Fresh, subtle, daring: well done indeed.

COPPER MAGIC

An impressive debut that’s both historical fiction and enchanted realism.

The protagonist opens the book by proclaiming: “[t]here wasn’t one soul who knew how I made up things.” Thus begins the story of Violet Blake, accomplished 12-year-old liar and proud of it. Violet is also angry, feeling abandoned by her mother, who left, taking Violet’s beloved younger brother but leaving her daughter behind. However, hope arrives in the form of a hand made of copper that Violet believes can grant wishes. First she finds a friend in Mercy, a girl who summers in Violet’s Lake Michigan–side town. Then she gets a job as an assistant to the (remarkably for 1906) independent-minded photographer Miss Zalzman. But Mercy’s despicable older brother soon steals the hand, and a plan is hatched to retrieve it that has unforeseen consequences. The magic of the hand is presented in such a way that readers have the option of believing in it or not—it’s always a pleasure when an author trusts her readers to come to their own conclusions. Gibson examines race, ethnicity, class and tragedy without didacticism or oversimplification, and while all of the characters are well-crafted, the imperfect protagonist is particularly refreshing. Furthermore, Violet’s poor choices have real-world consequences, and those negatively affected are not blissfully forgiving but instead help Violet feel the depth of her transgressions.

Fresh, subtle, daring: well done indeed. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3211-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror.

THE ICKABOG

Rowling buffs up a tale she told her own children about a small, idyllic kingdom nearly destroyed by corrupt officials.

In the peaceful land of Cornucopia, the Ickabog has always been regarded as a legendary menace until two devious nobles play so successfully on the fears of naïve King Fred the Fearless that the once-prosperous land is devastated by ruinous taxes supposedly spent on defense while protesters are suppressed and the populace is terrorized by nighttime rampages. Pastry chef Bertha Beamish organizes a breakout from the local dungeon just as her son, Bert, and his friend Daisy Dovetail arrive…with the last Ickabog, who turns out to be real after all. Along with full plates of just deserts for both heroes and villains, the story then dishes up a metaphorical lagniappe in which the monster reveals the origins of the human race. The author frames her story as a set of ruminations on how evil can grow and people can come to believe unfounded lies. She embeds these themes in an engrossing, tightly written adventure centered on a stomach-wrenching reign of terror. The story features color illustrations by U.S. and Canadian children selected through an online contest. Most characters are cued as White in the text; a few illustrations include diverse representation.

Gripping and pretty dark—but, in the end, food, family, friendship, and straight facts win out over guile, greed, and terror. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-73287-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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