From the I Am America series , Vol. 5

A respectful, evenhanded view of a pivotal historical event.

The American Indian Movement’s 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee lends impetus to a biracial child’s contact with her historical and cultural heritage.

Eleven-year-old Patricia Brave Bird Antoine’s mom is White, while her dad is Lakota, with family living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation not far from the site of the 1890 massacre. So it is that news of the tense armed standoff between AIM and the federal government kindles not only interest in the history of that tragedy, but enough anxiety about her relatives’ safety to join her father on a drive up from Denver for a brief visit. Following an introductory note on terminology, debut author Bithell uses this scenario both to sit Patsy down beside her grandmother for instruction in traditional customs and crafts and, in a mix of overheard conversations, news clippings, letters, and reproduced school reports, to explore the roots of the conflict and how local politics caused the violence to escalate. Though for the most part that violence, as well as the major events and personalities of the occupation, remains offstage, a hail of gunfire that leaves Patsy’s father wounded by unknown assailants provides a dramatic climax…and his refusal to be treated by a White doctor for fear of being reported to the FBI shines a light on the (justified) distrust that poisons, probably permanently, relations between the federal government and Native American nations. Freeberg’s pencil drawings add cultural and period details (if not action), and a lengthy afterword with photos expands on the occupation’s causes, course, and aftermath.

A respectful, evenhanded view of a pivotal historical event. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-63163-685-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: North Star Editions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020


The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the...

The ugly brutality of the Jim Crow South is recounted in dulcet, poetic tones, creating a harsh and fascinating blend.

Fact and fiction pair in the story of Rose Lee Carter, 13, as she copes with life in a racially divided world. It splits wide open when a 14-year-old boy from Chicago named Emmett Till goes missing. Jackson superbly blends the history into her narrative. The suffocating heat, oppression, and despair African-Americans experienced in 1955 Mississippi resonate. And the author effectively creates a protagonist with plenty of suffering all her own. Practically abandoned by her mother, Rose Lee is reviled in her own home for the darkness of her brown skin. The author ably captures the fear and dread of each day and excels when she shows the peril of blacks trying to assert their right to vote in the South, likely a foreign concept to today’s kids. Where the book fails, however, is in its overuse of descriptors and dialect and the near-sociopathic zeal of Rose Lee's grandmother Ma Pearl and her lighter-skinned cousin Queen. Ma Pearl is an emotionally remote tyrant who seems to derive glee from crushing Rose Lee's spirits. And Queen is so glib and self-centered she's almost a cartoon.

The bird’s-eye view into this pivotal moment provides a powerful story, one that adults will applaud—but between the avalanche of old-South homilies and Rose Lee’s relentlessly hopeless struggle, it may be a hard sell for younger readers. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-78510-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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