Autumn Street recaptured, in narrator Elizabeth's enveloping memory of the months when she, her sister, and her pregnant mother live with her Philadelphia grandparents while her father is off in the Pacific fighting World War II. Six-year-old Elizabeth is not cowed by the sedate, well-appointed home, or by her tight-lipped step-grandmother who has never lived with children; but she is more comfortable in the kitchen with wise Tatie—and with Tatie's fatherless grandchild Charles, Elizabeth's age, who seems to live a far more interesting life although on Autumn Street he's not allowed in the front of the house. Next door are the Hoffman twins, viewed through a haze of gossip and suspicion (their father, of German descent, disappeared at the beginning of the war; a spy?)—and through the backyard hedge, as Elizabeth and Charles see Noah kill a cat, abuse his pet duck, and torment his terrified, withdrawn brother Nathaniel. Elizabeth remembers Noah's dying of pneumonia, and the afternoon when she and Nathaniel, left to tend him while his mother goes for medicine ("Don't let him cry," she tells them), play noisily to drown out his cries. The neighborhood also has its demented derelict, a seemingly harmless fixture until, in the novel's terrible culmination, he slits Charles' throat in the dreaded woods at the end of Autumn Street: ". . . there was danger there, and we both know that, we could feel it in the snow and the silence, as small as we were." But Elizabeth is dizzy then with fever, Charles refuses to take her home, the children have just fought because some older boys upset Charles with a racial attack—and so she leaves him in the woods with the unknown danger. Noah's death earlier (and his perverse behavior), the loving, ample-bosomed black maid, the close but unequal black-white relationships, and the inevitable tragedy that Noah's death foreshadows—all give the story a touch of the ambience we associate with Southern fiction. Just once or twice, Lowry gives Elizabeth an egalitarian thought that would seem to be beyond her years. More often, she gives her a child's open sensitivity, a child's way of processing occurrences—her grandfather falls in the hall as the clock strikes; she is told next day that he had a stroke; and so she associates his illness with the clock, which she is sure is waiting to strike again—and a moving ability to recall an experience in its totality. At Thanksgiving dinner, having embarrassed her great-aunts with personal questions, Elizabeth is hauled off to the bathroom where her mother confirms that Grandfather once broke an engagement to Great-aunt Philippa. Elizabeth in turn confesses her love for Charles. "There was a kind of rapture, standing in the small, immaculate bathroom beside my mother, smelling her perfume, feeling the slippery, perfect oval of pale blue soap, and then the rough texture of the thick towel, talking about secret things.

Pub Date: April 23, 1980

ISBN: 0395278120

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A killer thriller.


Black takes time out from chronicling the neighborhood-themed exploits of half-French detective Aimée Leduc to introduce a heroine as American as apple pie.

Kate Rees never expected to see Paris again, especially not under these circumstances. Born and bred in rural Oregon, she earned a scholarship to the Sorbonne, where she met Dafydd, a handsome Welshman who stole her heart. The start of World War II finds the couple stationed in the Orkney Islands, where Kate impresses Alfred Stepney of the War Department with the rifle skills she developed helping her dad and five brothers protect the family’s cattle. After unimaginable tragedy strikes, Stepney recruits Kate for a mission that will allow her to channel her newly ignited rage against the Germans who’ve just invaded France. She’s parachuted into the countryside, where her fluent French should help her blend in. Landing in a field, she hops a milk train to Paris, where she plans to shoot Adolf Hitler as he stands on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. Instead, she kills his admiral and has to flee through the streets of Paris, struggling to hook up with the rescuers who are supposed to extract her. Meanwhile, Gunter Hoffman, a career policeman in a wartime assignment with the Reichssicherheitsdienst security forces, is charged with finding the assassin who dared attempt to kill the Führer. It’s hard to see how it can end well for both the cop and the cowgirl. The heroine’s flight is too episodic to capitalize on Black’s skill at character development, but she’s great at raising readers’ blood pressure.

A killer thriller.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020


Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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...


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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