THE SHINING COMPANY

Around A.D. 600, King Mynyddog gathered 300 warriors for a year's training in what is now Edinburgh, then sent them to fight the Anglo-Saxon settlers to the south. One of the few survivors was Aneirin, a harper whose epic about the mission's heroes is "the earliest surviving North British poem." Prosper, shieldbearer (squire) to one of the company and one of the few fictional characters among the historical figures here, narrates his own involvement in the tragic venture from the healing distance of a time years later, when he is in Constantinople. Sutcliff is at her superlative best here. She combines impeccable research with extraordinary imaginative power—mingling recorded fact with logically extended details of what might have happened. With subtle dexterity, she reveals and builds character through action and shapes exquisite, dramatic vignettes that are intrinsic to the story's web of tragic irony. In gracefully cadenced prose, never marred by sensationalism or false heroism, she re-creates the horrors of hand-to-hand combat and vividly evokes the rivalries and loyalties of men whose joys and hopes she makes kin to our own. Her lucid, precise language echoes the long ago ("mind" for "remember") without a hint of obscurity or the falsely quaint. Her many memorable portraits include the well-meaning king, unable to extricate himself from a cruel dilemma (he was "not Artos"); Cynan, traumatized hero-survivor; and the bard, who reluctantly escapes the suicidal last stand in order to bear witness. A splendid achievement.

Pub Date: June 22, 1990

ISBN: 0374466165

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1990

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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...

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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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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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