ESCAPE BY SEA

The sheltered daughter of a wealthy merchant flees Roman forces and strikes out on her own in this invigorating historical adventure. Sara bih-Hanno and her father, a senator in the ancient Tunisian city of Carthage, have mere moments to absorb the news of her brother’s battlefield death before they must quit their home and the city via the Heron, a cargo ship. Skirmishing with other vessels, they gain several additions to their party, including a Roman soldier they take prisoner, who both intrigues and frustrates Sara. Lawrence imbues Sara’s first-person narration with intelligence and her character with a wry stubbornness, realistically portraying her fear and accompanying resolve to plow through it. Especially well imagined is the metacognition she possesses about her manipulation of the men to whom she must entrust her fate. A map and a glossary of nautical terms assist, though don’t completely succeed, in making sense of the at-times laboriously detailed combat scenes. Although the end is abrupt, it will also give readers cause to hope for a sequel. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2217-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe.

PRISONER B-3087

If Anne Frank had been a boy, this is the story her male counterpart might have told. At least, the very beginning of this historical novel reads as such.

It is 1939, and Yanek Gruener is a 10-year old Jew in Kraków when the Nazis invade Poland. His family is forced to live with multiple other families in a tiny apartment as his beloved neighborhood of Podgórze changes from haven to ghetto in a matter of weeks. Readers will be quickly drawn into this first-person account of dwindling freedoms, daily humiliations and heart-wrenching separations from loved ones. Yet as the story darkens, it begs the age-old question of when and how to introduce children to the extremes of human brutality. Based on the true story of the life of Jack Gruener, who remarkably survived not just one, but 10 different concentration camps, this is an extraordinary, memorable and hopeful saga told in unflinching prose. While Gratz’s words and early images are geared for young people, and are less gory than some accounts, Yanek’s later experiences bear a closer resemblance to Elie Wiesel’s Night than more middle-grade offerings, such as Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars. It may well support classroom work with adult review first.

A bone-chilling tale not to be ignored by the universe. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-45901-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

DAY OF TEARS

A NOVEL IN DIALOGUE

On a day when rain came down “hard as sorrow,” George Weems sets out to sell more slaves at one time than anyone ever had. Pierce Butler must sell off hundreds of slaves to cover gambling debts and 12-year-old Emma is one of his victims. Named after Lester’s grandmother, whose mother was a slave, Emma is part of a large cast of characters—slaves, owners, businessmen and abolitionists—who tell their own stories, in their own voices. Interludes occasionally have characters return in old age to reflect on their lives since the auction, a brilliant technique that demonstrates, in some characters, the persistence of racist belief. Other, good-hearted, characters, white and black, act towards each other with respect and dignity and affirm the possibilities of conscience and common humanity even in the worst of times. This important novel, based on an actual slave auction in 1859, begs to be performed, though teachers and performers may be hesitant to utter the racist language of the day. Powerful theater and one of Lester’s finest works. (cast of characters, author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7868-0490-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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