An educational, highly enjoyable read that kicks off a promising new series.



Roche’s precocious young characters find themselves transported to 19th-century New York City in her debut middle-grade book.

Fourteen-year-old Peregrine “Peri” Gasper enjoys history, reading, and browsing her father’s dusty antiques store. She’s less enthused about her two younger stepbrothers, Henry and Max. The newly formed family’s quiet afternoon at the antiques store is interrupted when Max inadvertently places a set of antique keys on a magical book. The three children travel through time, landing on a boat entering New York Harbor in 1892. Thus begins an incredible adventure as the siblings struggle to figure out where they are and how to get back home. They travel to different times and places in New York City, giving them a firsthand look at the plight of immigrants and the struggles of urban poverty. Peri, Henry, and Max soon realize that the key to returning home may literally be the antique keys from the shop. Each key they locate leads to a new person, a new story, and an opportunity to help others while learning some history. Along the way, the children meet many historical figures—Jacob Riis, Theodore Roosevelt, and little Annie Moore, the first immigrant to pass through the doors of Ellis Island. Roche takes readers on a remarkable journey, offering an entertaining, informative glimpse into the past. Locations such as the Lower East Side tenements come to life through Roche’s evocative writing; rats the size of dogs scurry across the road as vendors sell pickled cucumbers and sauerkraut, and neighbors ask after each other in multiple languages and dialects. Roche also does a masterful job tackling issues children may face in modern times. In the course of solving historical problems, her young protagonists must also deal with emotions and questions that arise from divorce and their blended family. The historic photographs and illustrations that accompany the text are a wonderful addition, and Roche also offers supplementary games, activities, and recipes readers can use to further engage with the narrative.

An educational, highly enjoyable read that kicks off a promising new series.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9961484-0-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Oak Lei Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

Did you like this book?

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?