LEFT FOR DEAD

A YOUNG MAN’S SEARCH FOR JUSTICE FOR THE USS INDIANAPOLIS

On July 30, 1945, after transporting the atomic bomb to Tinian for the Enola Gay, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in shark-infested waters and sunk. In the largest wartime loss of life for the navy, 880 of the ship’s 1,197 men found themselves in the water, 250 miles from the closest land. When they were eventually rescued, only 317 men had survived. How had it happened that a ship as important as the USS Indianapolis had been unescorted in waters where Japanese submarines were known to lurk, and Captain McVay had not been notified? Why was Captain McVay court-martialed, when accountability clearly extended beyond his role as captain? Nelson is telling two stories here: the wartime story of the USS Indianapolis and the story of Hunter Scott, a young boy doing a history project for school. Scott got interested in the Indianapolis after watching Jaws with his dad, and a character in the movie tells of the Indianapolis and the shark attacks on the men. Fascinated, Scott chose this as his topic for a history fair. He did research, wrote letters to survivors, and began to feel something was not quite right in the story, that Captain McVay and his officers were more heroic than negligent, and the record should be set straight. The story of the USS Indianapolis is fascinating, and Nelson capably puts that story in the context of the war and the events leading up to it. Less successful is the melding of the two stories of ship and young researcher. The story of Hunter Scott sandwiches the war story, but it is important in its own right, and Scott, along with survivors and a congressman, plays a key role in the exoneration of Captain McVay. As engaging as the best historical fiction, this will appeal to any reader who likes history and a good story at the same time. (photographs, maps, bibliography) (Nonfiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-385-72959-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955

Historical fiction examines the famous case of Emmett Till, whose murder was one of the triggers of the civil-rights movement. Hiram Hillburn knows R.C. Rydell is evil. He watches R.C. mutilate a catfish, but does nothing to stop him. “I didn’t want to end up like that fish,” he says. He watches R.C. throw stones at a neighbor’s house and humiliate 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African-American visitor from Chicago, and still he does nothing. Hiram says, “When things are scary or dangerous, it’s hard to see clear what to do.” When Till is brutally murdered, Hiram is sure R.C. is involved. Hiram, a white teenager who has come back to the Mississippi town where his father grew up, is the narrator and the perspective of the white outsider and the layers of his moral reflection make this an excellent examination of a difficult topic. When the case comes to trial, Hiram knows he must face his own trial: can he stand up to evil and do the right thing? He knows Mr. Paul, the local storeowner, is right: “Figure out what’s right and what’s wrong, and make yourself do the right thing. Do that and no matter what happens, no matter what people say, you’ll have no regrets.” This is a complicated thing to do, as Hiram must summon inner strength and come to terms with who he is—the son of an English professor who hates everything about the South and the grandson of a farmer who loves everything about it. Teen readers will find themselves caught up in Hiram’s very real struggle to do the right thing. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2745-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

Did you like this book?

Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a...

A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

A lovely, lively historical survey that takes in Neanderthals, Hohenzollerns and just about everything in between.

In 1935, Viennese publisher Walter Neurath approached Gombrich, who would go on to write the canonical, bestselling Story of Art, to translate a history textbook for young readers. Gombrich volunteered that he could do better than the authors, and Neurath accepted the challenge, provided that a completed manuscript was on his desk in six weeks. This book, available in English for the first time, is the happy result. Gombrich is an engaging narrator whose explanations are charming if sometimes vague. (Take the kid-friendly definition of truffles: “Truffles,” he says, “are a very rare and special sort of mushroom.” End of lesson.) Among the subjects covered are Julius Caesar (who, Gombrich exults, was able to dictate two letters simultaneously without getting confused), Charlemagne, the American Civil War, Karl Marx, the Paris Commune and Kaiser Wilhelm. As he does, he offers mostly gentle but pointed moralizing about the past, observing, for instance, that the Spanish conquest of Mexico required courage and cunning but was “so appalling, and so shaming to us Europeans that I would rather not say anything more about it,” and urging his young readers to consider that perhaps not all factory owners were as vile as Marx portrayed them to be, even though the good owners “against their conscience and their natural instincts, often found themselves treating their workers in the same way”—which is to say, badly.

Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a fine conception and summarizing of the world’s checkered past for young and old.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-300-10883-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more