ISLAND OF SPIES

A mismatch between voice and story weakens this otherwise promising novel.

World War II brings U-boats, spies, and adventure to a North Carolina island community.

Even before the United States entered the war, 12-year-old Sarah Stickley Lawson, called Stick by family and friends, and her two best friends, Neb and Rain, longing for adventure in their quiet Hatteras Island town, formed a group called the Dime Novel Kids to solve mysteries while they awaited assignments from the FBI. Neb, also 12 and also White, is the son of the former lighthouse keeper, so the trio uses the abandoned Hatteras lighthouse as a lookout. Rain, 10, born on the beach to a mysterious White woman who can’t remember her past, has brown skin, stirring up prejudice from some White islanders. While the kids are suspecting the town’s postmistress of being a spy, real trouble comes in the form of German U-boats bombing cargo ships off the coast. Meanwhile, Stick’s Papa is missing at sea. Turnage takes a little-known piece of American history and sets it solidly among realistic characters and an entertaining saga of island life. Her trademark folksy narration and love of metaphor do this particular tale a disservice, however: The Dime Novel Kids are so quirky and imaginative that it takes readers a long time to realize that the U-boats and possible spies are real, and the plotting and pace sag under the weight of the charm.

A mismatch between voice and story weakens this otherwise promising novel. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3125-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

NUMBER THE STARS

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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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