Rave Reviews Log: Historical Fiction

January 23, 2012

The Romeo and Juliet Code

By Phoebe Stone
Era: World War II, Maine
Rating: 3 3/4 stars

Eleven year old Felicity is brought from England to Bottlebay, Maine when the bombings in London become too destructive.  Her parents Danny and Winnie leave her with Danny's mother, brother and sister and then they return to England.  Felicity is miserable, but when a letter arrives in her father's handwriting for her uncle from Portugal, she is mad with curiosity.  Even worse, her Uncle Gideon snatches the letter away and won't let Felicity read it.  Why are her parents in Portugal instead of London?  Mystery abounds in the house, but Felicity makes a friend in Derek, the adopted 12 year old who lives with the Bathburns, too.  Slowly, slowly, Felicity, now nicknamed "Flissy," begins to settle into her new life, but she has so many questions.  Why won't Uncle Gideon let her read the letters?  Why is the piano nailed shut?  Why won't anyone tell her about the fight her father and uncle had?  Then Flissy gets a glance at one of the letters and discovers it is entirely in code.  What exactly ARE her parents up to?  As Flissy and Derek unravel the code, they also unravel the other mysteries in the house, but was it better not to know the truth?  An interesting twist on a World War II story, focusing on the efforts made in America before we entered the war officially.  

January 09, 2012

City of Orphans

By Avi
Era: 1893 New York City
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Thirteen year old Maks Geless lives in a tiny tenement apartment with his family of 2 sisters and 3 brothers, his parents (originally from the Denmark) and Monsieur Zulot to whom they rent some space in the three room place on the lower East Side of Manhattan.  His mother takes in laundry, his father and one sister work in the shoe factory and his other sister works at the new, fancy Waldorf Hotel.  But Maks is a newsie, one of dozens of boys who sell papers for the local newspaper companies.  The newsies have been dodging the Plug Ugly gang, who regularly beat them up for the pennies they earn, and it is while Maks is trying to get away from the gang that he meets Willa.  Willa manages to attack the gang out of the blue with her stick and wards them off.  When Maks finds out Willa is living in the streets alone after the death of her parents, he brings her home with him.  Then the unthinkable happens--his sister Emma is accused of stealing a guest's watch at the hotel. The evidence is circumstantial but she's been thrown in prison and has a trial fast approaching.  With immigrant parents and no money to pay a lawyer, what will the family do?  Maks and Willa find help in an unlikely source--a lawyer and investigator who promises to help by teaching Maks how to become a detective.  Can Maks, with Willa's help,  find the evidence he needs while avoiding the Plug Uglies?  It's a mystery, it's historical, it's got action and readers will be turning the pages fast to find out what happens.  It might get tied up a tad too neatly at the end, but no one will mind.

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