NORTH BY NIGHT

A STORY OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

An Ohio teenager abandons family and home to bring an escaped slave's baby to freedom in this handwringer_told in letters and diary entries_from Ayres (Family Tree, 1997, etc.). Lucinda and her parents have run a stop on the Underground Railroad for years. When a large group of escapees in the care of solitary neighbor Aurelia Mercer moves on, they leave behind Cass, an ill, pregnant teenager. Isolated with the two women both by weather and fear of slave-catchers, Lucinda fills uneventful weeks penning notes to family and friends, and fretting tediously over two suitors_one solid and stuffy, the other a dashing Quaker. In the meantime, she teaches Cass to read and write, and absorbs ideas about female independence from Aurelia. Cass dies shortly after giving birth; Lucinda's attempt to carry the baby to Canada goes awry when she's recognized. She passes herself off as the mother, buying herself time to slip away, but making it impossible for her to return. After her spun-out romantic quandary and superficial musings on various topics, this is a bombshell. Her previously expressed inclination toward leaving home and her firm belief that her Quaker swain will follow make weak justification for the ease with which she accepts the prospects of this life-altering decision. With such shaky internal logic, the story collapses under its own weight. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32564-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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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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THE HOUSE OF WINDJAMMER

Stronger on 17th-century historical detail than plot or character, this overblown series opener stars a dimwitted, unlikable Amsterdam teenager who suddenly finds himself heir to a family business tottering on the edge of bankruptcy. With conniving banker Hugo van Helsen pulling strings to complete their downfall in the wake of a disastrous trading expedition to the primitive Americas, the Windjammers need a miracle to save them. Leading a faintly Dickensian cast, sullen Adam Windjammer blunders about searching for such a miracle, having his fat repeatedly pulled from contrived fires by the far brighter and more competent Jade, Van Helsen’s adventurous, neglected daughter—until, after many trite set pieces and clumsily introduced clues, the search becomes superfluous when the Windjammers’ workmen voluntarily step forward to pay the family’s debts. Right. Richardson sets the stage for sequels from the first chapter on, but few readers are likely to want to read them. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-811-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2003

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