A winning historical tale that may appeal to young fans of the musical Hamilton.

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A Buss From Lafayette

In Jensen’s (Frizzy, the S.A.D. Elf, 2014, etc.) middle-grade novel, a young girl in New Hampshire meets the titular, illustrious French hero of the American Revolution during his commemorative trip through America.

Clara Hargraves turns 14 on the first day of summer in 1825—a date that coincides with the one-year anniversary of her father’s marriage to Clara’s straight-laced aunt, Priscilla, which occurred only one week after Clara’s mother died. The stepdaughter and stepmother don’t get along; Priscilla considers Clara a “hopeless hoyden” for her tomboyish ways, while Clara stubbornly refuses to call Priscilla “Mama,” as her father urges her to do. Between her clashes with Priscilla, red-haired Clara chafes at the teasing of her brother Joss’ friend Dickon Weeks and her “dread cousin” Hetty—they call her “carroty pate” and “pumpkin head.” As Clara is preoccupied with her own small problems, the whole country is aflutter over “The Nation’s Guest,” the Marquis de Lafayette, who’s touring the United States to mark the 50th anniversary of the revolution; everywhere Clara goes, people are eager to relate tales of Lafayette’s noble deeds during the war, show off souvenirs, or share their delight in getting a wave or a buss (“a playful, smacking kiss”) on the cheek from the marquis. Her brief encounter with him will forever change how she views herself. Overall, this novel is well-researched; for example, Clara saves her pennies to buy a Simeon’s lead comb from a local store—a real-life product that promised to turn red hair “a beautiful shade of black.” Some other aspects of Jensen’s novel are predictable, however: Clara is a fairly standard spunky heroine, and her rapprochement with Priscilla is a foregone conclusion. But Jensen still manages to deliver a lot of historical facts without dull exposition—it’s perfectly plausible, for instance, that the adults in Clara’s life would tell her stories about Lafayette’s exploits, and her curiosity becomes infectious. Jensen also includes a glossary and bibliography for further reading.

A winning historical tale that may appeal to young fans of the musical Hamilton.

Pub Date: April 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939371-90-4

Page Count: 267

Publisher: BQB Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 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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THE RIVER BETWEEN US

“Imagine an age when there were still people around who’d seen U.S. Grant with their own eyes, and men who’d voted for Lincoln.” Fifteen-year-old Howard Leland Hutchings visits his father’s family in Grand Tower, Illinois, in 1916, and meets four old people who raised his father. The only thing he knows about them is that they lived through the Civil War. Grandma Tilly, slender as a girl but with a face “wrinkled like a walnut,” tells Howard their story. Sitting up on the Devil’s Backbone overlooking the Mississippi River, she “handed over the past like a parcel.” It’s a story of two mysterious women from New Orleans, of ghosts, soldiers, and seers, of quadroons, racism, time, and the river. Peck writes beautifully, bringing history alive through Tilly’s marvelous voice and deftly handling themes of family, race, war, and history. A rich tale full of magic, mystery, and surprise. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8037-2735-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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