Some scary moments and a juicy slice of history distinguish this credible mystery.

READ REVIEW

SAMMY AND THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN

Young people at a Catskills resort band together to head off (so to speak) some ghostly chicanery.

A rash of kitchen accidents and vandalism has the Pine Grove Hotel’s owner, Mrs. Liebman, convinced that the ghost of her Bubbie Bluma is trying to drive her away. Not only that, but repeated appearances of a headless horseman like the one in the Washington Irving story have the summer guests on edge and ready to decamp. Moreover, the horseman’s harassing Zeke Parker, a solitary old neighbor who was born in slavery. So instead of the dull summer he was expecting, young white New Yorker Sammy Levin finds himself part of “The Ichabods,” a squad of young people who sneak out at night to investigate. He also discovers hidden talents after the resort’s tummler (social director) enlists him to entertain the guests—bringing tears with his rendition of “My Yiddishe Mama” and even singing a duet with Eddie Cantor. Arato lines up suspects (notably a backwoods “mountain man” who calls Zeke a “darkie”) and contrived but leading clues, using real locations to enhance the period flavor and rounding out her characters with reminiscences by Zeke of his youth and by Sammy of life back in Poland during the late war.

Some scary moments and a juicy slice of history distinguish this credible mystery. (historical note, glossary of Yiddish) (Historical fiction/mystery. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55455-269-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

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. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.

A GIRL, A RACCOON, AND THE MIDNIGHT MOON

This is the way Pearl’s world ends: not with a bang but with a scream.

Pearl Moran was born in the Lancaster Avenue branch library and considers it more her home than the apartment she shares with her mother, the circulation librarian. When the head of the library’s beloved statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay is found to be missing, Pearl’s scream brings the entire neighborhood running. Thus ensues an enchanting plunge into the underbelly of a failing library and a city brimful of secrets. With the help of friends old, uncertainly developing, and new, Pearl must spin story after compelling story in hopes of saving what she loves most. Indeed, that love—of libraries, of books, and most of all of stories—suffuses the entire narrative. Literary references are peppered throughout (clarified with somewhat superfluous footnotes) in addition to a variety of tangential sidebars (the identity of whose writer becomes delightfully clear later on). Pearl is an odd but genuine narrator, possessed of a complex and emotional inner voice warring with a stridently stubborn outer one. An array of endearing supporting characters, coupled with a plot both grounded in stressful reality and uplifted by urban fantasy, lend the story its charm. Both the neighborhood and the library staff are robustly diverse. Pearl herself is biracial; her “long-gone father” was black and her mother is white. Bagley’s spot illustrations both reinforce this and add gentle humor.

The magic of reading is given a refreshingly real twist.   (reading list) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6952-1

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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