Books by Staton Rabin

Released: Sept. 1, 2008

Not much is heard about President Lincoln's children, so Rabin fills a gap with this brief snapshot into the lives of two of them, Tad and Willie, which Ibatoulline illustrates with a softly drenched light that suggests yesteryear and a hint of melancholy, his images often evoking hand-tinted daguerreotypes. Working from historical documents, then embellishing to give the story a narrative, Rabin pleasingly draws two little rascals, full of practical jokes and absolute entitlement to their father's attention, which the old stoic gives with imperturbable, beatific grace (while his aides bite their tongues). When the boys have second thoughts after condemning a toy soldier to death, they go to their father for a pardon; Abe consents with a wry "it makes me feel rested after a hard day's work, to find some good excuse to save a man's life." An author's note explains the genesis of the story and fleshes out the principals, including Tad and Willie, who, like their father, lived too-brief lives. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
Released: July 10, 2007

A time slip/alternate history/horror/romance, told in the first person by the hemophiliac Alexei Romanov, son of Czar Nicholas. Alexei is not only caught in the ever-tightening web surrounding his parents and four sisters in the time of the Revolution, but is fiercely guarded, as any bruise or injury could be fatal. He is also under the spell and care of Father Grigory—Rasputin. Alexei is young and imperious but smart and very frightened: He believes Grigory has mystical powers, and he believes Rasputin might be his father. It's the power of blood that leads Alexei to the year 2010 in New York City, where a distant young cousin named Varda travels back in time with him in hopes of saving his family. A cell phone magically works in 1918; Rasputin is killed and not killed; the royal family is assassinated; Varda meets a 106-year-old Russian man with Alexei's beautiful eyes. This is not only confusing but not at all compelling. Rabin provides extensive historical notes on what is known and what isn't, but the telling isn't strong enough to make readers care. (notes, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
BLACK POWDER by Staton Rabin
Released: Nov. 1, 2005

This perfectly dreadful time-travel fantasy takes a hip black teen from 2010 L.A. back to 13th-century Oxford in an attempt to convince Roger Bacon, the brilliant Franciscan scholar who discovered gunpowder, to destroy his legacy. When Langston's best friend Neely is shot in gang violence, he leaps at the opportunity presented by his conveniently brilliant science teacher to bounce his holographic self off some harmonically converged asteroids back to 1278, where he becomes solid and manages to overcome all cultural and linguistic difficulties such a trip should present. Rabin introduces anachronism after anachronism into her tale, most significantly a willful disregard for the limitations of 13th-century communications and transportation, a technique she excuses in her backmatter "to keep the story moving along." If, however, one key element of a successful time-travel story is the collision of modern and ancient, these compromises seriously undermine the enterprise, sacrificing honest tension for cheap laughs. In concept, promising; in execution, a dismal and intelligence-insulting failure. Kids deserve better, and writers for kids should know this. (historical notes) (Fiction. 12-15)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2004

The bare bones of this inventive historical fiction is the unique friendship between Napoleon Bonaparte and 14-year-old Betsy Balcome, whose English family lived on St. Helena, where Napoleon was imprisoned. It's the characterization of the two that puts flesh on the bones, craftily molding their personalities, as both of them really existed. Betsy's insouciance and spunk was a match for "Boney's" imperial nature and elite intelligence; they were kindred spirits both feeling imprisoned. From 1815-18 Betsy tried to invent ways for him to escape, including a daring attempt at building a hot-air balloon with silk dresses. Some plot developments are a bit contrived, though based on historical documentation, as the author's notes cite. This fascinating story plays both with and against the stereotype of Napoleon. Even readers who don't know of Bonaparte will be caught up in the interplay between girl and emperor and the surrounding drama of the world's history—and their own. (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >