Well-researched, exciting and thoughtful about the real losses of war.

Check Mate!


In 1697, two 12-year-old boys—one French, one English—ship out to Hudson Bay in this YA novel based on historical events.

Centering on the struggle to control York Factory on Hudson Bay, this novel offers adventure on both sea and land. In the late 1600s, the rivalry between France and England over Canada and the lucrative fur trade grew heated. David Goodchild is a London boy who speaks French due to Huguenot parents (the original family name was Bonenfant); Guillaume Bisaillon has grown up in Périgny, a shipbuilding region in France. They become cabin boys, David aboard the Royal Hudson’s Bay, an armed merchant vessel, and Guillaume on Le Pélican, a 54-cannon French warship. Both vessels head for Hudson Bay to protect their country’s fur trade and strategic interests. Along the way, both boys learn about life on a ship, with its hazards, hardships and array of salty characters. They learn how to tie knots, reef a sail and work as powder monkeys. They experience freezing cold, mortal danger, a cannon battle at sea and a few games of chess. Perhaps most of all, both David and Guillaume come to consider how destruction of life, natural resources and money happens in war—a welcome corrective to the kind of sea story that focuses only on the excitement of battle. “We both seemed to realize that in chess, war had been reduced to a game where no one got hurt,” concludes Guillaume. The writing is somewhat rough, however; usage and punctuation could use a polish, and word choices, especially in dialogue, waver between old-fashioned and modern. Milligan (Australian hospital ship Centaur, 1993) and Smith (Educating for a Peaceful Future, 1998) also include black-and-white illustrations, historical notes, and translations of French and Mohawk, which will appeal to inquisitive young readers.

Well-researched, exciting and thoughtful about the real losses of war.

Pub Date: June 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1460210413

Page Count: 192

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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In this riveting futuristic novel, Spaz, a teenage boy with epilepsy, makes a dangerous journey in the company of an old man and a young boy. The old man, Ryter, one of the few people remaining who can read and write, has dedicated his life to recording stories. Ryter feels a kinship with Spaz, who unlike his contemporaries has a strong memory; because of his epilepsy, Spaz cannot use the mind probes that deliver entertainment straight to the brain and rot it in the process. Nearly everyone around him uses probes to escape their life of ruin and poverty, the result of an earthquake that devastated the world decades earlier. Only the “proovs,” genetically improved people, have grass, trees, and blue skies in their aptly named Eden, inaccessible to the “normals” in the Urb. When Spaz sets out to reach his dying younger sister, he and his companions must cross three treacherous zones ruled by powerful bosses. Moving from one peril to the next, they survive only with help from a proov woman. Enriched by Ryter’s allusions to nearly lost literature and full of intriguing, invented slang, the skillful writing paints two pictures of what the world could look like in the future—the burned-out Urb and the pristine Eden—then shows the limits and strengths of each. Philbrick, author of Freak the Mighty (1993) has again created a compelling set of characters that engage the reader with their courage and kindness in a painful world that offers hope, if no happy endings. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-439-08758-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.


A fan of magic and her reluctant companion embark on an adventure when the mysterious Blue Man charges them with a mission.

Little Katherine contemplates what exists behind the scrim of the sky, and she gets her answer after she meets a boy named Charlie, who literally runs into her upon fleeing a blue man and a talking salamander he encounters in the nearby forest. The man is non-threatening, and asks the two to help him recover some lost items, to which Katherine heartily agrees. He doesn’t provide much information, however, so once she and Charlie enter this enchanted universe, they must take it upon themselves to figure out what the Blue Man has lost and how to go about helping him find it. With the help of guides like snarky, enigmatic Gerald and good-natured Frank, the children travel through very deep puddles to different realms behind the clouds, learning about the Blue Man’s nemesis, Grey Lady, who may have snatched his magical dragon stones. Schilling’s well drawn, vibrant world elevates his story above the standard adventure quest. His lively, amusing dialogue complements a fantastical world where fish flit through the air like bees (and may accidentally transport you elsewhere), manta rays make shy cabbies, crushed flowers pop back to life and magic permeates everything. While adults will find the narrative captivating, this book is tailor-made for storytime read-alouds.

An artfully crafted tale with mesmerizing details and a subtle exploration of free will and good versus evil.

Pub Date: July 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-595-36189-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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