A DIRTY DEED

Stenhouse continues his story begun in Across the Steel River (not reviewed) with another mystery laced with tones of racial bias and starring the same two boys, Will, who’s white, and Arthur, a Blackfoot Indian. The title holds double meaning: “deed,” as in an action, in this case one against decency, justice, and the Indian people of a small Canadian town on Alberta’s prairies. The other meaning, a title to land ownership, here refers to that deeded to an Indian during WWI by the most powerful, cruel, and unjust white man in town, “old man Howe.” Now, during the Korean War in 1952, Howe will stop at nothing to retrieve the document that has passed to other generations of the original deed-holder’s family. Told in the first person, the adventure-mystery speeds along as the town, its inhabitants, its setting, and history are revealed. Howe controls the Mounties, the town’s business, and a gang of thugs who do his bidding, often cruel and physically destructive to those who oppose him. The too-large cast weaves in and out of Will’s narrative and relationships become hazy. Throughout, Will and Arthur meet with near-escapes, but there are so many cliffhangers that it stretches reader credulity. The latter is especially so, given the uncertain duration of the endless action, which may cover only a few days and nights. A good many unexplained incidents also occur and may leave a reader unclear about them as real experiences or as mere figments of Will’s dreams. Despite a very active plot that portrays the degradation of Canada’s first People, Stenhouse tries to do too much and, as a result, fails. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-55337-360-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM--1963

Curtis debuts with a ten-year-old's lively account of his teenaged brother's ups and downs. Ken tries to make brother Byron out to be a real juvenile delinquent, but he comes across as more of a comic figure: getting stuck to the car when he kisses his image in a frozen side mirror, terrorized by his mother when she catches him playing with matches in the bathroom, earning a shaved head by coming home with a conk. In between, he defends Ken from a bully and buries a bird he kills by accident. Nonetheless, his parents decide that only a long stay with tough Grandma Sands will turn him around, so they all motor from Michigan to Alabama, arriving in time to witness the infamous September bombing of a Sunday school. Ken is funny and intelligent, but he gives readers a clearer sense of Byron's character than his own and seems strangely unaffected by his isolation and harassment (for his odd look—he has a lazy eye—and high reading level) at school. Curtis tries to shoehorn in more characters and subplots than the story will comfortably bear—as do many first novelists—but he creates a well-knit family and a narrator with a distinct, believable voice. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-385-32175-9

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

WHEN EAGLES FALL

Thirteen-year-old Alexis has been “banished” (her word) by her mother, who lives in San Diego, to International Falls, Minnesota, where her father is the foremost authority on the bald eagle. He heads a small team who are banding eaglets and researching the eagles’ habitat. Alexis is immediately involved and learns quickly, though it’s difficult work and complicated further by the swarms of mosquitoes and hot weather. She resents her father’s authority and the team’s respect for him. In spite of this, she becomes fascinated with the birds and rashly decides to remove a fish lure from an eagle’s nest situated on a nearby island. Though successful in climbing the tree, she lifts an eaglet out of the nest and drops it. Then she loses the paddle to the canoe and finds herself stranded on an island with an injured eaglet. For two days she struggles with a storm, a visiting bear, and hunger. She manages to feed the eaglet and herself through fashioning a crude fishing rod. She finds shelter: an abandoned house on the island obviously not used for years. Surprisingly, it is a bat refuge, full of bat dung, with hundreds of bats returning in the evening. Knowing the eaglet must have assistance, in desperation, she sets the house on fire and is rescued. Throughout these difficulties, she finally allows herself to think of her little brother, who has recently died from cancer. Working through her grief, she realizes her father’s actions, which she so resented at the time, were a result of a grief as deep as her own. The ending is a bit pat, with the eagle flown to a healing center and her parents beginning to talk to each other. The tale moves along well and will be enjoyed particularly by readers of survivalist stories. The author’s note describes her hands-on research with eagle experts and includes several Web sites where naturalists can learn more. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-0665-6

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more