cover image The Clay Marble

The Clay Marble

Minfong Ho. Farrar Straus Giroux, $14.95 (163pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31340-1

Dara's is one of the thousands of Cambodian families separated or destroyed by war, but there is hope as she and her brother and mother head for a refugee camp on the Thailand border. Once safely there, Dara makes friends with Jantu, who has an almost magical touch in creating toys from mud and scraps of fabric. When the camp is bombed, Jantu makes a magic marble out of clay that helps Dara track down her family and then return to the hospital for Jantu and her brother. Like clay dolls themselves, Ho's ( Rice Without Rain ) characters seem to walk through their parts--their emotional turmoil, rather than being revealed, is simply stated. Despite a potentially compelling story and setting, this novel never comes to life. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)