With illustrations by the appropriately dour Grimley, this is a mix of two talents who together yield a less-than-superior...

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THE DEATH OF YORIK MORTWELL

A ghost story that attempts to combine the macabre with the heroic fails to find its footing.

Yorik was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Having been knocked to his death by his feudal landlord’s spoiled son, our hero leaves behind his destitute little sister, Susan. She finds employment with the manor’s servants, while Yorik likewise finds afterlife employment with the strange silver-haired Princess of the Aviary Glade. Given the task to haunt his former tormentor, Yorik instead discovers that all is not well at Ravenby Manor. Something evil has escaped, and it is slowly but surely taking over the inhabitants. It’s up to one seemingly helpless ghost to find a way to stop the threat before it harms his still-living sibling. To be an odd book is not a bad thing, but there is something so overwhelmingly peculiar about Messer’s mix of fantasy genres (pseudo-Gothic meets the standard saving-the-world format) that the entire kerfuffle comes off as hopelessly overblown. This is helped not at all by its deus ex machina ending. 

With illustrations by the appropriately dour Grimley, this is a mix of two talents who together yield a less-than-superior product. Some art not seen. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-375-86858-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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...

NUMBER THE STARS

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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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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