FINISHING BECCA

A STORY ABOUT PEGGY SHIPPEN AND BENEDICT ARNOLD

In 1778 Rebecca Syng, the teenager who narrates this story, is sent to be a lady's maid in the Shippen household in Philadelphia. Becca's father had been a successful silversmith before he fell on hard times and then died, leaving his family to fend for themselves in the country. There Becca's mother married a good-for-nothing man who drained what was left of her meager resources so that she had to supplement their farm's income by sewing for the fine ladies of Philadelphia. Becca is sent to the Shippens to care for their beautiful and spoiled youngest daughter, Peggy, and at the same time to develop the polish that she would once have received in finishing school, which she can no longer afford to attend. Although the Revolution is raging (Becca's brother is fighting with General Washington), the Shippens entertain the British officers who occupy Philadelphia, attend their balls, and flirt with their soldiers. Peggy is especially flirtatious, and Becca observes as she falls for a handsome British officer and then, when the British are forced to leave, for the American dandy Benedict Arnold. Peggy marries Benedict and Becca watches in horror as Peggy convinces him to betray his country. Rinaldi (The Fifth of March, 1993, etc.) takes her role as a historical novelist seriously, to which her long and informative endnote attests. This tale of treachery comes alive under her pen. (Historical fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 1994

ISBN: 0-15-200880-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1994

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A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching.

CODE NAME VERITY

Breaking away from Arthurian legends (The Winter Prince, 1993, etc.), Wein delivers a heartbreaking tale of friendship during World War II.

In a cell in Nazi-occupied France, a young woman writes. Like Scheherezade, to whom she is compared by the SS officer in charge of her case, she dribbles out information—“everything I can remember about the British War Effort”—in exchange for time and a reprieve from torture. But her story is more than a listing of wireless codes or aircraft types. Instead, she describes her friendship with Maddie, the pilot who flew them to France, as well as the real details of the British War Effort: the breaking down of class barriers, the opportunities, the fears and victories not only of war, but of daily life. She also describes, almost casually, her unbearable current situation and the SS officer who holds her life in his hands and his beleaguered female associate, who translates the narrative each day. Through the layers of story, characters (including the Nazis) spring to life. And as the epigraph makes clear, there is more to this tale than is immediately apparent. The twists will lead readers to finish the last page and turn back to the beginning to see how the pieces slot perfectly, unexpectedly into place.

A carefully researched, precisely written tour de force; unforgettable and wrenching. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5219-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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