BLACKWATER BEN

From the Blackwater Ben series , Vol. 1

In the winter of 1898, Ben joins his father at a northern Minnesota logging camp. Unhappy at school and eager to prove himself, he would also love to hear more stories about his mother, who died when he was very young. Pa, however, is taciturn on the subject and a strict taskmaster as the camp cook. Ben thought he’d be working with the loggers, but finds his long days filled with nonstop kitchen tasks. He gets to talk with the camp dentist, so-called because he sharpens the teeth on the crosscut saws and finds out that this long-time non-bathing logger had courted his mother before she married Pa. He also listens to stories told by another boy who works in the kitchen who had a horribly hard life in the south. Readers will learn the many colorful words used at a logging camp, however, one must ask just who will find this coming-of-age story of any interest or appeal. Careful research does not automatically equal a great story, and an afterword about logging in the United States still doesn’t help this make the cut. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-72928-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Near the end of World War II, two kids join their parents in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Max, 12, lives with his parents and his older sister in a Berlin that’s under constant air bombardment. During one such raid, a mortally wounded man stumbles into the white German family’s home and gasps out his last wish: “The Führer must die.” With this nighttime visitation, Max and Gerta discover their parents have been part of a resistance cell, and the siblings want in. They meet a colorful band of upper-class types who seem almost too whimsical to be serious. Despite her charming levity, Prussian aristocrat and cell leader Frau Becker is grimly aware of the stakes. She enlists Max and Gerta as couriers who sneak forged identification papers to Jews in hiding. Max and Gerta are merely (and realistically) cogs in the adults’ plans, but there’s plenty of room for their own heroism. They escape capture, rescue each other when they’re caught out during an air raid, and willingly put themselves repeatedly at risk to catch a spy. The fictional plotters—based on a mix of several real anti-Hitler resistance cells—are portrayed with a genuine humor, giving them the space to feel alive even in such a slim volume.

It’s great to see these kids “so enthusiastic about committing high treason.” (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35902-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

THE BAD BEGINNING

The Baudelaire children—Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and baby Sunny—are exceedingly ill-fated; Snicket extracts both humor and horror from their situation, as he gleefully puts them through one terrible ordeal after another. After receiving the news that their parents died in a fire, the three hapless orphans are delivered into the care of Count Olaf, who “is either a third cousin four times removed, or a fourth cousin three times removed.” The villainous Count Olaf is morally depraved and generally mean, and only takes in the downtrodden yet valiant children so that he can figure out a way to separate them from their considerable inheritance. The youngsters are able to escape his clutches at the end, but since this is the first installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, there will be more ghastly doings. Written with old-fashioned flair, this fast-paced book is not for the squeamish: the Baudelaire children are truly sympathetic characters who encounter a multitude of distressing situations. Those who enjoy a little poison in their porridge will find it wicked good fun. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-440766-7

Page Count: 162

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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