THE EDGE ON THE SWORD

One of history’s most dramatic heroines is restrained by a low-key presentation. Fifteen-year-old Æthelflæd, eldest child of Alfred the Great, spends her days learning her letters and wandering with her beloved brother. But Flæd loses these simple freedoms once her father betroths her to the ruler of Mercia, to cement an alliance against the marauding Danes. Flæd is appalled; not only is she to leave her home to marry a much older stranger, but she is also saddled with a warder who shadows her every movement. Nonetheless, Flæd and her guard slowly build a tentative friendship; he teaches her weapons and tactics, and she shares her tricks of horsemanship and woodcraft. But enemies are secretly watching, waiting for their moment to strike; and Flæd’s future will depend on how much she has learned. Tingle briefly notes the sources for the real Æthelflæd, and her first novel painstakingly recreates Anglo-Saxon life with numerous telling details, from tidbits of gnomic poetry to the construction of shoes. Yet the central characters remain maddeningly elusive; all the time spent inside Flæd’s viewpoint gives little feeling for her personality. The slow-paced plot is equally uninvolving; only in the final chapters—when Flæd has to draw from all her lessons in history, poetry, politics, and war, in order to lead her rebellious retainers safely through the bandits’ murderous assaults—do all these carefully laid nuggets of information come together in an exciting, and moving, climax. Unfortunately, by then too many readers may have given up. (Fiction. 11-16)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23580-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS

Moose’s world is turned upside down when his family moves to Alcatraz Island where his Dad has taken a job as a prison guard. Super-responsible Moose, big for 12, finds himself caught in the social interactions of this odd cut-off world. He cares for his sister who is older, yet acts much younger due to her autism and he finds his life alternating between frustration and growth. His mother focuses all of her attention on ways to cure the sister; his dad works two jobs and meekly accepts the mother’s choices; his fellow island-dwellers are a funny mix of oddball characters and good friends. Basing her story on the actual experience of those who supported the prison in the ’30s—when Al Capone was an inmate—Choldenko’s pacing is exquisite, balancing the tense family dynamics alongside the often-humorous and riveting school story of peer pressure and friendship. Fascinating setting as a metaphor for Moose’s own imprisonment and enabling some hysterically funny scenes, but a great read no matter where it takes place. (lengthy author’s note with footnotes to sources) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23861-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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