SHACKLETON’S STOWAWAY

Wisely using only real people and sticking close to the actual events of Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition, McKernan does justice to one of the past century’s great true adventure stories. Those events are as dramatic as it comes, as readers of Jennifer Armstrong’s Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World (1998) or Elizabeth Cody Kimmel’s Ice Story (1999) will attest. Setting out in 1914 to cross Antarctica, Shackleton and 27 men were trapped by ice that eventually destroyed their ship and left them huddled together, barely sheltered from the elements, for 22 months. Teenaged wanderer Perce Blackborow provides the point of view; hoping to measure himself against both nature and his fellow men, he stows away—and finds himself facing harder tests to his courage, spirit, and physical endurance than he’d ever imagined. The author smoothly integrates invented but credible banter and tensions, adds full measures of excitement, terror, boredom, pain, and exhaustion, then closes with sketches of each major participant’s later life, plus several resource lists. A compelling alternative to the nonfiction accounts. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-82691-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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PRIVATE PEACEFUL

From England’s Children’s Laureate, a searing WWI-era tale of a close extended family repeatedly struck by adversity and injustice. On vigil in the trenches, 17-year-old Thomas Peaceful looks back at a childhood marked by guilt over his father’s death, anger at the shabby treatment his strong-minded mother receives from the local squire and others—and deep devotion to her, to his brain-damaged brother Big Joe, and especially to his other older brother Charlie, whom he has followed into the army by lying about his age. Weaving telling incidents together, Morpurgo surrounds the Peacefuls with mean-spirited people at home, and devastating wartime experiences on the front, ultimately setting readers up for a final travesty following Charlie’s refusal of an order to abandon his badly wounded brother. Themes and small-town class issues here may find some resonance on this side of the pond, but the particular cultural and historical context will distance the story from American readers—particularly as the pace is deliberate, and the author’s hints about where it’s all heading are too rare and subtle to create much suspense. (Fiction. 11-13, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-439-63648-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

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FEVER 1793

In an intense, well-researched tale that will resonate particularly with readers in parts of the country where the West Nile virus and other insect-borne diseases are active, Anderson (Speak, 1999, etc.) takes a Philadelphia teenager through one of the most devastating outbreaks of yellow fever in our country’s history. It’s 1793, and though business has never been better at the coffeehouse run by Matilda’s widowed, strong-minded mother in what is then the national capital, vague rumors of disease come home to roost when the serving girl dies without warning one August night. Soon church bells are ringing ceaselessly for the dead as panicked residents, amid unrelenting heat and clouds of insects, huddle in their houses, stream out of town, or desperately submit to the conflicting dictates of doctors. Matilda and her mother both collapse, and in the ensuing confusion, they lose track of each other. Witnessing people behaving well and badly, Matilda first recovers slowly in a makeshift hospital, then joins the coffeehouse’s cook, Emma, a free African-American, in tending to the poor and nursing three small, stricken children. When at long last the October frosts signal the epidemic’s end, Emma and Matilda reopen the coffeehouse as partners, and Matilda’s mother turns up—alive, but a trembling shadow of her former self. Like Paul Fleischman’s Path of the Pale Horse (1983), which has the same setting, or Anna Myers’s Graveyard Girl (1995), about a similar epidemic nearly a century later, readers will find this a gripping picture of disease’s devastating effect on people, and on the social fabric itself. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-689-83858-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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