For fans of Choose Your Own Adventure books, this historical drama is worth having on the shelf.

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SPIES

JAMES ARMISTEAD LAFAYETTE

From the Choose Your Own Adventure series

Readers get a taste of life as a black spy helping the colonists fight the British in 1780s Virginia.

James Armistead Lafayette, a real-life figure, was born into slavery and was recruited to join the colonist army, in which he served as a spy. This slim Choose Your Own Adventure volume lets readers ponder decisions Lafayette might have faced as they navigate his world and alter his trajectory. Early decisions include whether or not to enlist in the Revolutionary Army and how to react when white soldiers taunt “you.” Later decisions involve when and how to infiltrate the British army and whether to help a runaway slave. Black-and-white full-page drawings are interspersed throughout the book. Despite the story’s historical basis and high stakes, the narrative is little different from others of its type: fast-paced and simplistic, neither delving into nuance nor effectively conveying what is at stake with each decision. At times things move so quickly that facts are disorienting (for example, Lafayette’s wife and children are mentioned in the opening pages and never again), and the multiple endings are abrupt. The feeling of life in the Colonies is basic and may disappoint readers seeking immersion in the setting, but none of this is surprising given the limitations of the format. For all its flaws, bringing the life of an enslaved person within reach for modern young readers is a feat.

For fans of Choose Your Own Adventure books, this historical drama is worth having on the shelf. (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-937133-31-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Chooseco

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Don’t miss this brave hero as she confronts anti-immigrant hatred in a timely historical novel.

THREE KEYS

From the Front Desk series

Sixth grader Mia Tang returns to battle racism in this thrilling sequel to the Asian/Pacific American Award–winning Front Desk (2018).

The Tangs, who emigrated from China when Mia was little, are now the proud owners of the Calivista Motel. Mia works the front desk along with her friends Lupe Garcia, who is Mexican, and Jason Yao, who is Chinese. Her world quickly becomes clouded by the upcoming election, in which California’s Prop 187, which would ban undocumented immigrants from access to health care and public schooling, is on the ballot. The author’s note highlights personal experiences with racism and provides additional information on this historic vote. The storyline expertly weaves together the progress and setbacks Mia experiences as her family continues to work, seemingly endlessly on the edge of poverty. Lupe reveals that her family is undocumented, creating a portrait of fear as her father is jailed. The impending vote has significant consequences for all immigrants, not just the Garcias, as racial threats increase. With the help of a cast of strong supporting characters, Mia bravely uses her voice and her pen to change opinions—with family, friends, teachers, and even voters. The lessons she learns helping her friends become the key to addressing racism, as one wise friend advises: “You gotta listen, you gotta care, and most importantly, you gotta keep trying.”

Don’t miss this brave hero as she confronts anti-immigrant hatred in a timely historical novel.   (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-59138-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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