SELLING HOPE

Thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels, a magician’s daughter, hates vaudeville and fantasizes about abandoning the itinerant life and saving enough money to settle down with her widowed father in Chicago. Her father, conversely, fervently espouses Thoreau’s ideals, pronouncing, “Wherever you are—that’s your home!” Taking matters into her own hands, Hope decides to cash in on 1910 America’s terror that Halley’s Comet will destroy the Earth. She enlists the help of the handsome 15-year-old Buster Keaton and begins a booming business in minty-fresh “Hope’s Anti-Comet Pills.” (Her mission becomes significantly less mercenary in the 17-day countdown to the comet’s predicted arrival.) Hope has a sort of vaudevillian Tourette’s—her “internal voice” is peppered with wisecracks that appear frequently, offset in bold and italics, and they are insufferably corny or, worse, baffling: “Chicago is so windy, a chicken here once laid the same egg six times!” Unfortunately, these quips—however reflective of the humor of the era—detract mightily from this oft-engaging, pleasantly romantic romp through a fascinating time in America’s entertainment history. (author’s note, acknowledgments, recommended reading) (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-61122-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Not for the fainthearted but likely to appeal to disaster fans.

CITY OF THE DEAD

From the Horrors of History series

A quick-paced novel about one of the worst disasters in American history.

The 1900 Galveston hurricane killed more than 8,000 people (about 1 in 6 residents) and destroyed more than 3,600 houses. This short novel, the first in the Horrors of History series, opens with a prologue in which a reporter watches men digging up dead bodies after the storm and finding those of nine children and a nun tied in a line with clothesline. It then follows the experiences of six characters: five based on real people and an entirely fictional one, an African-American named Charlie. Three are boys from a waterfront orphanage run by nuns. One is a doctor who usually enjoys powerful storms and whose workman, Charlie, struggles against the elements on his way home. Another, a young schoolteacher, harbors neighbors whose houses are destroyed, only to fear her apartment won’t stay standing. Character development and nuance take a back seat to dialogue and action that moves quickly from one imperiled character to another. Gruesome details abound, especially after the storm ends and survivors see the corpses and destruction. Such a high-appeal topic could draw in even reluctant readers, although they may have trouble keeping track of all the characters. Scattered black-and-white historic photographs and two maps remind readers just how real the story is.

Not for the fainthearted but likely to appeal to disaster fans. (Historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58089-514-9

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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In the spirit of Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic (1988), with a mix of historical details about the women's-suffrage...

BLUE THREAD

Travels in time give a middle-class girl the courage to fight for both women's suffrage and her own dreams.

Sixteen-year-old Miriam, lover of typography, wants nothing more than to train at her father's print shop. But respectable, well-to-do girls don't work with heavy machinery in 1912 Portland, Ore. Miriam's immigrant Jewish parents, proud of the future they've built from poverty, intend an advantageous marriage for their only living child. If befriending a lovely pair of poor young suffragists isn't enough to make Miriam rebel, what is? Perhaps time travel is what she needs. Miriam is visited by her biblical relative, Serakh, who begs Miriam to travel back in time to help her ancestors. The daughters of Zelophehad seek a favor from Moses, and Miriam is needed to provide them with courage. Miriam pops back and forth between worlds: well-to-do Portland, where she makes morning calls and attends fancy-dress parties; biblical Moab; and the equally exotic, alien environment of suffragist marches and working-class neighborhoods. It takes all three to help her find the initiative, empathy and common sense to help push her toward adulthood.

In the spirit of Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic (1988), with a mix of historical details about the women's-suffrage movement and early printing, tied together with a very Jewish thread of historical continuity . (Historical fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-932010-41-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Ooligan Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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