DEAR AUSTIN

LETTERS FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Readers don’t have to have read Dear Levi (not reviewed) to enjoy this sequel, a gripping historical novel that covers two boys’ journeys from innocence to manhood. In 1853, young Levi and his buddies, Possum and Jupiter, create a daredevil’s club, through which they attempt to outrun bulls, jump off cliffs, and investigate strange occurrences in their small Pennsylvania town. The tone shifts from the humor of boyhood scrapes to tragedy when Jupiter’s little sister, Darcy, is captured by slave traders. Jupiter and Levi head south to find her, a journey that is particularly eye-opening for naive Levi. The action unfolds through his letters to his brother Austin; these range from laugh-out-loud funny to poignant. Powerful emotions are subtly and expertly conveyed, from Levi’s amusing embarrassment in dancing class, to his guilt for Darcy’s kidnapping, to his horror at the slave auction. Woodruff combines swift pacing, historical detail (Harriet Tubman makes an appearance), humor, suffering, depth, and precise characterizations, for wholly satisfying page turner. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-88594-3

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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Don’t miss this brave hero as she confronts anti-immigrant hatred in a timely historical novel.

THREE KEYS

From the Front Desk series

Sixth grader Mia Tang returns to battle racism in this thrilling sequel to the Asian/Pacific American Award–winning Front Desk (2018).

The Tangs, who emigrated from China when Mia was little, are now the proud owners of the Calivista Motel. Mia works the front desk along with her friends Lupe Garcia, who is Mexican, and Jason Yao, who is Chinese. Her world quickly becomes clouded by the upcoming election, in which California’s Prop 187, which would ban undocumented immigrants from access to health care and public schooling, is on the ballot. The author’s note highlights personal experiences with racism and provides additional information on this historic vote. The storyline expertly weaves together the progress and setbacks Mia experiences as her family continues to work, seemingly endlessly on the edge of poverty. Lupe reveals that her family is undocumented, creating a portrait of fear as her father is jailed. The impending vote has significant consequences for all immigrants, not just the Garcias, as racial threats increase. With the help of a cast of strong supporting characters, Mia bravely uses her voice and her pen to change opinions—with family, friends, teachers, and even voters. The lessons she learns helping her friends become the key to addressing racism, as one wise friend advises: “You gotta listen, you gotta care, and most importantly, you gotta keep trying.”

Don’t miss this brave hero as she confronts anti-immigrant hatred in a timely historical novel.   (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-59138-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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