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A sentimental and satisfying tale about a teen in post–Civil War America.

Awards & Accolades

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In this debut middle-grade historical novel, a teenager seeks the truth about her father.

Harriett “Hattie” Alanson Howell is only 14 years old but has already experienced major loss. When Hattie was 10, her closest sibling, Jennie, died of an illness. Hattie’s father, Hannibal—a successful sign painter who, like Hattie, loved to draw—was killed in the Civil War shortly before her birth. All Hattie’s mother will say is “I pray he had a good death.” As a teenager in New York state’s Finger Lakes area who battles depression, which she refers to as the “Raven,” Hattie decides to look for answers on her own. She begins corresponding with her Uncle Byron, Hannibal’s brother and the only war survivor in the family. Byron not only enlightens Hattie about the good man her father was—he joined the Union Army to fight racism on the home front—but also encourages the teen’s own artistic gifts, even paying for her to attend Atelier De Luca, a prestigious Ithaca art program, when she is 17. After graduation, Hattie must decide between further study or the opportunity to become a sign painter—and whether she can withstand a trip to Gettysburg, where her father perished. Serko’s engaging novel was inspired by his own ancestors—Hattie was his great-great-grandmother and Hannibal his great-great-great-grandfather—as well as a family trip to Gettysburg in 1970 when the author was 16 and first learned of the Howell side of the family. The book contains a host of kid-friendly resources to provide context, including key facts about the Civil War, illustrations by Leslie, historical and family photographs, and a recipe for the molasses cookies that prominently appear in the work’s first chapter. Hattie is an intelligent and thoughtful young hero, wrestling with mental health and discovering her creativity while navigating life in a brand-new landscape. Her story is both relatable and inspiring for the novel’s target audience.

A sentimental and satisfying tale about a teen in post–Civil War America.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2023


Page Count: 324

Publisher: SageLand Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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