Beautifully done. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

UNBOUND

A NOVEL IN VERSE

The author of Serafina's Promise (2013) returns with another lyrical novel in verse.

When Grace turns 9, she is forced to leave the daily work of helping Aunt Sara tend her baby brothers and their garden, the daily joy of seeing Mama and Uncle Jim come home each night from the fields. Unlike the rest of her enslaved family, Grace has light skin and blue eyes. (The fact that her father must have been white, with all that implies, is never made explicit.) Her coloring—possibly light enough to pass—makes her more desirable for a house slave in the Missus' and Master's eyes, so Grace must work in the plantation kitchen and even serve at the table. The cook, Aunt Tempie, seems to bow to all of Missus' demands with a compliance Grace can't emulate—though Grace works hard, she sometimes lets her true feelings slip. Missus finally decides that “bringin Grace's family / to the auction block / might finally teach Grace / who she is and / where she belongs.” Grace reacts with courage and resourcefulness, urging her family to flee to the swamps and ensuring they won’t be caught. Told through Grace's eyes in Southern rhythms that approach dialect with a poet's careful sensibility, the story unfolds with a combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure. Burg describes her research, based in part on narratives of the formerly enslaved collected by the Federal Writers Project, in the backmatter.

Beautifully done. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-93427-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

An aspiring scientist and a budding artist become friends and help each other with dream projects.

Unfolding in mid-1980s Sacramento, California, this story stars 12-year-olds Rosalind and Benjamin as first-person narrators in alternating chapters. Ro’s father, a fellow space buff, was killed by a drunk driver; the rocket they were working on together lies unfinished in her closet. As for Benji, not only has his best friend, Amir, moved away, but the comic book holding the clue for locating his dad is also missing. Along with their profound personal losses, the protagonists share a fixation with the universe’s intriguing potential: Ro decides to complete the rocket and hopes to launch mementos of her father into outer space while Benji’s conviction that aliens and UFOs are real compels his imagination and creativity as an artist. An accident in science class triggers a chain of events forcing Benji and Ro, who is new to the school, to interact and unintentionally learn each other’s secrets. They resolve to find Benji’s dad—a famous comic-book artist—and partner to finish Ro’s rocket for the science fair. Together, they overcome technical, scheduling, and geographical challenges. Readers will be drawn in by amusing and fantastical elements in the comic book theme, high emotional stakes that arouse sympathy, and well-drawn character development as the protagonists navigate life lessons around grief, patience, self-advocacy, and standing up for others. Ro is biracial (Chinese/White); Benji is White.

Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300888-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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