UNDERGROUND

In 1839, 16-year-old Charlotte Brown is sold by her owner in Tennessee to the proprietor of the Mammoth Cave Hotel in Kentucky, where she works as a maid. Charlotte cannot understand the appeal the cave has for its many visitors, or the passionate interest it holds for Stephen Bishop, a fellow slave, expert guide and chief explorer. Charlotte falls in love with Stephen’s adventurous spirit, intelligence and kindness. She also discovers that runaway slaves, making their way to Ohio, are coming to the hotel for help. Charlotte enlists Stephen’s help in hiding two runaways in the cave when slave-catchers come looking for them. The living conditions for the slaves are relatively good: Stephen can read and write, and has leave to explore the cave independently and make important discoveries. As a guide, he enjoys opportunities to direct white people. Charlotte’s worst experiences are in the past. She reflects on the horror of her family being separated and sold, and the brutality of former owners. Although they help other slaves escape to freedom, Charlotte and Stephen choose not to run away. In an afterword, Ferris explains that Charlotte and Stephen were real people but that there is no evidence that Mammoth Cave was used to shelter runaway slaves. This fast-paced historical novel offers readers an engrossing story and a unique perspective on a familiar subject. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-374-37243-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point.

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin.

The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyne’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice.

Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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