Book Review: Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriet Gillem Robinet (Five Stars)


Book Review: Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule by Harriet Gillem Robinet

(Five Stars)

“What you reckon owning land be like?” “We’ll wake singing and go to bed laughing. We be having both joy and peace.”

Historical fiction of the best sort. Robinet looks into the lives of freed slaves in the post-Civil War South through the eyes of a young freed slave. Pascal has a heap of challenges, but how he learns to face them makes for entertaining and educational reading.

“White folks should be glad we free so they don’t got to be so mean no more.”

Thoroughly researched. Of necessity in a story this compact and intended for young readers, Robinet simplifies her peripheral characters to allow extra depth to her central cast. Nevertheless, the spectrum of characters presents Continue reading


Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Five Stars)

Book Review: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Five Stars

“There’s things worse than bombs.”

A deep, honest look at life on the cusp of a great war and the end of childhood. Told penetratingly deep from the perspective of a young girl whose life is turned upside down by the evacuation of children from wartime London.

“The house looked asleep.”

Writing that may not appeal to adult readers has a simplicity and directness that sounds authentic. Despite the many decades elapsed since I was ten, I can attest that it comes uncomfortably close to how I sometimes felt during that awful and wonderful time of life.

“You’re in luck, then because I’m not a nice person at all.”

Winner of numerous awards for young readers.

“Saying something stupid doesn’t make you stupid. Luckily for all of us.”

Bought it for our granddaughter. (Don’t tell her.)

“I had so much. I felt so sad.”


Book Review: The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Four Stars

“I remember smiling in the darkness. He felt neither white or black.”

Award-winning young readers novel set in the Caribbean Sea during World War Two. A white boy and an old black sailor find themselves adrift with little hope of rescue … and the boy is blind.

“Voodoo is silly, I knew, but also frightening.”

Published in 1969 this is good story telling. The eleven-year-old protagonist sounds and feels real. His attitudes and reactions ring true. He grows … a lot.

“But dis year [1942], d’sea is angry wid all d’death upon it. D’wahr.”

The text is straight-forward and should be easily read by young readers, except the pidgin spoken by Timothy. While Taylor’s dialogue captures some of the lilt of Caribbean, it makes hard reading. The dialect could have been eased, reflecting Phillip’s greater understanding of Timothy’s tongue.

“Timothy are you still black?”

Many good lessons about life and death. All its recognition justified.

“Take him, God, he was so good to me.”

Book Review: Hand of Adonai by Aaron Gansky (Three Stars)

Book Review: Hand of Adonai: The Book of Things to Come by Aaron Gansky

Three Stars

“Trust us. We know what we’re doing.” “Speak for yourself.”

Think: Breakfast Club does a Christian Dungeons and Dragons via Tron. It works better than it should. One of the brightest angles is the creators wondering why they fashioned the game as they did: making living through their creation difficult.

The D&D-role-playing game created by two of the high-school-age characters is as cheesy and illogical as you’d expect. That worked for me. “Writing demonstrated control and subtlety” didn’t. The set-up is good, and the cast right. The emotions seem authentic and well-considered. Even the sudden appearance of heroic skills is adequately explained.

“Hope, that feathered pest, perched in her heart again.”

The target audience are tweens. The cast is a study in stereotypes both before and after (If I tell you what that refers to …), but Continue reading

Book Review: The Cerulean Star: Liberty by Sharon Cramer (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Cerulean Star: Liberty by Sharon Cramer

Three Stars out of Five.

A totally awesome story. Great setup and first contact, fun characters and a fast-paced, gripping plot. What’s not to like?

A lot, actually. (Many spoilers follow.)

Even assuming this is written for juvenile readers, the story telling and mechanics need a lot of work. It needs serious editing, even though two editors are credited. Both the narrative and the dialogue is sophomoric at best.

Factual errors nearly overwhelm the story. It’s as if the story was “researched” on line or from old science fiction movies. Clichés are layered on clichés. Almost every reference to the military is wrong: starting with Continue reading