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“We were being sold on a green commons in front of a redbrick courthouse of American justice. That fact brought tears to my eyes.” It’s September 1860, and it’s the third time at auction for 13-year-old Jacob Israel Christmas. Bought by The Honorable Mister Clarence Higginboom, Jacob and other slaves are soon heading to California. Jacob begins to suspect a plot by his new owner, a plot to steal gold coming out and stop the Pony Express from delivering election news to California. The news would, most likely, save California for the Union, when there’s a danger it might secede with the South. The gold of California is crucial to either side’s war effort, and all are sure war will come if Lincoln is elected. As the implausible set of events comes together, Jacob ends up in the right place at the right time to dash whatever treasonous plans Honorable Mister may have. The enslaved hero and his simple sidekick Solomon end up “saving California for the Union. What a privilege.” Though readers may not find the story believable, they will learn a lot of history in Robinet’s (Missing From Haymarket Square, 2001, etc.) latest work as she includes most of the important events in the history of slavery: the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law, the Dred Scott decision, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, along with the lesser-known story of California’s role in the march toward civil war. Likable characters put a human face on history in this story of a journey across America at a time when people and news traveled slowly, a journey in which “shackles of mind and body” are thrown off and new responsibilities assumed. Fans of historical fiction might enjoy this work, and the focus on California and the Pony Express may fill a gap in library collections. (map, author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-84561-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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From the Captain Underpants series , Vol. 9

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel.

Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.

Not that there aren’t pranks and envelope-pushing quips aplenty. To start, in an alternate ending to the previous episode, Principal Krupp ends up in prison (“…a lot like being a student at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, except that the prison had better funding”). There, he witnesses fellow inmate Tippy Tinkletrousers (aka Professor Poopypants) escape in a giant Robo-Suit (later reduced to time-traveling trousers). The villain sets off after George and Harold, who are in juvie (“not much different from our old school…except that they have library books here.”). Cut to five years previous, in a prequel to the whole series. George and Harold link up in kindergarten to reduce a quartet of vicious bullies to giggling insanity with a relentless series of pranks involving shaving cream, spiders, effeminate spoof text messages and friendship bracelets. Pilkey tucks both topical jokes and bathroom humor into the cartoon art, and ups the narrative’s lexical ante with terms like “pharmaceuticals” and “theatrical flair.” Unfortunately, the bullies’ sad fates force Krupp to resign, so he’s not around to save the Earth from being destroyed later on by Talking Toilets and other invaders…

Is this the end? Well, no…the series will stagger on through at least one more scheduled sequel. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-17534-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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