WHEEL OF THE MOON

An orphan loses one home and travels far before finding another in this bustling tale, set in 17th-century England and America. Her father dead for years and her mother suddenly drowned in a spring flood, Pen joins a group of orphans hiding out in the cellar of an abandoned London house. Barely has she become attached to the children before a gang of anything-but-ethereal “spirits” seizes them, throws them into Bridewell prison, then months later bundles them aboard a ship bound for Jamestown as indentured laborers. Though filthy conditions, bad food, and general mistreatment have taken a grim toll by the time they arrive, Forrester lightens the atmosphere by having Jamestown turn out to be far less hellish than the children had been led to expect. In fact, Pen finds herself working for such a kindly couple that, when a chance comes to escape a year later, she opts to stay. Forrester (Dust From Old Bones, 1999, etc.) gives Pen’s experiences a historical basis by noting that in 1627 alone more than 1,400 English children were shipped off to Virginia. Readers will appreciate Pen’s resilience in the face of one terrible loss after another, and will applaud her steady courage. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-688-17149-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2000

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SKULLDUGGERY

PLB 0-7868-2439-5 From Karr (Man of the Family, p. 1312, etc.), a historical novel that is remarkably cheerful, considering that among its key elements are grave-robbing and a hideous criminal on the prowl. In New York City in 1840, Matthew loses his whole family to cholera. Trying to keep body and soul together, he answers an advertisement for an assistant to a remarkable fellow, Dr. Asa B. Cornwall, phrenologist. Dr. ABC, as he is known, studies the cranial features of people, and deduces by the lobes and bumps on their heads their personalities and characteristics; he’s writing his magnum opus to prove his theories. Matthew takes to the larger-than-life doctor; they travel to Philadelphia, London, Paris, and the south of France, attempting’surreptitiously—to dig up famous skulls for the doctor’s research. All the while, in the smoothly suspenseful plotting, a vicious and mysterious stranger with a scar follows them, putting Matthew in danger and haunting his nightmares. The thrilling denouement takes place on St. Helena and involves the body of Napoleon himself; this novel is rich in period color and good old-fashioned derring-do. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7868-0506-4

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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GOOD NIGHT, MAMAN

Aimed at readers who have already encountered Anne Frank, this riveting historical novel from Mazer (Missing Pieces, 1995, etc.) is based on a little-known chapter of WWII history. Karin Levi’s story begins in a tiny attic room in Paris in the 1940s, where she is hidden away with her brother, Marc, and their mother, practicing the art of quiet. German soldiers are conducting house-to-house searches, rounding up Jews, and the small family is soon on the run, depending on strangers for scraps of food and shelter. When Maman falls ill, Karin and Marc head for Naples without her; the children board the Henry Gibbons, a ship full of European refugees bound for Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. Upon their arrival in America, their story turns from one of flight and danger to the happiness and sorrow associated with adjusting to a new language, customs, and schooling, and making new friends. Although it is a shock to Karin, it comes as no surprise to readers when Marc reveals that Maman is dead. Mazer skillfully paints Karin as brave and independent, yet depicts her devotion to Maman throughout, writing unsent letters and never losing sight of her belief that one day they will be reunited. Rather than relying on events and facts of the war and its atrocities to create sympathy, the author paints her central character’s thoughts and feelings, her moments of weakness and her strength, so that the story is stirringly understated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201468-3

Page Count: 189

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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