GIRL IN BLUE

Loosely based on an actual woman who disguised herself as a soldier during the Civil War, this historical novel tells the story of Michigan farm girl Sarah Wheelock, who becomes first a solider and then a detective for the Pinkerton Agency in Washington. On the verge of being forced to marry a vicious neighbor, Sarah sneaks off from home. Her plan is to visit an aunt in Flint and then join the Union forces disguised as a man. Rinaldi sticks to Sarah's point of view, but oddly fails to mine her materials for all the suspense and thrills inherent in the gender switching. Only once do readers see her evading latrines, and never is there a discussion of how any adjustment of her shape or sensibilities is required. Suspense builds on several occasions, each time dwindling to a fizzle. Sent to spy on Rose Greenlaw, a southern sympathizer, Sarah falls head over heels for a good-looking Lieutenant even though she suspects he may be a traitor. Before readers discover whether his professed love for her is true or if he knowingly aids Rose, Sarah falls ill and the story swerves again. Finally, Sarah returns for a quick visit home dressed in her soldier disguise, and unbelievably her mother fails to recognize her, although her brother does. African-American readers may not agree with Rinaldi's decision to use speech patterns for Negro refugees from the South without concomitant speech patterns for southern drawls or other accents. Rinaldi defends her choices in an author's note at the end, citing her desire for historical accuracy. Accurate or not, this is only one of a series of missteps that will disappoint readers used to Rinaldi's talent. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-07336-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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