DEATH ON SACRED GROUND

An interesting but not always successful mix of Jewish and Iroquois/Seneca tradition, custom, and lore form the backdrop for this mystery set in upstate New York. Tenth-grader Aviva “Vivi” Hartman has come with her rabbi father from Buffalo to a small town so that Rabbi Hartman can conduct the funeral of a Jewish high-school girl found dead on sacred Indian ground. It becomes clear before long, however, that the victim, allegedly killed in an accident while on an archery-club outing, was murdered. Vivi passes the time while in town working on a project for a social-studies class back at her own school: following a student around and taking notes about her life and activities. When that student experiences a near-brush with death, Vivi becomes convinced that the girl is the target of a killer trying to hush her up. Did this girl, the school photographer who accompanied the archery club, capture the murder on film? Vivi puts her knowledge of pilpul—the ancient Jewish system of logic used to decipher passages of the Torah—to work and sets about solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the long-simmering relations between a group of white students and some of the Senecas threaten to burst, with members of each group accusing the other of murder and bringing to the fore some lurid details about the victim's and the accused murderer's lives. Feder interweaves details of Jewish and Seneca traditions and ceremonies and is knowledgeable about and respectful of both groups, and the solutions to the murder and another mystery are unexpected, though not entirely plausible. Confirmed mystery readers will probably take to this one, but it's nothing special; characterizations are superficial and the writing is, for the most part, awkward. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8225-0741-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lerner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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GUTS

THE TRUE STORIES BEHIND HATCHET AND THE BRIAN BOOKS

Paulsen recalls personal experiences that he incorporated into Hatchet (1987) and its three sequels, from savage attacks by moose and mosquitoes to watching helplessly as a heart-attack victim dies. As usual, his real adventures are every bit as vivid and hair-raising as those in his fiction, and he relates them with relish—discoursing on “The Fine Art of Wilderness Nutrition,” for instance: “Something that you would never consider eating, something completely repulsive and ugly and disgusting, something so gross it would make you vomit just looking at it, becomes absolutely delicious if you’re starving.” Specific examples follow, to prove that he knows whereof he writes. The author adds incidents from his Iditarod races, describes how he made, then learned to hunt with, bow and arrow, then closes with methods of cooking outdoors sans pots or pans. It’s a patchwork, but an entertaining one, and as likely to win him new fans as to answer questions from his old ones. (Autobiography. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-32650-5

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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THUNDERSHINE

TALES OF METAKIDS

In a well-written gambol through weirdness, Skinner (The Wrecker, 1995, etc.) offers four highly imaginative short stories about young people with supernatural powers. In the first story, Jenny can change the world, and change history, by changing the maps she draws. The narrator, Laurie, knows Jenny is out of control, and when Jenny creates a second sun and splits the earth in two, Laurie is ready to act. The second story is about a world where people “bop”—instant travel just by thinking of a location—instead of walking from one place to another. Mae, however, either can’t bop, or won’t, a prospect that intrigues the narrator. In the third tale, Meredith, who has a supernatural connection with the planet Pluto, and Dexter, who is able to spray-paint with his mind, unite their powers. In the fourth and longest story, Jake finds himself deeply in love with a religious girl, Louise, and both of them are tempted by the powers a metahuman, Nina, has bestowed upon them. All four stories will captivate readers, and may even get them thinking about deeper ideas. Skinner’s often humorous portrayal of young adolescents is on target, and while the stories resemble writing exercises, lacking the sustained, pulse-pounding poetic turns of his novels, they are consistently entertaining. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-80556-X

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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