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THE PORTSMOUTH ALARM

DECEMBER 1774

A worthwhile read that personalizes the conflicts that led to the American Revolution.

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DeMitchell’s YA historical novel is based on American Revolutionary Paul Revere’s legendary ride to Portsmouth, N.H.

When Revere set out to warn the citizens of Portsmouth, N.H., that British regulars were already on their way to Fort William and Mary on New Castle Island to seize the store of gunpowder, many in New Hampshire and Massachusetts immediately responded by taking the fort and imprisoning its soldiers. However, the information was inaccurate. DeMitchell tells the story through the eyes of two young boys, 14-year-old Andrew Becket and 13-year-old John Cochran, set on opposite sides of the conflict as misunderstandings compound and eventually lead to violence. DeMitchell states most of the characters, save for Beckett and the supporting character Joseph Reed, are based on actual people, though the account is fictionalized. Whatever liberties she might have taken with the history, DeMitchell has a talent for the small details that result in a vivid story. Readers feel the rush of the icy Piscataqua River as Beckett tries not to fall off the edge of a barge full of people and the strain of physical work. The story also avoids easy characterizations of heroes and villains; Beckett and Cochran are simply kids trapped in extraordinary circumstances. Gov. Wentworth could easily have been the scapegoat as a native New Hampshire man taking orders from the crown, but he comes across fully rounded. He, too, is trapped as he tries to stay loyal to the king while avoiding violence and advancing free trade in the colonies. DeMitchell’s aim is to provoke thought about the incidents that led to war. Beckett and Cochran feel like real people with real needs rather than handy political constructs or symbols: Beckett wants to avoid conflict and concentrate on bettering himself to get into Harvard, while Cochran feels loyalty to the crown through his father’s position in charge of the defense of Fort William and Mary. 

A worthwhile read that personalizes the conflicts that led to the American Revolution.    

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1932278927

Page Count: 161

Publisher: Mayhaven Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2012

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A CRANE AMONG WOLVES

A page-turner.

An immersive tale of unlikely allies coming together for a common enemy.

In Joseon dynasty Korea in 1506, 17-year-old Iseul has one goal: to find her older sister, Suyeon, and bring her home. Although they didn’t have the best relationship after the trauma of their parents’ execution by royal soldiers, Iseul bravely travels through forbidden territory. Her enemy is King Yeonsan, a vile man who abducts women, but after hearing of a serial killer—and the king’s obsession with finding him—Iseul decides that capturing the murderer could be the way to get her sister back. She’s not alone in her hatred for the king; his half brother, Prince Daehyun, is secretly plotting treason to stop Yeonsan’s reign of terror. Calling Daehyun his favorite brother, the king demands he carry out increasingly extreme acts of cruelty in order to prove his loyalty, but the prince is determined to not become a monster himself. After a fateful encounter with Daehyun, Iseul is left with even more disgust for the crown, but she doesn’t yet know the full story behind Daehyun’s intentions. With such a powerful shared enemy, the pair might find that becoming allies is the smartest way to achieve their objectives. Award-winner Hur’s latest historical intrigue is well researched and doesn’t shy away from depicting elements of this real king’s brutal history, and the resulting tale is immersive, intense, and engaging.

A page-turner. (author’s note with content warning, historical note) (Historical thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9781250858092

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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NEVER FALL DOWN

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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