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

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

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 Boyle’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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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ASK ME NO QUESTIONS

Illegal immigrant sisters learn a lot about themselves when their family faces deportation in this compelling contemporary drama. Immigrants from Bangladesh, Nadira, her older sister Aisha and their parents live in New York City with expired visas. Fourteen-year-old Nadira describes herself as “the slow-wit second-born” who follows Aisha, the family star who’s on track for class valedictorian and a top-rate college. Everything changes when post-9/11 government crack-downs on Muslim immigrants push the family to seek asylum in Canada where they are turned away at the border and their father is arrested by U.S. immigration. The sisters return to New York living in constant fear of detection and trying to pretend everything is normal. As months pass, Aisha falls apart while Nadira uses her head in “a right way” to save her father and her family. Nadira’s need for acceptance by her family neatly parallels the family’s desire for acceptance in their adopted country. A perceptive peek into the lives of foreigners on the fringe. (endnote) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-4169-0351-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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