THREE AGAINST THE TIDE

In an absorbing historical novel from Love (My Lone Star Summer, 1996, etc.), three children flee their South Carolina Sea Island plantation, hoping to find their father, who is off spying for General Lee. Neglected by the neighbors who were supposed to care for them, the three Simon children quickly discover that they’re not up to managing on their own; when all the slaves disappear, Susanna, 12, and her younger brothers pack what they can and set off for Charleston. After a wild, nearly disastrous boat ride, they arrive, but only to find that they’re still on their own, in a town rife with rumors of an imminent Yankee invasion. Left homeless by a fire, they set off again, this time for General Lee’s headquarters. An independent sort who prefers trousers to dresses, Susanna finds that her sheltered, motherless life has left her little prepared for supervising slaves, keeping house, or even finding food for herself and her brothers; she muddles through, and is rewarded by a meeting with the godlike Lee, who expedites a joyful family reunion. Love establishes a strong sense of era with perceptive comments from slaves and slaveowners alike, keeps the plot speeding along, and in Susanna concocts a winning mix of intelligence, strong will, and naãvetÇ. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1998

ISBN: 0-8234-1400-0

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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FABLEHAVEN

Witty repartee between the central characters, as well as the occasional well-done set piece, isn’t enough to hold this hefty debut together. Teenagers Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather’s isolated Connecticut estate, and soon discover why he’s so reluctant to have them—the place is a secret haven for magical creatures, both benign and decidedly otherwise. Those others are held in check by a complicated, unwritten and conveniently malleable Compact that is broken on Midsummer Eve, leaving everyone except Kendra captive in a hidden underground chamber with a newly released demon. Mull’s repeated use of the same device to prod the plot along comes off as more labored than comic: Over and over an adult issues a stern but vague warning; Seth ignores it; does some mischief and is sorry afterward. Sometimes Kendra joins in trying to head off her uncommonly dense brother. She comes into her own at the rousing climax, but that takes a long time to arrive; stick with Michael Buckley’s “Sisters Grimm” tales, which carry a similar premise in more amazing and amusing directions. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-59038-581-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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PRIVATE PEACEFUL

From England’s Children’s Laureate, a searing WWI-era tale of a close extended family repeatedly struck by adversity and injustice. On vigil in the trenches, 17-year-old Thomas Peaceful looks back at a childhood marked by guilt over his father’s death, anger at the shabby treatment his strong-minded mother receives from the local squire and others—and deep devotion to her, to his brain-damaged brother Big Joe, and especially to his other older brother Charlie, whom he has followed into the army by lying about his age. Weaving telling incidents together, Morpurgo surrounds the Peacefuls with mean-spirited people at home, and devastating wartime experiences on the front, ultimately setting readers up for a final travesty following Charlie’s refusal of an order to abandon his badly wounded brother. Themes and small-town class issues here may find some resonance on this side of the pond, but the particular cultural and historical context will distance the story from American readers—particularly as the pace is deliberate, and the author’s hints about where it’s all heading are too rare and subtle to create much suspense. (Fiction. 11-13, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-63648-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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