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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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history.

THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL

Jo Kuan leads a double life: a public role as a quiet lady’s maid and a secret one as the voice behind the hottest advice column in 1890 Atlanta.

Chinese American Jo is mostly invisible except for occasional looks of disdain and derisive comments, and she doesn’t mind: Her priority is making sure she and her adoptive father, Chinese immigrant Old Gin, remain safe in their abandoned abolitionists’ hideaway beneath a print shop. But even if she lives on the margins, Jo has opinions of her own which she shares in her newspaper advice column under the byline “Miss Sweetie.” Suddenly all of Atlanta is talking about her ideas, though they don’t know that the witty advice on relationships, millinery, and horse races comes from a Chinese girl. As curiosity about Miss Sweetie mounts, Jo may not be able to stay hidden much longer. And as she learns more about the blurred lines and the hard truths about race in her city and her own past, maybe she doesn’t want to. In her latest work, Lee (The Secret of a Heart Note, 2016, etc.) continues to demonstrate that Chinese people were present—and had a voice—in American history. She deftly weaves historical details with Jo’s personal story of finding a voice and a place for herself in order to create a single, luminous work.

An optimistic, sophisticated portrayal of one facet of Chinese American—and simply American—history. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4095-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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