THE JOURNAL OF BIDDY OWENS

THE NEGRO LEAGUES

Biddy Owens, 17, “equipment manager, scorekeeper, errand boy, and sometimes right fielder” for the Birmingham Black Barons, narrates in diary form the twilight time of the Negro Leagues. This solid entry in the “My Name Is America” series must cover a lot of ground—Jim Crow laws, the beginnings of civil-rights unrest, the integration of the major leagues, adolescent yearnings (soft-pedaled), and baseball, baseball, baseball—but Myers (Bad Boy, above, etc.) handles it all with relative ease. There is rather more exposition of life in the South than would likely have appeared in a contemporary journal, but this is not too intrusive and is quickly overshadowed by Biddy’s agreeable voice as he weighs a baseball career (unlikely, given his admittedly limited ability) against going to college. Biddy’s family comes to life as honestly as the historical figures he works with on a day-to-day basis. Baseball legends Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron all make cameo appearances, but the characters who dominate are those whose careers largely ended with the Negro Leagues: the 1948 Black Barons, led by second baseman and manager Piper Davis, whose fierce determination to win carries the team—and the reader—through a grueling pennant race to what was to become the last Negro League World Series. The tale is suffused with pride and affection for these first-class ballplayers who labored as second-class citizens, and with a real wistfulness at the passing of an era. Rich historical context, fully realized characters, great baseball action, and trademark Myers humor combine to make this one a homerun. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-439-09503-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

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The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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