THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE DONNER PARTY

A vivid yet even-handed account of the ill-fated Donner Party—the California-bound wagon train that was forced by impassable snow to camp for the winter of 1846—47 on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, resorting to cannibalism when there was literally nothing else to eat. Calabro neither shrinks from nor sensationalizes this aspect of the story. Instead she places it in a carefully constructed context beginning with the start of the journey in Springfield, Illinois, on April 15, and chronicling each unfortunate decision along the way that ultimately led to the company’s entrapment. Making good use of primary sources, especially the letters and memoirs of Virginia Reed, who turned 13 on the journey, the author tells of Virginia’s excitement at having her own pony to ride west. However, she doesn’t limit the story to Virginia’s perspective, but skillfully profiles many members of the party, including Virginia’s dynamic father, James, who strongly favored taking an unproven shortcut, and the intelligent and perceptive Tamsen Donner, who was firmly against it. The result is a combination of well-researched factual detail, a gripping narrative, strong characterizations, and a thoughtful analysis of the historical record. (b&w photos, chronology, further reading, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-86610-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1999

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MY BRIDGES OF HOPE

SEARCHING FOR LIFE AND LOVE AFTER AUSCHWITZ

In a sequel to the well-received I Have Lived a Thousand Years (1997, not reviewed), Bitton-Jackson writes of her life as Elli Friedmann in 1945, when she, her brother, and mother were liberated from Auschwitz and sent back to their former home in Czechoslovakia. Finding only a shell of the place they had known, they struggled to rebuild some semblance of life and waited for the return of Elli’s father. When they realized he was gone for good, their only hope through all their efforts was the prospect of obtaining papers that would allow them to emigrate to America. Through the long years that they waited, Elli found work teaching, and helping other Jews escape to Palestine, a dangerous and illegal undertaking. When they finally arrived in New York City, relatives welcomed them; an epilogue collapses most of the author’s adult life into a few paragraphs so readers will know the directions her life took. Interesting and inspiring, this story makes painfully clear how the fight to survive extended well beyond the war years; the discomforts and obstacles the author faced and articulates in such riveting detail will make readers squirm at the security and ease of their own lives. (Memoir. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-689-82026-7

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

SAGE OF THE SUPREME COURT

This entry in the Oxford Portraits series is both very good and very useful. White presents a clear biography of the Supreme Court justice who served in the Civil War, studied law, and lived long in the shadow of his famous writer father of the same name. By the time he came to the Supreme Court, he was already 60 years old, but served for three decades more. White creates a vivid portrait of this scholarly and philosophical legal thinker while including rich details of his intellectual but reserved home life and his affectionate flirtations with many women. More than that, readers will absorb a history of the development of legal education, the growth of the Supreme Court, and how law unfolds as a study and a discipline. White is especially felicitous in explaining how the elegance of Holmes’s prose occasionally obscured the legal point he was making. Quotations from Holmes’s writing and picture captions with further details add to the story, and not the least of its accomplishments is to show a man who began the greatest of his career challenges when he was already perceived of as old. Excellent. (chronology, further reading, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 1999

ISBN: 0-19-511667-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999

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