A deeply flawed story of hidden history literally buried within a small white town.

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SYDNEY MACKENZIE KNOCKS 'EM DEAD

A haunted house helps Sydney make friends in a new community.

Eighth grader Sydney Mackenzie, a white girl, arrives home from school one day to the horrifying news that her parents have decided to move across the country to Delaware. She is forced to leave her life in LA so that her parents can run a recently inherited family-owned cemetery business. After a cross-country drive, her family finally arrives in the small town of Buttermilk River Cove, population 800. Their home is something out of a scary movie: an old, weathered Victorian, with cemetery plots serving as the front lawn. Sydney decides she must do her best to communicate her California cool to the kids at her new school. She quickly learns that the local kids couldn’t care less about her being from California and are more intrigued about her living at the town cemetery. After admitting to some new friends that she believes her house is haunted, Sydney has a séance to investigate. What comes next is an unveiling of a deeper story about the Underground Railroad. Callaghan creates two stories; what at first seems to be a “new city-girl in a small town” story slowly slips from Sydney’s desperation to make friends into the haunting tale of the ghost of an enslaved girl that seems to communicate with Sydney. The story’s ending feels more than a bit contrived, stumbling badly with a tragic attempt at humor that makes a mockery of slavery and undermines what is mostly a solid book.

A deeply flawed story of hidden history literally buried within a small white town. (author’s note, recipes) (Mystery. 9-13)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6569-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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...

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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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