SILVER RAIN

Elsie doesn't know what's worse: living in the garage with your mom, grandmother and uncle behind the house that used to be home or having your father abandon you. Then her mother and uncle also leave, supposedly for jobs. Her miserable situation is all because of the Depression, which is affecting families everywhere. Her best friend, Scout, who is going to be a newspaperman, helps her search for her dad. But when Rev. Hampton takes them to see the dance marathon to show how exploitative it is, clues begin to add up. The Canadian setting and dialogue establish context for the terms hoboes, shantytowns and the phrase, "could you spare a dime." Though today’s readers won’t be familiar with the Depression, dance marathons or references to Bing Crosby, cribbage and Eaton’s catalog, the search for family and relationships in tough times rings true. The evocative title refers to the coins thrown at a favored dance couple. Once past the unappealing cover, readers will find an absorbing and perceptive story. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55469-280-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction.

PROMISE THE NIGHT

MacColl's second novel brings to life the childhood of future aviator and writer Beryl Markham (Prisoners in the Palace, 2010).

Born Beryl Clutterbuck, she moved with her family to the highlands of Kenya as a toddler. Not long after, her mother and brother returned to England, abandoning her with her rough though loving father. MacColl's account begins when a leopard steals into Beryl's hut and attacks her dog—the child leaping from her bed to give chase. Though she loses the leopard in the night, the next morning, she and her new friend, a Nandi boy, Kibii, find the dog still alive and save it. Later she insists on being part of the hunt for the leopard. Young Beryl wants nothing more than to be a warrior, a murani, and to be able to leap higher than her own head. Her jumping skills progress apace, but young white girls, no matter how determined, cannot become part of the Nandi tribe. Her relationship with Kibii's father, the wise Arap Maina, along with a growing awareness of the consequences of her actions, help lead her into a more mature—though still wildly impulsive and daring—life. MacColl intersperses her third-person narrative with faux news reports and first-person diary entries of two decades later, when Beryl Markham became the first person—let alone woman—to fly a plane west from Europe to America.

Fluid prose elucidates a life much stranger than fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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Bleak and, unfortunately, not particularly compelling.

KATE'S RING

A Canadian girl endures hardship and struggles in her 14th year.

Kate’s the oldest of six children in a Catholic family living in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in 1925. Ever since her mother came down with tuberculosis a year ago, her father’s been drinking the family into ruin. When he loses his job as a bakery delivery driver, the family relocates to his parents’ remote farm, then returns as her mother’s health worsens. And then another catastrophe strikes. Kate tries to keep charge of her siblings, but eventually they’re farmed out to other family members, and Kate’s father sells the titular ring, which was her mother’s. Much happens, and the characters move around a lot, but they never really come to life—Kate’s brothers in particular seem interchangeable—and a lot of the emotion in the story feels forced. Though the action is told from Kate’s first-person perspective, readers never fully understand what she most deeply wants, or why, and while the setting is carefully drawn, it feels more like a memory than a lived-in place. Kate’s voice is appropriately antique: Her mother’s illness is “consumption,” she has a “pal” named Grace, and she is mindful of “proper” behavior. All characters adhere to a white default.

Bleak and, unfortunately, not particularly compelling. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88995-567-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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