MACARONI BOY

Pinning her narrative to a few key historical details, Ayres makes the Pittsburgh Strip during the Depression the setting for Mike Costa’s need to find out why his grandfather is so sick. Costa Brothers Fine Foods means Mike’s father and his three uncles; his grandfather doesn’t always remember that now, and Mike worries about him. Mike likes helping out in the family business—his job is emptying the rat traps in the basement—but he hasn’t quite figured out how to stop Andy Simms from picking on him. Mike doesn’t like Simms calling him Macaroni Boy, and he likes a new name, Rat Boy, even less. The rats seem to be getting sick even before being caught in Mike’s traps, and at first Mike thinks it comes from the rats eating rotten bananas from a warehouse explosion. But when Grandpap begins vomiting blood, Mike wonders if there’s any connection. Mike and his best friend, Joseph Ryan, methodically try to figure out what’s making the rats, and Grandpap, sick, while getting into occasional trouble with the nuns at school and with Simms regularly. Klavon’s, the local ice cream parlor (still in existence), and a local priest who runs a soup kitchen figure in the action, as Joseph and Mike solve the mystery. Vivid touches abound, like Mike and Joseph’s fascination with Joseph’s sisters’ lingerie. While there is little ethnically to distinguish Mike’s Italian-American father and uncles from his Irish mother (except their names), the warmth and family feeling is neatly if sketchily drawn. Enough grisly rat details and boyish bravado to keep the boys reading, and enough local color, familial comfort, and historical minutiae for the girls. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-73016-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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