TROUBLE DON’T LAST

At fellow slave Harrison’s insistence, young Samuel is catapulted into an escape attempt from a Kentucky plantation that has been his whole world. Troublesome Sam has been in the care of elderly Lilly and Harrison since the sale of his mother long ago. Life has been so circumscribed by his condition of slavery that it is hard for him to understand the stakes or even want to succeed. Samuel’s naïveté is realistic but almost irritatingly persistent as danger mounts. Old man Harrison, whose creative ethics and gritty determination guide them on their way, is increasingly revealed as a complex man, and Samuel gradually gains an understanding of himself and the world around him. The vile nature of slavery is not underplayed as the notion of owning a person clearly creates both horrendous hubris and evil in the owner as well as tremendous pain and suffering of the owned. One of the best underground railroad narratives in recent years, Pearsall’s portrayal of both helping and helped are more rounded and complex than the more simplistic view often espoused. Greed, hypocrisy, and sanctimonious paternalism are clearly perceived by the fugitives dependent on these strangers who hold lives in their hands. This succeeds as a suspenseful historical adventure with survival at stake and makes clear that to succeed Harrison and Samuel, as well as others, must never give up even while combating manhunters, bloodhounds, mental illness, disease, hunger, cold, and their own despair. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81490-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American...

DUST OF EDEN

Crystal-clear prose poems paint a heart-rending picture of 13-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa’s journey from Seattle to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II.

This vividly wrought story of displacement, told from Mina’s first-person perspective, begins as it did for so many Japanese-Americans: with the bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor. The backlash of her Seattle community is instantaneous (“Jap, Jap, Jap, the word bounces / around the walls of the hall”), and Mina chronicles its effects on her family with a heavy heart. “I am an American, I scream / in my head, but my mouth is stuffed / with rocks; my body is a stone, like the statue / of a little Buddha Grandpa prays to.” When Roosevelt decrees that West Coast Japanese-Americans are to be imprisoned in inland camps, the Tagawas board up their house, leaving the cat, Grandpa’s roses and Mina’s best friend behind. Following the Tagawas from Washington’s Puyallup Assembly Center to Idaho’s Minidoka Relocation Center (near the titular town of Eden), the narrative continues in poems and letters. In them, injustices such as endless camp lines sit alongside even larger ones, such as the government’s asking interned young men, including Mina’s brother, to fight for America.

An engaging novel-in-poems that imagines one earnest, impassioned teenage girl’s experience of the Japanese-American internment. (historical note) (Verse/historical fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1739-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS

Moose’s world is turned upside down when his family moves to Alcatraz Island where his Dad has taken a job as a prison guard. Super-responsible Moose, big for 12, finds himself caught in the social interactions of this odd cut-off world. He cares for his sister who is older, yet acts much younger due to her autism and he finds his life alternating between frustration and growth. His mother focuses all of her attention on ways to cure the sister; his dad works two jobs and meekly accepts the mother’s choices; his fellow island-dwellers are a funny mix of oddball characters and good friends. Basing her story on the actual experience of those who supported the prison in the ’30s—when Al Capone was an inmate—Choldenko’s pacing is exquisite, balancing the tense family dynamics alongside the often-humorous and riveting school story of peer pressure and friendship. Fascinating setting as a metaphor for Moose’s own imprisonment and enabling some hysterically funny scenes, but a great read no matter where it takes place. (lengthy author’s note with footnotes to sources) (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-23861-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2004

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