Books by Nora Martin

Released: May 1, 2003

It's 1889 and the US has recently passed the Chinese Expulsion Act and the Scott Act, barring the entrance of new Chinese immigrants. "Tacoma mobs" take the laws into their own hands by beating and murdering Chinese workers, but it's profitable to smuggle them in for the harsh work in quarries, railroads, mines, and canneries. When young Clementine Nesbitt pulls aboard a burlap bag with a body inside, she sets into motion an exciting chase across the San Juan Islands, off the coast of Washington. Tong-Ling is still alive, and to save him from his would-be murderers, Clem must sail him across to Whatcom Island, a long and dangerous odyssey that tests Clem's courage and skills. Clem is very much a part of the island world Martin beautifully evokes, bringing to life a place, time, and history that will be new to most readers. The author's note connects this story with the smuggling of human cargo still occurring today. (map, photograph, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-13) Read full book review >
A PERFECT SNOW by Nora Martin
Released: Aug. 1, 2002

A Montana teen flirts with involvement with a white-supremacist movement, and then fights to keep his brother out of it. Ben's rage at his family's poverty and the rich kids who lord it over him finds an easy outlet at the meetings his father takes him to, where the charismatic Lonn preaches against the Jewish bankers and developers he claims are changing the rural Montana way of life. A couple of nighttime forays into violence give Ben a feeling of power and worth unlike anything he's ever known. Up to this point, the narrative is quite successful, but then Ben experiences a sudden change of heart brought about in part by his burgeoning romance with the free-spirited Eden and a reluctant friendship with a rich kid with whom he is doing community service. Virtually overnight, Ben realizes the danger involvement in the Guardians of the Identity represents, and he is revulsed by his prior actions and by his weak younger brother's growing involvement. There is a difficulty inherent when writing about subjects such as these in formulating sympathetic characters who nevertheless think and do abhorrent things. Martin (The Eagle's Shadow, 1997, etc.) nearly achieves this, but instead takes the easy path, making her protagonist an observer who rejects evil and chooses the moral high ground (building subsidized housing for the poor, no less). What could have been a truly provocative offering degenerates into another teen problem novel, albeit with a problem more inflammatory than most. Some of the feelings expressed by Ben ring with emotional honesty—"Making that car burn almost made up for every dirty look every name hissed at me from under some creep's breath"—but others seem forced in their attempt to make Ben over into a good boy: "I went home from Eden's realizing that she was the kind of friend and girlfriend I really wanted. But I needed to be the kind of person in truth that she thought I was." Well-meaning but ultimately obvious. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

From the first sentence of this unusual novel—``A year ago my world was water''—narrated by a half-Irish and half-Tlingit Indian 12-year-old, readers will be drawn to the poetic language, the promise of a compelling plot, and a hint of mystery. Set in the 1940s, the story opens as Clearie's cold and uncommunicative father sends her to Alaska to live for a time with relatives she's never met. Abandoned by her mother at age five, and accustomed to taking care of herself, Clearie quickly decides to remain as ice to a family member who has offended her, and hardly warmer to the rest, who seem to have plans to initiate her into the old Tlingit ways. Clearie acclimates herself and begins to function with those her age, but she also unintentionally becomes embroiled in a dangerous association with the most evil person in the tiny, isolated town. Readers sense danger developing before Clearie does, and also witness the budding romance between her and a town boy, which has its small and old-fashioned but significant joys. Through careful pacing and lyrical writing, Martin (The Stone Dancers, 1995, etc.) effortlessly develops many vital characters, but never neglects Clearie, who adapts, thrives, and finally takes great satisfaction in her ancestral identity. A suspenseful page-turner as well as a joyous exploration of a unique world in a remote setting. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

An imaginative but not wholly successful debut set in a remote mountainside village in 19th-century France. The village lies in the shadow of a crumbling castle whose stones are said to dance just as the builders of the castle did centuries before. When a new family appears, hoping to settle nearby, the villagers react with suspicion until a young girl reminds them of their own past as outcasts. The tale ends with a jubilant dance of welcome. Working in oil, with a lot of gray and buff in the palette, Kastner uses strong composition and heavy shadow for dramatic effect. The moral of tolerance would overshadow the story but for her depictions of the fantastical jumble of decayed masonry that metamorphoses (in the eyes of ``those who carry true goodness within them'') into dancing figures. (Picture book. 6-10) Read full book review >