Age Range: 10 - 11
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It’s 1914 and Alex, 11 and a fairly recent immigrant from Russia, is left alone to take care of himself and his younger sister when their widowed mother disappears. Set in the tenements of New York City and on the infamous Blackwell’s Island, this might have been a fascinating historical fiction or, as an adventure, it could have been a thrilling tale. Unfortunately, it is neither, falling instead into the Goosebumps style of manipulated excitement. Alex is kidnapped with several other young people and sent to one of the Island’s harsh workhouses. The place is a hell, ruled by a criminal with political pull and his sadistic cronies. Alex and some of his new companions overturn the reign of evil, his sister rescues his mother, a murderer must face the music of the courts and all ends happily. With endless cliffhangers, a mystery key, outlandish coincidences, the possibility of ghosts and other menacing creatures and über kids to the rescue, this simply never jells, and a terrific idea for a setting is wasted. (Fiction. 10-11)

Pub Date: April 12th, 2005
ISBN: 0-385-74670-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2005