An entertaining period adventure for tweens.

WHITEBEAM

A young girl of mysterious but significant parentage joins Scotland’s medieval rebellion against the English in this lively YA historical novel.

At the dawn of the 14th century, fetching teen aristocrat Isobel MacDuff and dashing nobleman Rob—destined to become Scottish national hero Robert the Bruce—deposit their love child for safekeeping on the remote Isle of Arran. Little Pippa’s true identity must be kept secret, even from herself, lest she run afoul of ruthless enemies, including Isobel’s sadistic estranged husband and England’s King Edward, who would love to get his gauntlets on the rebel Bruce’s kin. Unaware of these intrigues, Pippa grows up a redheaded spitfire doted on by a foster mother, an awkward but stouthearted village lad named Tom and a parade of handsome lairds. The author ensconces Pippa in captivating, slightly magical medieval Scotland, where figures from Celtic legend—including a blind centenarian soothsayer who knows the secret of Pippa’s heritage—live and mingle. But as Pippa approaches adolescence, the grim realities of war intrude on her idyll, bringing terror and grief; she duly revolts by smuggling silver for the Scottish cause, spying on the English army and strategizing about how to rescue poor Isobel from the cage where she’s been hung for two years while peasants pelt her with manure. Loosely basing the story on real events, del Mara adroitly mines a rich historical setting for colorful material, which she enhances with rousing action scenes and a pinch of fairy-tale glamour. She crafts all this into a coming-of-age yarn with genuine substance and pathos. As Pippa gets entangled in her family’s struggle against the English, she’s appalled by the violence and misery her father sets in motion, but she also starts to understand the harsh necessity that drives him. She’s a feisty, appealing heroine, and her quest to discover her identity and capture her destiny makes for an absorbing read.

An entertaining period adventure for tweens.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Pensive Pony Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

BROTHERS IN ARMS

BLUFORD HIGH SERIES #9

In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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