Books by Elisa Carbone

POISON IN THE COLONY by Elisa Carbone
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 26, 2019

"Another settler's-eye view of Colonial history. (Historical fiction. 8-12)"
A young white girl observes the beginnings of English colonization of the American continent, including encounters with Native Americans and enslavement of the newly arrived Africans. Read full book review >
DIANA'S WHITE HOUSE GARDEN by Elisa Carbone
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 3, 2016

"An important piece of our history brought down to a child's level. (author's note) (Informational picture book. 4-10)"
Based on a true story, Carbone's story shines a light on the little girl who became the face of the first White House victory garden. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2012

"Riveting reading, well-timed for the centennial of the Titanic's sinking. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)"
Based on a true story of shipwreck and rescue, Carbone's tale is leavened with narration by Anthony, a venturesome lad whose penchant for playing pirates helps him through the harrowing event. Read full book review >
JUMP by Elisa Carbone
FICTION
Released: May 13, 2010

Two teenage runaways bond as they scale various challenging cliff faces in this romantic adventure that will please fans of both Anthony Horowitz and Meg Cabot. Critter is a fugitive from a mental institution to which he was committed after a suicide attempt. P.K. is desperate to escape her parents' plans to send her to boarding school. The two meet at a local gym, where Critter agrees to accompany P.K. on a spontaneous rock-climbing trip that will continue until they are captured or run out of cash. Critter's fresh enthusiasm for life, born from his near-death experience and based on a Buddhist-like philosophy, is positive and funny, deepening the plot and contrasting nicely with P.K.'s anxious personality. Soon they are sharing their life stories and falling in love. Suspense builds as they stay one step ahead of the authorities, and the climbing sequences are action-packed and intense. (Familiarity with rock-climbing terminology isn't essential, but it does help.) The short chapters, unusual topic and alternating first-person voices make this an exceptional choice for reluctant readers. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 8, 2008

Based on a true story the author came across while writing the historical-fiction novel Stealing Freedom (1998), this beautifully illustrated picture book tells of the attempt of a young slave boy to escape his situation and go north. James tells his friend that he will escape that evening, but he's caught by the men to whom his friend sold the information. Sure to be severely punished, James is lucky to be rescued by his dog Zeus. James shows a real lack of faith in Zeus, continually trying to get rid of him, afraid that he will somehow foil the escape. But Zeus is the reason that James gets through a number of frightening situations. Finally, after the reader is beginning to lose patience, James realizes how loyal Zeus is and that he should be appreciated. A one-page author's note tells the full story of James and Zeus who actually did escape slavery. Caldecott Honor-winner Lewis's stunning watercolors, some covering the entire spread, help convey the story in ways words cannot. Zeus is lovingly drawn in all his persistence, loyalty and bravery. James's defeatism that turns into hope is perfectly indicated by the merest change of a brush stroke as Lewis adds to his long list of truly accomplished work. An excellent way to teach history, this belongs in every library. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5-9)Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: May 1, 2006

Lucky to escape the gallows but doomed to servitude in the New World, young Samuel Collier instead finds adventure and a chance to remake himself, away from the streets and orphanages he has known. Carbone frames her story of the Jamestown settlement by the Powhatan prophecy foretelling the destruction of the Powhatan kingdom. The clash of cultures bringing about that destruction is well portrayed, as is the personal class between the gentlemen of the Virginia Company and the commoner Captain John Smith. Good use is made of eyewitness accounts in a telling that far transcends the usual dry textbook summaries of the period. While learning much history, readers will find characters real enough to care about: Ten-year-old Pocahontas racing naked through the center of the fort, Samuel mastering the bow and arrow and shooting his first rabbit, the magic of a New World masquerade in Pocahontas's village, where Samuel sits next to a princess. Lively historical fiction at its best. (afterword, author's note, acknowledgments, sources) (Fiction. 10 )Read full book review >
LAST DANCE ON HOLLADAY STREET by Elisa Carbone
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 8, 2005

Spurred by the deaths of her foster parents, a 13-year-old finds the mother who gave her away—and why—in this tale from the Old West. A double shock awaits Eva at the Denver address she's been given: Not only is her mother Sadie white, she's a prostitute—a profession which Carbone clearly defines while deftly skipping the actual details. With nowhere else to go, Eva reluctantly takes up residence at the "sporting house," becoming a private dancer to earn her keep under the tutelage of Pearl, her hostile, newly met half-sister, and discovering the horrifying web of debt and prejudice under which everyone in the house is trapped. The author skips what goes on behind that house's closed doors, but she recreates both the town in 1878, and its male-dominated society, with vivid realism. Though Eva conveniently finds kind-hearted adults stepping in at need to rescue her from both human and animal predators, in the end she does figure out a cleverly credible way to make an honest living for her, Sadie and Pearl. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
THE PACK by Elisa Carbone
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 2003

The tip-off that there will be mayhem occurs in the first paragraph of this awkward effort that pairs the theme of wolf behavior with a Columbine-style school massacre. When Akhil shows up in a suburban Washington high school, he causes a commotion. Apart from his accent, his refusal to sit in a chair, and his outbursts in class, Akhil's neck and arms are heavily scarred. Adding to the intrigue, Akhil is in D.C. so that the NIH can study him, although he can't reveal why. Soon, Akhil befriends two other outcasts in the school: Becky, who is fat, and her friend Omar, whose father, killed in the Gulf War, was black and his mother white. The three are united in their antipathy for Kyle Metzger, who crippled Becky's little brother in a case of reckless driving, but whose lawyer father got him off scot-free. A new reason to loathe and fear Kyle emerges: he totes Aryan Nation hate literature around in his backpack, along with a hit list. Although the three briefly consider going to the police or the school authorities, they reject that option in favor of doing their own investigation. Akhil, who turns out to have been raised by wolves in India, has some ideas about applying the laws of the pack to the social universe of the high school. The plot is too much of a stretch to take seriously and the ending, though violent, is curiously unemotional. An author's note offers information on wolves, examples of real "wolf children," and Web sites about school violence. (Fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
STORM WARRIORS by Elisa Carbone
ADVENTURE
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

The author of Stealing Freedom (1998) again runs a strong-minded young person headlong into barriers of custom and racial prejudice. Inspired by the camaraderie and quiet heroism of the life-saving crew, with which he shares North Carolina's lonely Pea Island, Nathan dreams of joining the US Life-Saving Service (a predecessor of the Coast Guard) rather than to be a fisherman like his father. The odds are long—LSS jobs tend to stay within the same local families and in this post-Reconstruction era, the Pea Island crew is the only African-American one on the entire coast. But as Nathan is allowed to take part in life-saving drills, then to watch and even become involved in rescuing the passengers and crews of ships driven onto the area's rocks by storms, his desire only grows. Carbone draws the crew, their techniques, and the shipwrecks straight from historical records, and though her protagonist is fictional, the harsh attitudes he encounters are all too real. In the end, his ex-slave grandfather's wise observation, that "sometimes your dreams show up dressed a little different than you thought they'd be" proves prophetic. Nathan finds that his skill in tending to the injured, and his mastery of the station's first-aid guides, has opened a road to medical school. While every bit as rousing a tale of men against the sea as Donna Hill's Shipwreck Season (1998), another tribute to the US Life-Saving Service, Nathan's narrative also creates a vivid picture of his time's harsh racial storms. (afterword) (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
SARAH AND THE NAKED TRUTH by Elisa Carbone
Released: April 1, 2000

"of kids' issues that manages not to sugarcoat. (Fiction. 10-12)"
The spunky ten-year-old heroine of Starting School with an Enemy (1998) is back, and she's welcome. Read full book review >
STEALING FREEDOM by Elisa Carbone
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 1998

PLB 0-679-99307-X This compelling tale of a passenger on the Underground Railroad is entirely populated with historical figures; not since Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn (1993) has the physical and emotional impact of slavery been made so palpable. Child of a free father and a slave mother, Ann Maria Weems grows up in the warmth of a loving family that is suddenly torn apart when her brothers are sold South and money raised by abolitionists arrives, but only enough to purchase freedom for her mother and sister. Knowing that her harsh master will never willingly give her freedom, Ann Marie resolves to steal it when the opportunity—a staged kidnapping, at the hands of an abolitionist, Jacob Bigelow—arises. Only occasionally manipulating actual events, Carbone (Starting School With an Enemy, p. 809, etc.) sends Ann Marie from Maryland to Washington, where she hides for months in a garret, then on to relatives in Canada, where she drops permanently from sight. A richly detailed society emerges, in which the powerless hold their own through quick wit and strength of character, and the powerful, scarred by the fact of slavery, know little real peace. Varying in tone from devastating simplicity ("Master Charles loaded . . . the last of the chickens, five barrels of tobacco, two sacks of wheat, and his son, and took them all to Baltimore to be sold") to subtle irony underlying scenes in which abolitionists gather to fuss over Ann Marie as if she were some rare animal, this story pays tribute to the power of the very idea of freedom. (Fiction. 11-15) Read full book review >
STARTING SCHOOL WITH AN ENEMY by Elisa Carbone
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 1, 1998

A story that starts out like any other about playground quarrels, but briskly moves into some gratifying intricacies about the nature of fighting and winning. Sarah's family has just moved to Maryland from Maine; as the result of a misunderstanding, fifth-grader Sarah accidentally makes an enemy of Eric, a local jerk who seems dedicated to making her life miserable once school starts. Sarah is tough and feisty, and can give as good as she gets, but her efforts at revenge inspire Eric and alienate her friends, teachers, and family. It is finally Jerod, Sarah's 15-year-old brother, who helps her see what she must do, while concealing his wisdom behind delightfully rendered versions of teenage grunts: "Eup," "Watchupto?" and "Kive suma dat?" Sarah has a hard, Zen-like lesson to learn; her new friends are more important than her enemies, and the only way to get rid of Eric is to absorb his abuse without responding until he gets bored. Carbone keeps this realistic by not going too easily on her heroine; Eric doesn't get bored right away, so Sarah withstands a lot of misery before she attains her goal. It doesn't hurt that Eric finds someone else to fight with, giving Sarah insight as to why the other children were egging her on: It's stimulating to watch the antics of adversaries. Shrewdly, with sharp characterizations, Carbone delivers a difficult lesson in an exciting tale. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >