THE SECRETS OF VESUVIUS

THE ROMAN MYSTERIES: BOOK II

Four young friends in ancient Rome, 79 C.E., and environs attempt to solve a riddle at a time of great historic import in this absorbing sequel to The Thieves of Ostia (2001). Flavia, her neighbor Jonathan, Lupus, a boy slave who had his tongue cut out, and Nubia, the freed African slave, still learning Latin, are going to stay the summer at Flavia’s uncle’s farm near Pompeii. Before they leave, the youngsters help rescue a swimmer who turns out to be the historian, Admiral Pliny. He invites them to visit him in Pompeii. When they arrive, the youngsters overlook tremors and strange animal behavior while they try to puzzle out the riddle Pliny had given them. The interaction among the children: Jonathan, whose Jewish family is secretly Christian converts; Nubia, who is learning Latin poetry and speaks like it; Lupus, only eight and fierce, just learning to read; and the spirited Flavia keeps the story moving. The climax, the eruption of Vesuvius, uses many historical details that add excitement and verisimilitude. The riddle the children try to solve is also real, and no one, even today, knows what it means. (glossary, historical note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7613-1583-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart.

THE YEAR I FLEW AWAY

At home in Haiti, 10-year-old Gabrielle Marie Jean loves the rain, scary stories, beating the boys in mango-eating contests, and her family, most of all.

When her parents’ paperwork issues mean she must immigrate to the United States alone, every heavenly thing she believes about America can’t outweigh the sense of dread she feels in leaving everything she knows behind. A preternaturally sensitive child, Gabrielle feels responsible for not only her own success, but her whole family’s, so the stakes of moving in with her uncle, aunt, and cousins in Brooklyn are high—even before Lady Lydia, a witch, tries to steal her essence. Lydia makes her an offer she can’t refuse: achieving assimilation. Arnold skillfully fuses distinct immigrant experiences with the supernatural to express a universally felt desire for belonging. Gabrielle desperately wants to fit in despite the xenophobia she experiences every day and despite making new, accepting friends in Mexican American Carmen and Rocky the talking rat-rabbit. But in trying to change herself, Gabrielle risks giving Lydia the power to conquer Brooklyn. Gabrielle is a charming narrator, and of course, good guy (girl) magic wins out in the end, but the threat to immigrant lives and identities is presented poignantly nonetheless in this richly imaginative origin story of one Haitian American girl that offers a fantastical take on immigrant narratives.

Pratchett-like worldbuilding centers immigrant kids in a story filled with culture, humor, and heart. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27275-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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