Saving Independence

Spiers’ (co-author Principles of Neuropsychology, 2000) middle-grade novel transports young Hannah Sinclair back to the 1700s, where she meets her ancestors and becomes embroiled in a dastardly British plot.
It’s present-day July Fourth in Philadelphia, and Hannah Sinclair is bored. Her grandmother and her uncle love Revolutionary War history; every Independence Day, they participate in re-enactments at City Tavern. Her grandma is especially proud of an 18th-century recipe book once owned by Mary Newport, who had a pastry shop in colonial Philly. After Hannah finds a coded message in the book, along with a doodle seemingly in her own handwriting, she finds herself back in time at the first celebration of Independence Day: July Fourth, 1777. Luckily, she’s in period garb for the re-enactment, but there’s much more for her to learn. With exceedingly great-grandmother Lydia as her guide, she’s soon baking pastries for members of Congress. But when she overhears a Tory scheme to kidnap them and end the war in Britain’s favor, it’s up to Hannah and her new friends to keep history from changing. The trope of a sullen youngster learning to appreciate history via time travel isn’t a new one, but Spiers makes things interesting by delving into historical complexity; for instance, the Newports are Quakers, pacifists who don’t take sides in the war. That’s not good enough for some Patriots, who take a with-us-or-against-us attitude, so the pastry shop’s windows are broken by rock-throwing rowdies for the crime of being open on the festive day. Hannah, who didn’t pay much attention in history class, sees things in black and white—Americans good, British bad—and struggles to understand the unexpected shades of gray. For instance, once she learns Benedict Arnold is attending the banquet, she’s sure he’s the one who will betray Congress to the British, since he’s now synonymous with “traitor.” Spiers bases many of her characters on historical figures—Mary and Lydia are her own predecessors and were indeed Quakers—which nicely grounds things in reality.

Lively and informative history.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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An unabashed love letter from mother.


From the Little Pookie series

A sweet celebration of the bond between a mother and her Pookie.

The eighth installment in this always charming series eschews the episodic drama and silliness of earlier outing such as Spooky Pookie (2015) in favor of a mom’s-eye-view celebration of her child and the time they spend together. There is, of course, nothing wrong with drama and silliness. But while the lack of conflict and plot in favor of unapologetic sentiment makes this book a quick read, that doesn’t make it any less endearing. The rhymed verse captures a mother’s wonder as she observes the many facets of her child’s personality: “Ah, Pookie. My little one. My funny one. My child. // Sometimes you are quiet. Sometimes you are wild.” On the simple joys of shared moments, she notes, “I love to go walking with you by my side. / I love when we sing when we go for a ride. // And I love just to watch as you think and you play. / The way that you are is a wonderful way.” Paired with author/illustrator Boynton’s irresistible renderings of a porcine mommy and her playful, snuggly little piglet, the result is impossible to fault. Whether quietly reading, running in a tiger suit, singing with mom in the car, ears flapping in the breeze, or enjoying the safety of mom’s embrace, Pookie’s appeal continues unabated.

An unabashed love letter from mother. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3723-4

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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