IN THE SHADOW OF THE LAMP

Wrongfully dismissed from her job as a parlor maid, 17-year-old Molly Fraser desperately needs work to help support her impoverished family, but though she’s intelligent and hard-working, an illiterate servant girl fired for stealing has little hope of finding respectable employment in 1854 London. Learning that Florence Nightingale is assembling experienced nurses to care for soldiers wounded fighting the Crimean War in Turkey, Molly relies on quick wits, true grit and funds borrowed from her admirer, Will, to join them. There, following Nightingale’s impassioned, prickly but brilliant example, Molly discovers her own passion for nursing and acquires suitors: Will, now in the army, and a dedicated young doctor. Molly’s exceptionally authentic and appealing character powers this well-crafted novel. While her lack of education is never minimized, her gifts—emotional intelligence, sense of justice and empathy—are both entirely plausible and essential to her task. Puzzlingly, several scenes proclaim that Molly also possesses a supernatural gift for healing; these undermine a story that is otherwise as deeply grounded in reality as the new profession it celebrates. Nightingale’s vision of nursing care didn’t turn on a supernatural knack for “healing” but on her determination to treat patients—the healing and dying alike—as human beings entitled to decent food, shelter and compassionate care on their difficult, frightening journey. Overall, an honorable homage and an absorbing read. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59990-565-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises.

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THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END

What would you do with one day left to live?

In an alternate present, a company named Death-Cast calls Deckers—people who will die within the coming day—to inform them of their impending deaths, though not how they will happen. The End Day call comes for two teenagers living in New York City: Puerto Rican Mateo and bisexual Cuban-American foster kid Rufus. Rufus needs company after a violent act puts cops on his tail and lands his friends in jail; Mateo wants someone to push him past his comfort zone after a lifetime of playing it safe. The two meet through Last Friend, an app that connects lonely Deckers (one of many ways in which Death-Cast influences social media). Mateo and Rufus set out to seize the day together in their final hours, during which their deepening friendship blossoms into something more. Present-tense chapters, short and time-stamped, primarily feature the protagonists’ distinctive first-person narrations. Fleeting third-person chapters give windows into the lives of other characters they encounter, underscoring how even a tiny action can change the course of someone else’s life. It’s another standout from Silvera (History Is All You Left Me, 2017, etc.), who here grapples gracefully with heavy questions about death and the meaning of a life well-lived.

Engrossing, contemplative, and as heart-wrenching as the title promises. (Speculative fiction. 13-adult).

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-245779-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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It's a rouser for all times.

THE MIDWIFE'S APPRENTICE

During the Middle Ages, an itinerant girl of about 12 or 13 who knows "no home and no mother and no name but Brat" finds refuge one night by burrowing into a village dung heap where the warm, rotting muck will protect her from the bitter cold.

In the morning she is taken in by a sharp-tongued woman who turns out to be Jane, the midwife. Brat is such a hard worker that before long she is accompanying Jane to birthings, where she cleans up after the work is done and acts as the midwife's "gofer" whenever necessary. Jane begins to trust her with some of the secrets of her trade, but when Brat is asked to help with a difficult birth and fails, she runs away ashamed not only of her lack of knowledge, but for her belief that she was ever worthy of learning. How Brat comes to terms with her failure and returns to Jane's home as a true apprentice is a gripping story about a time, place, and society that 20th-century readers can hardly fathom. Fortunately, Cushman (Catherine, Called Birdy, 1994) does the fathoming for them, rendering in Brat a character as fully fleshed and real as Katherine Paterson's best, in language that is simple, poetic, and funny. From the rebirth in the dung heap to Brat's renaming herself Alyce after a heady visit to a medieval fair, this is not for fans of historical drama only.

It's a rouser for all times. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 27, 1995

ISBN: 978-0-395-69229-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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