Daniel
Class: Fiction
Age: 10-14
Language: English
Demand: Hot
LC: PZ7.N225
Grade: 5-9
ISBN-13: 9781646140008
LCCN: 2019909484
Imprint: Levine Querido
Pub Date: 08/25/2020
Availability: Available
List: $17.99
Physical Description: 356 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm H 8.6", W 5.95", D 1.3", 1.55 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources: Brodart's Diverse Juvenile Books, ages 10-19
Brodart's For Youth Interest Titles
Brodart's Insight Catalog: Teen
Brodart's TOP Young Adult Titles
Bibliographies: Texas Lone Star Reading List
The Walter - (Walter Dean Myers Award) All Honors
Awards: BCCB Blue Ribbons
BCCB Starred Reviews
Best Multicultural Books List (CSMCL)
BookPage Best Books
BookPage Starred Reviews
Booklist Editors Choice
Booklist Starred Reviews
Kirkus Best Books
Kirkus Starred Reviews
Michael L. Printz Award Winners
Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews
School Library Journal Starred Reviews
The Walter - Teen (Walter Dean Myers Award) Winners
Starred Reviews: Booklist
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
TIPS Subjects: Biographical Fiction
Family Life
Social Life and Customs
BISAC Subjects: JUVENILE FICTION / Biographical / General
JUVENILE FICTION / Family / Multigenerational
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Themes / Emigration & Immigration
LC Subjects: Families, Juvenile fiction
Family life, Fiction
Middle school students, Fiction
Middle school students, Fiction.2sears
Middle school students, Juvenile fiction
Oklahoma, Fiction
Oklahoma, Juvenile fiction
SEARS Subjects: Family life, Fiction
Okalhoma, Fiction
Reading Programs: Accelerated Reader Level: 5.3 , Points: 13.0
Lexile Level: 800
Brodart's TOP Young Adult Titles | 08/01/2020
Publisher Annotation: At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls "Daniel") stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. But Khosrou's stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy.and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan. Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, Daniel weaves a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. And it is (a true story). It is Daniel's. 368pp.
Starred Reviews:
BookPage | 09/01/2020
"A patchwork story is the shame of a refugee," Daniel Nayeri writes in Everything Sad Is Untrue. Nayeri's patchwork story forms a stunning quilt, each piece lovingly stitched together to create a saga that deserves to be savored. Everything Sad Is Untrue is the mostly true story of Khosrou, who becomes Daniel, and the two lives he has lived in just 11 years. First, there's his life back in Iran, where his family was wealthy, where he went hunting for leopards and where his parents' veins were filled with the blood of divinity. Then there's his life now, in Oklahoma, where he has to learn to survive the bus ride home, where his mother has to learn to survive her new husband and where he realizes his memories of his first life are slipping away. In the voice of his younger self, Nayeri casts himself as Scheherazade, with readers as his king; we hold his life in our hands. Should we believe his tales? His classmates in Oklahoma don't. No one believes that the smelly kid who is too poor to pay for lunch in the cafeteria once lived in a beautiful house and dined with the prince of Abu Dhabi. Even Nayeri admits his memory is shaky. Was that really the prince of Abu Dhabi? It's hard to know when you're a kid who's just escaped a religious death squad by fleeing to a foreign country. The stakes here are life and death, not only for young Daniel and his family during their journey but also for Nayeri the storyteller, who stands before us in "the parlors of our minds," spinning tale after tale. To stop reading is to condemn him to a death of indifference. But Nayeri is a gifted writer whose tales of family, injustice, tragedy, faith, history and poop (yes, poop) combine to create such an all-consuming experience that reacting with indifference is simply not possible. A deeply personal book that makes a compelling case for empathy and hope, Everything Sad Is Untrue is one of the most extraordinary books of the year. ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Author Daniel Nayeri and publisher/editor Arthur A. Levine go behind the scenes of Everything Sad Is Untrue. Luis G. Rendon. BOOKPAGE, c2020.
Booklist | 07/01/2020
Grades 7-12. "A patchwork story is the shame of a refugee." It's with this refrain that 12-year-old Khosrou, known as Daniel to his skeptical Oklahoman classmates, tells "a version" of his life story. In the tradition of 1,001 Nights' Scheherazade, he gathers up the loose strands of his memory, weaving short personal vignettes into the Persian histories, myths, and legends that are his ancestry. The result is a winding series of digressions that takes the reader on a journey as intimate as it is epic, knitting together a tale of Daniel's youth in Iran, the perilous flight from home with his sister and mother, and their oppressive new beginning as refugees in Oklahoma. It's a story heavy with loss (of home, of his left-behind father, of innocence), light with humor and love (for his mother, the "unstoppable force"), rich in culture and language (and, somehow, never sentimental). Walking the line between fiction and non-, this is a kind of meta-memoir, a story about the stories that define us. It's a novel, narrated conversationally--and poetically--by a boy reaching for the truth in his fading youth. Nayeri challenges outright what young readers can handle, in form and content, but who can deny him when it's his own experience on display? He demands much of readers, but in return he gives them everything. A remarkable work that raises the literary bar in children's lit. Ronny Khuri. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2020.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books | 07/01/2020
R. Gr. 8-12. "Memories are always partly untrue," says Nayeri in this layered and extraordinary memoir of his childhood. He was born to a well-to-do family in Iran, and then when his mother converted to Christianity she and her children fled the country, spending a year in a refugee camp and ending up a poor immigrant in Oklahoma. There his mother married (and divorced, and remarried) a violent man called Ray, and young Daniel (as he was now known) struggled with American life, prejudice, and classmates. That's the barest of bones of this symphonic piece of storytelling that recombines scraps of memory, the absence thereof, contemplation upon, and retelling of (mostly Persian) legends that he, the modern Scheherazade, uses to scaffold the story of his family and himself, told often in a confiding address to the reader. Characters are acutely and forcefully drawn—his "unstoppable" mother, his fierce sister, his endlessly charismatic father—and he writes with a seductive empathy that mires the reader alongside him in his joys and griefs. Humor ranges between the philosophically wry and the bleak; it's the book's focus on the themes of storytelling and memory and the stubborn authenticity of young Khousrou/Daniel's child view that result in a story that soars sometimes despite, sometimes because of, its sorrows. Readers will be transported, then inspired to mine their own family histories to become "Persian in their own way." An author's note adds commentary about a few details and the process of memoir. DS. THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIV. OF ILLINOIS, c2020.
Kirkus Reviews | 05/15/2020
10-18. "Every story is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive." Khosrou, the child, stands before his class in Oklahoma and tells stories of Iran, lifetimes' worth of experiences compressed into writing prompts. Daniel, the adult, pieces together his "patchwork" past to stitch a quilt of memory in a free-wheeling, layered manner more reminiscent of a conversation than a text. At its most basic level, Nayeri's offering is a fictionalized refugee's memoir, an adult looking back at his childhood and the forced adoption of a new and infinitely more difficult life. Yet somehow "memoir" fails to do justice to the scope of the narrative, the self-proclaimed antithesis of just another " 'poor me' tale of immigrant woe." Like Scheherazade, Nayeri spins 1,001 tales: In under 400 pages he recounts Persian myth and history, leads readers through days banal and outstanding, waxes philosophical on the nature of life and love, and more. Not "beholden" to the linear conventions of Western storytelling, the story might come across as disjointed, but the various anecdotes are underscored by a painful coherence as they work to illuminate not only a larger story, but a life. And there is beauty amid the pain as well as laughter. The soul-sapping hopelessness of a refugee camp is treated with the same dramatic import as the struggle to eliminate on Western toilets. The language is evocative: simple yet precise, rife with the idiosyncratic and abjectly honest imagery characteristic of a child's imagination. (This review has been updated to clarify that the book is a work of fiction.) A modern epic. (author's note, acknowledgments). 368pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2020.
Publishers Weekly | 06/15/2020
Ages 10-up. Marked by a distinctive voice-a straightforward mix of confiding, slyly humorous, and unsentimentally sorrowful-Nayeri's (Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow) impressive autobiographical novel is narrated by 12-year-old Khosrou, known as Daniel, who models himself after the legendary Scheherazade. The chapterless "patchwork story" follows Daniel through his dreamlike early childhood in Iran, a year in an Italian refugee camp with his sister and "unstoppable" mother (but without his larger-than-life father, who chose to stay behind), and their eventual asylum in Oklahoma. The text moves nimbly back and forth in time, depicting with equal vividness ancient Persian tales (a jasmine-scented village with saffron fields, courtyards, and fountains), family history (a legendary ancestral doctor), and the challenges of navigating life as an outsider in "a land of concrete and weathermen." Interspersed with his experiences is the narrator's accumulated wisdom on a broad range of subjects-cultural differences in bathroom habits, the creation of Persian rugs, the roots of today's conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis-which help establish Daniel's identity as a knowledgeable, thoughtful storyteller. Mesmerizing and hard-hitting at once, this work of personal mythology is a rare treasure of a book. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary. (Aug.). 368p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2020.
School Library Journal | 07/01/2020
Gr 4-8. Nayeri weaves stories within stories in this fictionalized account of his formative years. He shares layers of rich information about life in Iran, refugee camps, and his experiences as an immigrant in the United States during the late 20th century. The themes of family, love, and truth are as strong as those of faith, endurance, memory, and storytelling as Khosrou (also known as Daniel) tries to tell the tales of his beautiful, complicated life and family. Nayeri provides clues about other characters without overexplaining them. Tough issues are discussed, particularly domestic violence, bullying, and life as a refugee and an immigrant, but there is levity, too. Khosrou's thoughts on Manwich sloppy joe sauce, using toilets in the U.S., and his father's overindulgence in Twinkies all lighten this tale. Without being didactic, the text communicates the universality of the human experience and the lack of empathy shown by some, not all, of those he encounters in the U.S. and in the refugee environments. The strongest developed characters are Daniel and his mother; however, readers experience varying levels of complexities of other characters like Daniel's father, stepfather, sister, teacher, and his friends (and enemies). VERDICT At once beautiful and painful, this timely story is highly recommended for middle grade readers. Hilary Writt, formerly at Sullivan Univ., Lexington, KY. 368p. SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2020.
Journal Reviews
Horn Book | 11/01/2020
Middle School. Framed loosely as his twelve-year-old self's responses to a series of school assignments, Nayeri's fictionalized memoir swirls through his own memories as well as stories from his family history, circling around major events and pausing to include his Oklahoma classmates' reactions to his tales of early childhood in Iran. This structure means the story takes some time to pick up speed -- which it does once it goes into more focused detail about Nayeri's family's journey: their quick escape from Iran after his mother's life was threatened because she had converted to Christianity; his father's decision to stay behind. The buildup comprises tangent upon tangent -- Nayeri alludes frequently to Scheherazade's stringing together of stories in the 1,001 Nights -- but those tangents are absorbing and full of universalizing detail and humor (there's more than one poop anecdote). This tale is constantly focused on its telling, with references to an imagined audience and reminders of who characters are. The actual audience is a bit of a puzzle, as the twelve-year-old narrator's tale spans a wide range of ages in his life and those of his family members, and the overall sensibility seems more adult than not. An author's note acknowledges the fallibility of memory as well as some deliberate alterations; it is, as Nayeri puts it, "both fiction and nonfiction at the same time." Shoshana Flax November/December 2020 p.107. 368pg. THE HORN BOOK, c2020.
Review Citations
New York Times Book Review | 09/06/2020