An engaging, eventful, history-based fantasy with realistic protagonists and an enjoyable, twist-filled plot.

READ REVIEW

THE EYE OF RA

In this debut middle-grade novel, young siblings from the 21st century are mysteriously transported to ancient Egypt, where they find friendship and danger as they search for a way home.

John isn’t looking forward to summer vacation on his last day in the fourth grade. His family will be moving from Colorado to Maryland for his dad’s job. Unlike his big sister, Sarah, who is excited about the change, John is sure that he’ll be unhappy and friendless there. During one last mountain hike, the siblings stumble on a strange cave where a hieroglyph of an eye transports them to ancient Egypt. They meet Zachariah, a “brown-skinned boy, barefoot and bare chested, wearing a white kilt-like wrapping,” and find they are able to speak his language. The son of Imhotep, the king’s pyramid architect, Zack, as John and Sarah call him, invites the pair home. (The siblings tell the family they are shipwrecked refugees from a distant land.) Gartner seamlessly mixes history with fantasy in his well-crafted tale, integrating into the plot facts about pyramid engineering, gods and goddesses, housing, and food (the book includes a recipe for an ancient Egyptian dish). With emotional authenticity, Sarah’s ready acceptance of the adventure gives way to empathy for her younger brother’s homesickness and her own fears and doubts. John responds to their experience with disbelief, cautious acceptance, a desire to return to his own time, and analytic fascination—the stars in the Egyptian night sky are so abundant and bright, he reasons, because there’s no pollution. Respect for readers shows, too, in the author’s expressive language: “A lazy cloud” reclines against a lofty mountain pinnacle, “waiting for the sunset show”; Imhotep offers resonant assurance that friendships form with “shared experience and time.” And, after providing vivid encounters with scorpions, a tomb robber, a cobra, and a Nile crocodile, Gartner surprises readers with multiple plot twists having to do with an unsavory time traveler; concerns that the eye transport device could change history; news of a bizarre, anachronistic archaeological find; and a fun little kicker for an epilogue.

An engaging, eventful, history-based fantasy with realistic protagonists and an enjoyable, twist-filled plot.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73415-521-1

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Crescent Vista Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE JOURNAL OF SEAN SULLIVAN

A TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD WORKER

In the My Name Is America series, Durbin (Wintering, 1999, etc.) offers the story of Sean Sullivan, whose first day in Omaha, Nebraska, brings him face to face with a victim of an Indian attack; the man survived, but carries his bloody scalp in a bucket. It’s August 1897, and Sean has just arrived from Chicago, planning to work with his father on the Intercontinental Railroad. Pa, who carries terrible memories of his stint in the Civil War and of the death three years ago of Sean’s mother, is already a foreman for the railroad, but Sean must start at the bottom, as a water carrier, toting barrels of it to the thirsty men who are doing the back-breaking work on the line. At night, everyone is usually too tired to do anything but sleep, but Sundays are free, and Sean discovers the rough and rowdy world of the towns that seem to sprout up from nowhere along the railroad’s path over the prairie. Through Sean’s eyes, the history of this era and the magnitude of his and his fellow workers’ achievements come alive; Durbin has no trouble making Sean’s world palpable, and readers will slog along with Sean every step of the way on his long and arduous journey to building a railroad and becoming a man. (b&w maps, photos, reproductions) (Fiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-439-04994-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DUST FROM OLD BONES

Far more engaging for its history than its story, this novel in the form of a diary never catches fire. The diary is 13-year-old Simone’s, writing from April to July 1838 in New Orleans. Simone and her extended family are “gens de couleur libre”—free people of color—of African and European parentage. Simone is perfecting her English, since French is her usual language; readers glimpse her pampered but insecure existence through her adolescent habits and desires. She loves her beautiful cousin Claire-Marie, as creamy-skinned as her father, a Creole aristocrat who also has a legal wife and children. Simone is fascinated by the slave Azura’s voudou practice, by her father’s stone carving, and most especially by her Tante Madelon, who sweeps in from Paris to visit Simone’s dying grandfather. It may be a weakness of the diary format that too many plot strands are told rather than shown: sibling rivalry among Simone’s mother and aunts; Tante Madelon betraying one niece while assisting another; Claire-Marie’s father abandoning her family with no support; Grandfather’s death bound with some dark family history; Simone’s tentative grasp of the horrors of slavery and her decision to aid Azura’s daughters. The novel is flawed by wispy characterizations and Simone’s whiny voice, but the preface and afterword tell of a fascinating and little-known piece of American history that may draw readers in. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-16202-9

Page Count: 155

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more