BLUE

Blue, 13, writes of Hickory, N.C., January 1944-June 1945. Roosevelt is president; the war and a polio epidemic are underway; Hickory’s camp becomes an emergency polio hospital and Blue’s father goes off to war, giving her overalls to wear as “man of the house.” Blue, her twin sisters, young brother and mother try to carry on with the help of a teenaged neighbor and his mother, but it’s much harder than Blue could have anticipated. First, her brother contracts polio and her mother stays at the hospital with him, leaving Blue to cope with minding the twins and managing everything. Then, it’s Blue who is stricken. In the hospital, she meets and makes friends with Imogene, a black girl, the first she’s ever actually been close to. Imogene describes “a muddy wide river between your people and mines,” and indeed it is. Chock full of life, history and character development, this intriguing historical narrative tries almost too hard to fit everything in—the war, polio and its treatment, death, race relations, a family’s near disintegration and a mother’s breakdown. The density and the first-person voice will turn some away, but the subject of polio is a rare one in children’s fiction, and these characters and their story are worth getting to know. (endnotes, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2006

ISBN: 1-59078-389-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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A DIRTY DEED

Stenhouse continues his story begun in Across the Steel River (not reviewed) with another mystery laced with tones of racial bias and starring the same two boys, Will, who’s white, and Arthur, a Blackfoot Indian. The title holds double meaning: “deed,” as in an action, in this case one against decency, justice, and the Indian people of a small Canadian town on Alberta’s prairies. The other meaning, a title to land ownership, here refers to that deeded to an Indian during WWI by the most powerful, cruel, and unjust white man in town, “old man Howe.” Now, during the Korean War in 1952, Howe will stop at nothing to retrieve the document that has passed to other generations of the original deed-holder’s family. Told in the first person, the adventure-mystery speeds along as the town, its inhabitants, its setting, and history are revealed. Howe controls the Mounties, the town’s business, and a gang of thugs who do his bidding, often cruel and physically destructive to those who oppose him. The too-large cast weaves in and out of Will’s narrative and relationships become hazy. Throughout, Will and Arthur meet with near-escapes, but there are so many cliffhangers that it stretches reader credulity. The latter is especially so, given the uncertain duration of the endless action, which may cover only a few days and nights. A good many unexplained incidents also occur and may leave a reader unclear about them as real experiences or as mere figments of Will’s dreams. Despite a very active plot that portrays the degradation of Canada’s first People, Stenhouse tries to do too much and, as a result, fails. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-55337-360-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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SKULLDUGGERY

PLB 0-7868-2439-5 From Karr (Man of the Family, p. 1312, etc.), a historical novel that is remarkably cheerful, considering that among its key elements are grave-robbing and a hideous criminal on the prowl. In New York City in 1840, Matthew loses his whole family to cholera. Trying to keep body and soul together, he answers an advertisement for an assistant to a remarkable fellow, Dr. Asa B. Cornwall, phrenologist. Dr. ABC, as he is known, studies the cranial features of people, and deduces by the lobes and bumps on their heads their personalities and characteristics; he’s writing his magnum opus to prove his theories. Matthew takes to the larger-than-life doctor; they travel to Philadelphia, London, Paris, and the south of France, attempting’surreptitiously—to dig up famous skulls for the doctor’s research. All the while, in the smoothly suspenseful plotting, a vicious and mysterious stranger with a scar follows them, putting Matthew in danger and haunting his nightmares. The thrilling denouement takes place on St. Helena and involves the body of Napoleon himself; this novel is rich in period color and good old-fashioned derring-do. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0506-4

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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