Fantasy, history, folklore, memorable characters, and even a hint of humor converge for a great read.

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THE CRYSTAL RIBBON

This hopeful coming-of-age story weaves together historical facts and spiritual/cultural beliefs to tell a tale of empowerment from the perspective of a poor, young female—one of the lowliest members of society in medieval China.

Using fitting metaphors and similes—“a metal wok as big as a wheel cart” and “fuzz…as curly as tea leaves”—debut author Lim effectively transports readers to a rural village in 1102 China. Jing, 11, an illiterate but intelligent farmer’s daughter, despises her name because her peers make fun of it. Her name, Jing (crystal), is a homonym for jing, animal spirits in the process of transforming into deities. However, Jing has bigger things to worry about when she’s married off to become a 3-year-old boy’s “wife” and, more realistically, nursemaid. Over the next few years, Jing endures much hardship. She is physically and emotionally tortured by her in-laws and eventually sold to a house of courtesans. Fortunately, Jing manages to escape and returns to her home village, but not without the help of several jing. As she and her companions adventure together, Jing realizes her destiny is intrinsically intertwined with the Great Golden Huli Jing, her village’s guardian fox jing. Although some of the dialogue and action may seem uncharacteristic of the time and culture, they are no distraction. Lim eloquently relates Jing’s journey from blindly obedient little girl to strong, confident young woman. In the end, Jing knows exactly what she wants, follows through, and finds refuge.

Fantasy, history, folklore, memorable characters, and even a hint of humor converge for a great read. (Historical fantasy. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-76703-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish.

THE MECHANICAL MIND OF JOHN COGGIN

The dreary prospect of spending a lifetime making caskets instead of wonderful inventions prompts a young orphan to snatch up his little sister and flee. Where? To the circus, of course.

Fortunately or otherwise, John and 6-year-old Page join up with Boz—sometime human cannonball for the seedy Wandering Wayfarers and a “vertically challenged” trickster with a fantastic gift for sowing chaos. Alas, the budding engineer barely has time to settle in to begin work on an experimental circus wagon powered by chicken poop and dubbed (with questionable forethought) the Autopsy. The hot pursuit of malign and indomitable Great-Aunt Beauregard, the Coggins’ only living relative, forces all three to leave the troupe for further flights and misadventures. Teele spins her adventure around a sturdy protagonist whose love for his little sister is matched only by his fierce desire for something better in life for them both and tucks in an outstanding supporting cast featuring several notably strong-minded, independent women (Page, whose glare “would kill spiders dead,” not least among them). Better yet, in Boz she has created a scene-stealing force of nature, a free spirit who’s never happier than when he’s stirring up mischief. A climactic clutch culminating in a magnificently destructive display of fireworks leaves the Coggin sibs well-positioned for bright futures. (Illustrations not seen.)

A sly, side-splitting hoot from start to finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234510-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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