O’Dell Award–winner Reeder (Shades of Gray, 1990) returns to the Civil War era with three connected stories of boys coming of age as their county is about to do the same. Timothy Donovan is at Fort Sumter as the secessionist fervor mounts across the harbor. Being a bugler for the First United States Artillery is preferable to being a printer’s apprentice, as he was back in New York. But now, with war brewing, Timothy isn’t so sure of what he’s gotten himself into. “But I don’t want to die! I never swore to defend the flag with my bugle.” Soon after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Joseph Schwartz finds himself amid the conflicts in a Baltimore of divided loyalties. Joseph is a Unionist, but being too public in expressing loyalty to either side can make one a target of violence. As his mother says, “I think there is no safe place in these troubled times.” When the Maryland legislature votes against secession, Timothy’s life seems a bit more secure; at least his father’s job on the docks will be safe and family life will not be so disrupted. Gregory Howard lives in Alexandria, Virginia, where Federal warships are now a “brooding presence.” Gregory sympathizes with the Confederacy and sees the conflict as a second War for Independence. Reeder weaves a large amount of history and politics into her story and effectively shows how the march toward war gained momentum. However, the history is told at the expense of the story, the separate stories hindering the development of characters to care about or a plot to get absorbed in. An offering that will appeal mostly to Civil War buffs. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-623615-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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An outstanding new edition of this popular modern classic (Newbery Award, 1961), with an introduction by Zena Sutherland and...


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Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1990

ISBN: 0-395-53680-4

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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