THE CARVED BOX

A young orphan’s dog turns out to be considerably more than she seems in this Canadian wilderness tale set in the years following the American Revolution. Unwanted by his Scots relatives, Callum goes involuntarily from Edinburgh to his Uncle Rory’s remote farm in Upper Canada. Just before arriving, he impulsively spends most of his savings to buy an abused dog, plus a small, sealed box, from a vicious, oddly tattooed stranger. It’s a good investment, as it turns out, for Dog not only seems to understand everything that’s said to her, but repeatedly rescues Callum from the consequences of his own carelessness or ignorance, often saving lives in the process. Dog’s almost human awareness—along with selkie stories and songs from his homeland—gives Callum clues to her true nature and a willingness to credit them. Subject to severe mood swings driven by his distaste for farm work on one side and a growing love for his cousins and their kind-hearted father on the other, Callum makes an appealing protagonist whose relationship with Dog grows into warm respect after sundry adventures. Rather than take her cues from traditional selkie tales and end on a tragic or poignant note, Chan has Callum give Dog her freedom—the human skin in the box—and discover that their friendship survives. A well-knit, outdoorsy tale. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55074-895-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2001

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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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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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