Historical photos and Indiana Jones–style adventure enrich this tale of an unusual meeting between the Qin Dynasty and the...

SECRETS OF THE TERRA-COTTA SOLDIER

Ancient China literally comes alive to expose buried treasures in this novel co-written by Ying Chang Compestine (Crouching Tiger, 2011, etc.) and her son, Vinson.

Under Maoist rule, Ming lives in a village with b? ba, his father, an archaeologist who works for the museum in Xi’an and who is on the verge of losing his job. When reward-seeking farmers bring Ming newly unearthed head and limb fragments fashioned from clay, Ming discovers the artifacts have much to reveal. The clay head begins to speak, claiming to be Shí, one of thousands of terra-cotta soldiers created to protect the tomb of Emperor Qin, the ruthless leader who built the Great Wall of China. As Shí tells Ming stories of his life in battle, they become fast friends. They embark on a mission to save the tomb from corrupt government officials and to save Ming’s father from being sent to harsh labor camps. Shí’s brutal war stories tend to overshadow aspects of Ming’s personal story, like Ming’s relationship with his father, but they are compelling nonetheless. Although Ming’s acceptance of a talking statue feels swift, their friendship is believable. They hail from different eras, but they share a common desire: to keep their parents safe.

Historical photos and Indiana Jones–style adventure enrich this tale of an unusual meeting between the Qin Dynasty and the 20th century. (glossary, authors’ note, recipe, authors Q&A) (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0540-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child...

KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES

A San Diego preteen learns that she’s an elf, with a place in magic school if she moves to the elves’ hidden realm.

Having felt like an outsider since a knock on the head at age 5 left her able to read minds, Sophie is thrilled when hunky teen stranger Fitz convinces her that she’s not human at all and transports her to the land of Lumenaria, where the ageless elves live. Taken in by a loving couple who run a sanctuary for extinct and mythical animals, Sophie quickly gathers friends and rivals at Foxfire, a distinctly Hogwarts-style school. She also uncovers both clues to her mysterious origins and hints that a rash of strangely hard-to-quench wildfires back on Earth are signs of some dark scheme at work. Though Messenger introduces several characters with inner conflicts and ambiguous agendas, Sophie herself is more simply drawn as a smart, radiant newcomer who unwillingly becomes the center of attention while developing what turn out to be uncommonly powerful magical abilities—reminiscent of the younger Harry Potter, though lacking that streak of mischievousness that rescues Harry from seeming a little too perfect. The author puts her through a kidnapping and several close brushes with death before leaving her poised, amid hints of a higher destiny and still-anonymous enemies, for sequels.

Wholesome shading to bland, but well-stocked with exotic creatures and locales, plus an agreeable cast headed by a child who, while overly fond of screaming, rises to every challenge. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4424-4593-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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

THE CONSPIRACY

From the Plot to Kill Hitler series , Vol. 1

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. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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