GIVE ME LIBERTY

When 13-year-old Nathaniel Dunn apprentices to a carriage maker in Williamsburg and is befriended by Basil, an elderly schoolmaster, he finds himself in the midst of the early excitement over conflicts with England. Calm and cautious Peyton Randolph is becoming known as the “Father of American Liberty,” Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson are perhaps too radical and George Washington isn’t as influential as he is destined to be. Readers who stick with this hefty volume will learn much history, though too much of the dialogue reads like history lessons, and the bibliography contains too few sources to guide young readers further. Still, it’s a lively account of the times with a likable narrator and solid action. As Nathaniel gets involved in the war itself and wonders about fighting for freedom and independence in a land where so many are not free, readers will be prompted to ponder the contradictions of their nation’s past. Elliott takes her readers seriously, and her author’s note tells more about characters and ideas. (chronology, acknowledgments) (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074421-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2006

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Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY

In a meditative interracial love story with a wrenching climactic twist, Woodson (The House You Pass on the Way, 1997, etc.) offers an appealing pair of teenagers and plenty of intellectual grist, before ending her story with a senseless act of violence.

Jeremiah and Elisha bond from the moment they collide in the hall of their Manhattan prep school: He’s the only child of celebrity parents; she’s the youngest by ten years in a large family. Not only sharply sensitive to the reactions of those around them, Ellie and Miah also discover depths and complexities in their own intense feelings that connect clearly to their experiences, their social environment, and their own characters. In quiet conversations and encounters, Woodson perceptively explores varieties of love, trust, and friendship, as she develops well-articulated histories for both families. Suddenly Miah, forgetting his father’s warning never to be seen running in a white neighborhood, exuberantly dashes into a park and is shot down by police. The parting thought that, willy-nilly, time moves on will be a colder comfort for stunned readers than it evidently is for Ellie.

Miah’s melodramatic death overshadows a tale as rich in social and personal insight as any of Woodson’s previous books. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-399-23112-9

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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Our Verdict

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  • Newbery Honor Book

  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Winner

HEART OF A SAMURAI

BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF NAKAHAMA MANJIRO

In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro joined four others on an overnight fishing trip. Caught by a severe storm, their small rowboat was shipwrecked on a rocky island. Five months later, they were rescued by the crew of a whaling ship from New Bedford. Manjiro, renamed John Mung, was befriended by the captain and eventually lived in his home in New Bedford, rapidly absorbing Western culture. But the plight of his impoverished family in Japan was never far from Manjiro’s mind, although he knew that his country’s strict isolationist policy meant a death sentence if he returned. Illustrated with Manjiro’s own pencil drawings in addition to other archival material and original art from Tamaki, this is a captivating fictionalized (although notably faithful) retelling of the boy’s adventures. Capturing his wonder, remarkable willingness to learn, the prejudice he encountered and the way he eventually influenced officials in Japan to open the country, this highly entertaining page-turner is the perfect companion to Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy, by Rhoda Blumberg (2001). (historical note, extensive glossary, bibliography.) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

 

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-8109-8981-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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