No doubt it's historically accurate, and it is certainly honestly told; however, it doesn't quite succeed as fiction

THE LYNCHING OF LOUIE SAM

The title tells readers most of what they need to know.

In 1884, in Washington territory, very close to the Canadian border, a white man of questionable character was found murdered. A 14-year-old Native American boy named Louie Sam was framed for the crime, tracked down by a group of over 100 vigilantes and hanged—by happenstance, on the Canadian side of the line. Louie Sam's death remains the only lynching on Canadian soil. Stewart takes all the history she can find and works to craft a novel from it, but she's only partially successful. Her narrative character, a 15-year-old white boy named George Gillies, is a real-life person known to have witnessed Louie Sam's death. Her writing is clean and fluid and her attention to historical detail admirable. However, this story, constrained by history, does not follow a narrative arc, and Louie Sam cannot emerge as a character, in part because the author hesitates to express the feelings of the Native Americans. George seems to accept automatically the party line that Louie Sam must be a criminal. His very gradual conversion to Louie Sam's probable innocence isn't emotionally moving and has no effect on the story, which, because it follows historical truth, ends without any satisfying resolution.

No doubt it's historically accurate, and it is certainly honestly told; however, it doesn't quite succeed as fiction . (Historical fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-55451-439-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded.

ANGEL THIEVES

A Texas bayou holds memories and secrets, weaving together people and animals through connected histories.

Buffalo Bayou takes her place as part of an ensemble cast that spans nearly two centuries. Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is a white boy who works alongside his father stealing angel statues from cemeteries for an antiques dealer, and Soleil Broussard is a 16-year-old Creole Christian with a tiny honey bear jar tattooed on her wrist. The two attend school together in present-day Houston, Texas, but the story intertwines their connection with stories of slaves and an ocelot in a narrative that runs away like the rushing of a river. Texas is a gorgeous backdrop for the story, eliciting haunting imagery that spotlights the natural beauty of the state. Each character helps piece together a quilt of experiences that stream from the omnipresent bayou who sees, hears, and protects, and the revelations of their overlapping connections are well-paced throughout. The novel is less successful, however, at underscoring why there are so many voices battling for space in the text. Too-short vignettes that are rather haphazardly forced together provide glimpses into the lives of the characters but make it difficult to follow all of the threads. While an author’s note offers historical background explaining the inspiration for the characters, it does not provide sufficient cohesion.

Moving imagery is muddied by disjointed character representation in a novel that feels overcrowded. (author’s note) (Fiction. 13-15)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2109-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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