Volume 25, Number 3
Spring 1998

Clip and File Reviews of Short Story and Poetry Collections

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Cohen, Daniel
Raising the Dead

Reviewed by Alan M. McLeod
Professor of English Education
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia

Raising the Dead by Daniel Cohen The Occult
Cobblehill Books, 1997. 151 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-6525-8

Zombies, body snatching, bringing the dead back to life: these are the subjects addressed by Cohen in this fascinating accounting of the stories behind the tales of walking mummies, grave robbers associated with medical science, mad scientists, and historical figures. In eight chapters, ranging from the monster Frankenstein to the "Spanish mummification" of Evita Peron’s body, Cohen describes much of the "story behind the story," often gruesome, often gripping.

The information provided makes for a quick and entertaining read about European- and Argentinean-derived tales. Especially appealing to fans of horror, Cohen provides a bonus – an annotated listing of ten horror films available on videotapes, from five Frankenstein films to two mummy ones, from one on body snatchers to two on zombies.

The ALAN Review Alan M. McLeod
Spring 1998 Virginia Commonwealth University

Coville, Bruce
A Glory of Unicorns

Reviewed by Lisa R. Wroble
Redford Twp. District Library
Redford, Michigan

A Glory of Unicorns edited by Bruce Coville Short stories/Fantasy
Scholastic, 1998. 208 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-590-95943-3

Twelve enchanting tales are gathered together in A Glory of Unicorns. Unicorn enthusiasts know that a gathering of unicorns is called a glory. Fans of fantasy will also appreciate the fitting title after devouring these stories. Woven throughout each tale is the theme of finding the magic in life through the help of a unicorn. Editor Bruce Coville, known for his series "The Unicorn Chronicles," uses the first story to explain to nonbelievers of unicorns a bit about these magical creatures. Other tales in the collection range from brief encounters with unicorns to full-fledged fantasy. Magical wallpaper allows a boy to receive and return a unicorn’s love. Unicorn hair woven into a rug saves a boy’s life. A magical song summons a unicorn for a girl’s grandfather. The true magic in these tales, however, is the hope and beauty for real life that they succeed in displaying.

The ALAN Review Lisa A Wroble
Spring 1998 Redford Twp. District Library, Michigan

Singer, Marilynz
Stay True: Short Stories for Strong Girls

Reviewed by Megan D. Isaac
Assistant Professor of English
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Stay True: Short Stories for Strong Girls Growing Up
compiled by Marilyn Singer ISBN: 0-590-36-31-0
Scholastic, 1998. 208 pp. $16.95

Eleven authors, many of them already well established, like M. E. Kerr, Norma Fox Mazer, and Rita Williams-Garcia, have each contributed an original story to this volume. All of them feature high school age heroines struggling against conformity or misguided authority. Bebe prefers a summer job on the Brooklyn Bridge repair crew over a "civilized" position in a hair salon. Victoria chooses the boy who reads Gabriel Garcia Marquez novels, even if his father is in prison, over a less imaginative suitor. Monica dresses up as the Statue of Liberty and stages a protest in her own front yard when her mother reneges on a promise.

Most of the stories are realistic in their settings and conflicts, but the two fantasy tales, Ann Mazer’s empowering version of Cinderella and Marilyn Singer’s account of the independent and athletic Princess Rowena, are among the most delightful in this uniformly thoughtful and entertaining collection.

The ALAN Review Megan Isaac
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Seabrooke, Brenda
Under the Pear Tree

Reviewed by Mike Angelotti
Professor of English Education
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma

Under the Pear Tree by Brenda Seabrooke Poetry
Cobblehill (Dutton), 1977. 95 pp. $13.99 ISBN: 0-525-65213-2

Brenda Seabrooke poetically narrates soft reminiscences of her eleventh summer in Fitzgerald, Georgia. There are mini-stories of summer, of her two best friends Lala and Stacey, of dog weddings and attic playacting of Gone With the Wind, of the bittersweet visit of thirteen-year-old cousin, Rusty, and shell-shocked marine war veteran, Joey Van Druten, of the summer dance when twelve-year-old Stacey stepped over the line, of the romance of youth and growing up. Time and again the poet returns to the shade of the pear tree, her safe haven, to recapture experiences in free verse and situate action. There are memorable lines, as in "The Fountain in Front of the Bus Station," where she describes the fish "like chunks of that sweet, gummy orange candy lying at the bottom of the cast-iron pool." Altogether a pleasant, uncomplicated read that suggests a rather interesting alternative to prose memoir writing for middle-school students and older, and their teacher. Certainly worth the read and a place on the classroom bookshelf.

The ALAN Review Mike Angelotti
Spring 1998 The University of Oklahoma

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Aker, Don
Stranger at Bay

Reviewed by Wendy Bell
ESL Teacher
Buncombe County Schools
Buncombe, North Carolina

Stranger at Bay by Don Aker Stepfamily Conflict
Stoddart Kids, 1998. 246 pp. $4.95 ISBN: 0-7736-7468-3

When Randy Forsythe’s father is transferred to a new job in another place, Randy is asked to make some uneasy adjustments. He thinks his new stepmother, Norma, is dumb; he misses his old friends and school; and his father travels a lot. In his new environment he is drawn into a crowd that is going nowhere and has no use for smart kids like Randy. His attempts to reconcile past and present as well as solve the mystery of why his mother abandoned him long ago make for an unevenly paced young adult novel.

On the plus side, there are some engaging situations when Randy stands up to the bullies and makes peace with Norma and his dad. However, too many pages of trite dialogue and plodding plot development pass before we get to the good parts. Stranger at Bay will have the greatest appeal for junior high readers.

The ALAN Review Wendy Bell
Spring 1998 Buncombe County Schools, North Carolina

Cooney, Caroline B.
The Terrorist

Reviewed by Connie Russell
K-12 Reading/Language Arts Coord.
Eau Claire Area School District
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

The Terrorist by Caroline B. Cooney Terrorism/Family Tragedy
Scholastic, 1997. 198 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-590-22853-6

Laura Williams and her younger brother Billy attend an international school in London while their father is carrying out his job of closing down factories in England. While the other students in the international school understand and talk politics, Laura has no interest until her brother is killed by a terrorist’s bomb. Laura then becomes obsessed with finding her brother’s killer. She suspects everyone except the very person who draws her into a web of deceit. Caroline Cooney has written a book that, as usual, holds the reader captive through the last page. Although Billy’s life end abruptly, readers will know him intimately through Cooney’s detailed portrayal of this eleven-year-old boy. The Terrorist will be popular with teen readers, and social studies teachers will find it a good base for discussion.

The ALAN Review Connie Russell
Spring 1998 Eau Claire Area School District, Wisconsin

Moore, Martha
Angel on the Roof

Reviewed by John H. Bushman
Professor of Education
University of Kansas

Angels on the Roof by Martha Moore Family Problems
Delacorte Press, 1997. 286 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32278-X

Fourteen-year-old Shelby wants desperately to know about her father even though her mother has no intention of telling her. Over the years, Shelby’s mother has dreams that call her to travel, much to the disgust of Shelby. They have lived in many small towns but none so important as their current address: Red Valley, Texas, Here Shelby meets a variety of people – some relatives, some not. But more important, Shelby begins to learn about her father – a finding that will disturb most readers. Moore’s strength in this novel is the superb characterization. We meet the cat lady, the waitress with pink Dairy Queen hair, Baby Superman, and Aunt Onie, who wears knee-high support hose even with shorts. Moore explores the complexities of the human heart in a story that is witty and, perhaps more importantly, compassionate.

The ALAN Review John H. Bushman
Spring 1998 University of Kansas

Olson, Gretchen

Reviewed by Marjorie M. Kaiser
Professor of English Education
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky

Joyride by Gretchen Olson Work/Diversity/Friendship
Boyds Mills Press, 1998. 200 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 1-56397-687-0

Living through a painful yet enlightening passage toward self-knowledge and expanded multicultural understanding with Jeff McKenzie, a reader of Joyride has neither map nor triptych. The journey takes Jeff and the reader into and out of Jeff himself as he learns the meaning of real work on a farm and comes to appreciate both farm families and migrant workers. Middle-class, somewhat pampered, Jeff knows what working hard means but only in relation to his tennis practice and games. Genuine labor is foreign to him until he crashes through a farmer’s bean field and is required by law to make reparations through donated labor on the farm. Using description sparingly, Olson, nevertheless, manages to catch and offer an impression of the natural setting of Western Oregon where the story is set. Selective nature imagery coupled with effective use of dialogue, including Spanish, help the narrative move along at a pace that will engage middle and high school readers seeking out a good story.

The ALAN Review Marjorie M. Kaiser
Spring 1998 University of Louisville

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Philbrick, Rodman
Max the Mighty

Reviewed by Laura M. Zaidman
Professor of English
University of South Carolina
Sumter, South Carolina

Max the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick Friendship
Blue Sky Press, 1997. 176 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-590-18892-5

This sequel to Freak the Mighty (now a movie, The Mighty) continues to delight with fast pacing, exciting suspense, and intriguing characters. Boy-giant Max, 14, and bookworm Rachel (Worm), 11, form an unlikely friendship as they flee from police. On their trip across American in search of Worm’s real father, they ride with an aging hippie on his dilapidated school bus painted in 1960s psychedelic colors. Their quest ends in Chivalry, Montana, a perfect setting for this story of a chivalrous superhero who rescues a damsel from her dastardly stepfather. Philbrick’s entertaining story gently instructs with subtle messages about friendship, especially considering Worm’s reading of such classics as The Sword in the Stone, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wind in the Willows, and The Hobbit. Worm is proud to be a bookworm, and she has learned about loyal devotion through stories of Charlotte and Wilbur, Old Yeller, and Shiloh. But when Mighty Max risks his life for her, she sees true friendship in action. How wonderful to find a book proclaiming that reading is magical. Mighty fine, indeed.

The ALAN Review Laura M. Zaidman
Spring 1998 University of South Carolina

Tomlinson, Theresa
Dancing Through the Shadows

Reviewed by Sharon Stringer
Associate Professor of Psychology
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Dancing Through the Shadows by Theresa Tomlinson Dance/Breast Cancer/Family
DK Publishing, Inc., 1997. 120 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-789-42459-2

In Tomlinson’s beautiful novel, the protagonist, Ellen, faces the grim reality that her mother has breast cancer. Connecting to the book’s themes of love and mortality, readers will be engaged by Ellen’s personal growth. With her family, this young woman helps her mother cope with surgery and treatment. During the crisis, Ellen and her friend Laura continue to practice dance at school with the guidance of a favorite but rigorous teacher. Ultimately, dance provides Ellen with discipline, self-expression, and healing. Perhaps by serendipity, Ellen and Laura also help another teacher uncover an old buried well. This leads to a communal ceremony of life renewal through the wellspring of new waters.

Tomlinson’s story conveys powerful messages about dealing with cancer without trivializing our human responses. The novel is remarkable because it is written with accuracy, sensitivity, and compassion. Rituals of dance, courage, and love intermingle to create a celebration about life and healing.

The ALAN Review Sharon Stringer
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Many, Paul
These Are the Rules

Reviewed by Rick Williams
Teacher of English
Hubbard High School Hubbard, Ohio

These Are the Rules by Paul Many Father and Sons
Walker Publishing, 1997. 149 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-8027-8619-7

Okay, admittedly, this is not the Code of Hammurabi or the Ten Commandments of Moses, but Paul Many, through the voice of his protagonist, Colm, does offer a collection of twelve rules for living in an adolescent world. Author Many even challenges some "rules" in the process; for example, will guys read a book about a guy in love?

Prior to his senior year, Colm, who has just quit the school swim team, must deal with his parents’ separation, his demanding summer job, his lack of a driver’s license, and his own first attempts at falling in love. At times, the reader anticipates the tragedies of yet another dysfunctional family, but Many is able to inject genuine humor into the pathos without becoming sappy or maudlin. Colm endures both automotive and amorous accidents, completes a self-imposed "rite of passage," and closes each of the dozen chapters with another practical and witty rule that he has learned.

Young adults as well as their parents and teachers will find a lighthearted read here.

The ALAN Review Rick Williams
Spring 1998 Hubbard High School, Ohio

Wilson, Budge

Reviewed by Rebecca Barnhouse
Assistant Professor of English
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Sharla by Budge Wilson Moving/Polar Bears/Canada
Stoddart Kids, 1997. 263 pp. $4.95 ISBN: 0-7736-7467-5

Fifteen-year-old Sharla Dunfield is angry – at her parents for moving from Ottawa; at Churchill, a brutally cold and barren Canadian town where all anyone can think about is the famous polar bears; at the bears themselves. Sharla doesn’t think much of the bears – not until she sees one, anyway. When she does see one, it almost gets her killed. She’s out with Jake, an older man who is photographing the bears; and they’re where they both know they shouldn’t be when the bear finds them. If it weren’t for Theo, a boy who recognizes Sharla’s anger and reaches out to her, both Sharla and Jake would be dead. The incident helps Sharla to realize Jake’s true nature, to accept Theo’s friendship, and finally, to feel at home in Churchill. Unlike Wilson’s transcendent prose in The Leaving, the plot here is often predictable and characterization seems simplistic. Nevertheless, the setting – and the bears – will attract many younger readers.

The ALAN Review Rebecca Barnhouse
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Multicultural Fiction

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Namioka, Lensey
Den of the White Fox

Reviewed by Connie S. Zitlow
Associate Professor of Education
Ohio Wesleyan University
Delaware, Ohio

Den of the White Fox by Lensey Namioka Mystery/Feudal Japan
Browndeer Press/Harcourt Brace, 1997. 216 pp. $6.00 ISBN: 0-15-201183-4

Is the White Fox a supernatural spirit taking revenge on the occupying force that desecrated his shrine, or is it a clever fake? Who is teaching jujitsu to the young band of foxes? Who is responsible for all the thefts? What is it about the poor young woman, Kinu, that commands so much respect from the valley people and from her young brother, Jiro? And who threw Zenta over a cliff? Zenta, a ronin or masterless samurai, and his pupil Matsuzo are looking for work when they enter a strange, dark valley and are plunged into an adventure full of mysterious events, political intrigue, romance, humor. New readers and those familiar with Namioka’s series about Zenta and Matsuzo will enjoy this story and its contemporary, universal themes.

The ALAN Review Connie S. Zitlow
Spring 1998 Ohio Wesleyan University

Reeder, Carolyn
Foster’s War

Reviewed by Susanne L. Johnston
Senior Lecturer in English
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Menominee, Wisconsin

Foster’s War by Carolyn Reeder WWII/Family/Hatred/Patriotism
Scholastic, 1998. 272 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-590-09846-2

Foster Simmons heads up the Youth for the War effort of his fifth-grade class in San Diego during World War II, while his brother joins the army to escape an overbearing father. After the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Foster’s best friend, Jimmy Osaki, is forced into a Japanese internment camp. As the war escalates, Foster learns that war isn’t just adults fighting battles overseas. Young people also fight through buying war bonds, collecting scrap metal and rubber, and babysitting siblings so mothers can volunteer for the Red Cross Nurses’ Aide Corps.

Carolyn Reeder’s touching and realistic story shows the transition from the innocence of children’s war games to the disturbing realities of conflict. It is a credible account of the patriotism that inspired the U.S. during WWII, and it educates younger readers about our history.

The ALAN Review Susanne L. Johnson
Spring 1998 University of Wisconsin-Stout

Brooks, Marth
Bone Dance

Reviewed by Charles R. Duke
Dean, Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University
Boone, North Carolina

Bone Dance by Martha Brooks Spirituality
Orchard Books, Inc., 1997. 179 pp. $17.99. ISBN: 0-531-33021-4

Alexandra Sinclair never knew her father, but upon his death she receives his legacy – a cabin on the Canadian prairie. Raised in the city, Alexandra has little sense of place or history until she visits the cabin and discovers the Native American spirits of the land that make it a magical place. She meets Lonny LaFreniere, who is tormented by a secret buried in the land. Together the two teens connect with the spirits and come to a clearer understanding of each other and the land’s legacy to them. Brooks creates a powerfully lyrical setting and lets her characters connect with the land and the spirits in a very moving way that should help readers gain a greater appreciation for why some pieces of land may be more sacred than others. The story should appeal to junior high and above and could be used as supplementary readings about the Indians of North America.

The ALAN Review Charles R. Duke
Spring 1998 Appalachian State University

Holt, Kimberly Willis
Mister and Me

Reviewed by Gary M. Salvner
Professor of English Education
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt Family Relationships
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998. 80 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-339-23215-X

Jolene Jasmine Johnson lives in a rural Louisiana mill town in 1940. Ruby, Jolene’s mother, sews dresses for the rich white women in town, and her grandfather cuts lumber at Logan’s sawmill. Jolene hardly remembers her dead father, but she resents it when her mother begins seeing Mr. Leroy Redfield, a logger whom she calls "Mister." When they announce their marriage, Jolene strikes back by cutting up the fine velvet fabric Leroy has bought for Ruby. But when Leroy doesn’t punch her and when he takes her dancing (just as he had her mother), she is won over. As a wedding present, she gives her new parent a "crazy quilt" made from pieces of the velvet fabric.

While the child-struggles-to-accept-new-stepparent plot line of this story is very conventional, its setting and characters are vividly drawn, giving Jolene’s story a texture that young readers will appreciate. Jolene’s voice is engaging, and the book is a rich, warm exploration of family relationships.

The ALAN Review Gary M. Salvner
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Fiction Hardbacks

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Kinsey-Warnock, Natalie
As Long As There Are Mountains

Reviewed by William R. Mollineaux
Teacher of English
Sedgwick Middle School
West Hartford, Connecticut

As Long As There Are Mountains by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock Farm Life
Cobblehill Books/Dutton, 1997. 139 pp. $14.99 ISBN: 0-525-65236-1

Middle school readers will empathize with thirteen-year-old Iris Anderson, who dreams of one day running the family’s northern Vermont farm. Unfortunately for her, her father promises the farm to her older brother, Lucien, who yearns to be a writer. Things dramatically change when a fire caused by the negligence of her cousin, Draper, burns down their barn, an act that Draper refuses to publicly acknowledge. While cutting wood for a new barn, her father loses his leg, forcing Iris and Lucien to carry his load as well as their own. Further complicating the situation is Aunt Lurdine, who is determined to turn Iris into a young lady. Iris’s world completely crumbles when her father, feeling that he can no longer work the farm, decides to sell and move away.

Set in the 1950s, Kinsey-Warnock has created believable characters and has beautifully created a tale filled with warmth, love, determination, compassion, and forgiveness as Iris discovers that being with her family is even more important than keeping the land. Fortunately, the ending realistically provides both.

The ALAN Review William R. Mollineaux
Spring 1998 Sedgwick Middle School, Massachusetts

Walter, Virginia
Making Up Megaboy

Reviewed by Shirley Giura
Graduate Student
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

Making Up Megaboy by Virginia Walter Identity/Troubled Youth
DK Publishing, Inc., 1998. 64 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-7894-2488-6

His teacher asks, "How could a quiet, ordinary seventh-grade boy just take out a gun and shoot somebody?" Residents of a small town are in shock after thirteen-year-old Robbie Jones takes a gun from his father’s dresser drawer, rides the new bike he got for his birthday to a liquor store, and shoots the proprietor for no apparent reason.

The text of this book reads like a transcript of a CNN News report on the random violence that is becoming all too familiar in American society. Readers get the views and opinions of others trying to rationalize why this terrible act occurred, but what about Robbie? He isn’t saying much. This troubled youth, described as "not somebody who stood out in a crowd" by a TV anchorman, "a weirdo" by a female classmate, and "kind of a sissy" by his father, seems only to relate his feeling through a cartoon character he has created named Megaboy, a superhero who works "to defeat the forces of evil who oppress children on this planet." This book might be interesting to use as a discussion starter about youth and violence with an informed professional in the classroom.

The ALAN Review Shirley Giura
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Rylant, Cynthia
The Islander

Reviewed by Tom Wilson
Teacher of English
West Middlesex High School
West Middlesex, Pennsylvania

The Islander by Cynthia Rylant Self-identity DK Publishing, Inc., 1998. 97 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-7894-2490-8

Unlike the other islanders of Coquille off the coast of British Columbia, Daniel Jennings is deeply interested in a life outside the island and wants to know what is happening in the world outside his own. But it is the island that grants Daniel the experiences that open the whole wide world to his discovery. Raised by his grandfather, Daniel traverses a life full of loneliness and abandonment. Along the way Daniel encounters a mermaid, saves lives, and finds a key that opens much more than just a lock.

Cynthia Rylant’s short novel The Islander conveys the first-person account of Daniel Jennings’ haunting journey to self-discovery. Despite spending few words and offering a simple plot, The Islander presents itself as a mysteriously enchanting and moving work that will be deeply affecting for readers of all ages.

The ALAN Review Tom Wilson
Spring 1998 West Middlesex High School, Pennsylvania

Harrison, Michael
It’s My Life

Reviewed by Susanne M. Miller
Graduate Student
Youngstown State University
Youngstown, Ohio

It’s My Life by Michael Harrison Young Adult Crisis/Adventure
Holiday House, 1998. 132 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-8234-1363-2

Set in contemporary England, It’s My Life is a young adult novel similar in both style and theme to the novels of Robert Cormier. Martin, the protagonist, is having difficulty coping with the impending nasty divorce of his parents when life suddenly takes a horrible turn – he is kidnapped and held hostage on a canal boat. Can things become any worse for Martin? In time, Martin discovers the awful truth: his father has won the lottery and not told him; his mother has arranged Martin’s kidnapping to get some of his father’s winnings; and his kidnapper is none other than Martin’s mother’s new boyfriend, a man he knows nothing about.

There’s plenty of action in this novel as Martin escapes and is befriended by Hannah, the kidnapper’s angry yet tender-hearted teenage daughter. Young adult readers will enjoy the pageturning action along with the many plot twists, the believable young characters, and the explosive conclusion of this compelling novel.

The ALAN Review Susanne M. Miller
Spring 1998 Youngstown State University

Clip and File Reviews of New Historical Fiction Hardbacks

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Hesse, Karen
Out of the Dust

Reviewed by Ted Hipple
Professor of English Education
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse Poverty/Family Crises
Scholastic, 1997. 240 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-590-36080-9

Set in the drought-stricken dust bowl of Oklahoma of the 30s, written in free verse, told by as memorable a heroine as you will meet in YA literature, Out of the Dust will wrench your gut. You will meet fifteen-year-old Billie Jo, not yet defeated by the Grapes of Wrath kind of poverty that grinds families to the very dust that ruins them; she is helped in her resolve by her mother. But then in a bizarre accident, one Billie Jo played an innocent but deadly part in, her mother is killed. Her father cannot cope, and Billie Jo is left with just her own personal resources. These, however, are considerable.

Please read this book. You will agree with me (and with the committee which selected it for the 1997 Newbery Medal) that it is a distinguished novel, richly meriting as wide a readership as possible among teens, among adults. It is very good.

The ALAN Review Ted Hipple
Spring 1998 University of Tennessee

Napoli, Donna Jo
Stones in Water

Reviewed by Chris Crowe
Associate Professor of English
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah

Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli Nazi Labor Camps/Friendship/Survival
Dutton, 1997. 209 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-45842-5

Roberto’s happy life in Venice is disrupted when he and his Jewish friend, Samuele, are kidnapped along with many other Italian boys and put on a train bound for Germany. The boys become part of the slave labor camps run by the Nazis in Germany and later in Poland and the Ukraine, and the brutality and deprivation the boys endure are only slightly better than the Jewish death camps. The two boys depend on one another for survival, and they are at constant risk that their captors will discover Samuele’s Jewish identity. When Samuele dies, Roberto escapes and must find his way – in early winter – from the Ukraine to the Black Sea.

Napoli has written an absorbing tale of friendship and survival based on a little-known historical aspect of WWII. Readers will admire the loyalty and toughness of Samuele and Roberto and will be easily caught up in their efforts to survive the Nazi slave labor camps. This novel would work well paired with stories about the Holocaust or WWII or with survival stories.

The ALAN Review Chris Crowe
Spring 1998 Brigham Young University

Jones, J. Sidney

Reviewed by Jeffrey Kaplan
Professor of Education
University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida

Frankie by J. Sidney Jones Realism/Adventure/Coal Miners’ Strike
Lodestar Books, 1997. 167 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 0-525-67574-4

The time is 1913. The setting is Ludlow, Colorado. The plot is a coal miners’ strike. And the hero is Luke, a young, pre-teenager caught in a web of adventure and realistic intrigue. This is a grown-up tale of hard times and betrayal, told in a matter-of-fact tone, that young readers will find intriguing for its invitation to a remote time and place.

Found unconscious by the railroad tracks, Frankie, a young girl, enters into the lives of Ma, Pa, Luke, and his sister Beth. At first resentful, Luke learns to appreciate Frankie’s endearing street smartness and her charismatic personality. Together, Luke and Frankie jump a train to the huge tent in Ludlow, where they encounter striking coal minters. Tension mounts as the National Guard tries to maintain order between the miners and the mine guards. Trouble ensues when a woman’s march to protest the imprisonment of an eighty-two-year-old union organizer results in violence and bloodshed. Matters become worse, though, when Frankie carries out a dangerous plan to seek revenge.

This dramatization of a tragic, and little known, true story reverberates with many hard questions of moral truth.

The ALAN Review Jeffrey Kaplan
Spring 1998 University of Central Florida

Lasky, Kathryn Dreams in the Golden Country

Reviewed by Lisa J. McClure
Associate Professor of English
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois

Dreams in the Golden Country by Kathryn Lasky Historical Fiction
Scholastic, 1998. 192 pp. $9.95 ISBN: 0-590-02973-8

Lasky’s second contribution to the Dear America series, subtitled The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl, explores Zippy’s adjustment to life in America. Having fled the pogroms of the Russian Cossacks, the Feldmans settle in New York City, along with some 350,000 other Jewish immigrants. Although the storyline is focused on twelve-year-old Zippy, readers learn a great deal about her family and their struggles as well as about life in the early 1900s.

Presented as Zippy’s diary, Dreams is historically authentic (clearly grounded in Lasky’s personal knowledge and extensive research of the plight of Jewish immigrants). Zippy is, however, a fictional character and, at time, seems contrived. The diary, nevertheless, will appeal to girls (10-12 years) and, along with the other books in the series, is an admirable effort to acquaint us with our nation’s history as seen through the eyes of young women. Dreams would make a provocative companion piece to The Diary of Anne Frank.

The ALAN Review Lisa J. McClure
Spring 1998 Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

Clip and File Reviews of New Fantasy Hardbacks

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Duncan, Lois
Gallows Hill

Reviewed by Diana Mitchell
Williamston, Michigan

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan Witchcraft/Reincarnation
Delacorte Press, 1997. 227 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-385-32331-X

Sarah is the new girl at school when she is asked to work in the fortune-telling booth at the school carnival. Although hesitant to do so, she accepts the offer because she doesn’t want to be an outsider forever. In her booth Sarah is shocked when she looks into the crystal ball for her "clients: and sees vivid scenes that later come true. Branded as a witch by her school mates and the jealous daughter of the man her mother lives with, Sarah soon receives threatening objects and notes. The plot of this supernatural thriller then thickens when Sarah and her friend Charlie begin their school research projects on the Salem Witch Trials and Sarah has terrifying dreams of being part of the Salem witch hunt. What can be happening? Are the participants in the Salem Witch Trials gathering in the present to work out the struggles they experienced hundreds of years ago? Will Sarah survive the intense hostility she feels building? This compelling, fast-paced novel is classic Lois Duncan, and her fans will welcome this newest book.

The ALAN Review Diana Mitchell
Spring 1998 Williamston, Michigan

Crowe, Carole
Sharp Horns on the Moon

Reviewed by Edna Earl Edwards
Professor Emerita
State University of West Georgia
Carrollton, Georgia

Sharp Horns on the Moon by Carole Crowe Supernatural
Boyds Mills Press, 1998. 112 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-56397-671-4

Carole Crowe successfully interweaves the past with the present, the supernatural with the natural in her novel of Ivy Marie Bell. Lonely while living with her father, who is often away on fishing trips, and Aunt Ethel, who home-schools her, Ivy becomes friends with a ghost who is about her age, Eleanor Moneypenny. Through experiences with Eleanor, Ivy puts her mother’s death into perspective, solves other mysteries, and confronts herself and her powers. She grows as she absorbs the experiences and leaves her secluded life to enter a regular school.

Crowe effectively deals with Ivy’s need for friendship and for answers. She develops Ivy and Eleanor into human characters and blends the supernatural with history that lives on and affects families years later – in the present. This well-written book should hold the interest of young readers who like to explore the unusual.

The ALAN Review Edna Earl Edwards
Spring 1998 State University of West Georgia

Anderson, Janet S.
Going Through the Gate

Reviewed by Nancy E. Zuwiyya
Teacher of English
Binghamton High School
Binghamton, New York

Going Through the Gate by Janet S. Anderson Fantasy/Suicide
Dutton, 1997. 134 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-45836-0

Every year a small group of children experience an extraordinary sixth-grade graduation ceremony behind their rural school house. The reader meets the five sixth-graders who are about to graduate; and, as they think about "going through the gate," they are excited and afraid. On June 1st, when Becky and her four fellow graduates come together with their teacher, they discover that, when they go through the gate, crossing into a fantasy world, they achieve a sensitivity and knowledge that they never imagined before. With this new discovery comes a more clarified knowledge of reality. One girl, only twelve years old, tries to commit suicide, using the gate to escape pain rather than enter the adult world. The novel develops a sense of mystery and impending doom as the plot moves towards the climax. The final scene of suicide and rescue is shocking, especially considering the age of the children.

The ALAN Review Nancy E. Zuwiyya
Spring 1998 Binghamton High School, New York

Smith, Sherwood
Crown Duel

Reviewed by M. Jean Greenlaw
Regents Professor
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith Fantasy
Harcourt Brace, 1997. 214 pp. $17.00 ISBN: 0-15-201608-2

The death of their father casts young Mel and her brother Bran into the unwanted roles of Countess and Count and into being leaders of a revolution against a despotic king. Their people have fallen on hard times because of cruel taxes, and Mel has grown up gloriously free of the trappings of court. As she becomes enmeshed in war, she is captured, and her journey from captivity to freedom parallels her coming of age. Mel comes to realize that she has led a very sheltered life and that people are often not what they seem. As she travels the countryside, her world expands; and she discovers the need for the education she had previously scorned. Intrigue, romance, and rousing adventure are all part of the saga.

Sherwood Smith writes good story! Her use of language and imagery and her deft plotting keep the reader glued to the pages. This book is the first of the Crown & Court Duet. Smith’s previous books formed the engaging Wren trilogy. Each book stands alone in its power and satisfactory conclusion, but each makes the reader want more. What more could we want as readers?

The ALAN Review M. Jean Greenlaw
Spring 1998 University of North Texas

Clip and File Reviews of New Hardbacks

Gary M. Salvner, editor

Sleator, Williams
The Beasties

Reviewed by Donald R. Gallo
Solon, Ohio

The Beasties by William Sleator Fantasy/Ecology/Siblings
Dutton, 1997. 198 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-525-45598-1

When fifteen-year-old Doug and his fifth-grade sister Colette explore the forest behind the old cabin their parents have rented in an unnamed wilderness, they discover a trapdoor to an underground tunnel. Below ground they meet a race of fierce but maimed creatures struggling for survival against logging companies that are destroying the forest. To compensate for their sometimes incompletely formed bodies, the "Beasties" surgically remove selected body parts from unwary humans and reattach them to their fellow creatures in crudely constructed operating labs. Becoming sympathetic to the Beasties’ cause, Doug and Colette risk their lives to help them survive. If you don’t mind far-fetched events with a lot of unreasonable occurrences (e.g. these kids stay up all night and never show sign of sleep deprivation the next day), Sleator’s latest novel is a quick and lively read.

The ALAN Review Donald R. Gallo
Spring 1998 Solon, Ohio

Mulford, Philippa G.
The Holly Sisters on Their Own

Reviewed by Tricia Pilcher
English Teacher
Crestview Middle School
Columbiana, Ohio

The Holly Sisters on Their Own by Philippa G. Mulford Sisters/Stepfamilies
Marshall Cavendish, 1998. 158 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-7614-5022-X

Charmaine is used to being an "only"; but, for the summer at least, she must give up some of the attention she gets from her parents to make room for her "stuck-up," older half-sister Cissa. As a sharp-witted New York City dweller, almost-12-year-old Charmaine is expected to entertain the more sophisticated and beautiful, but not so street-wise, Cissa. She also must share her room, her friends, her parents, and even her Granny. But she and Cissa seem so different that it seems as if they will never get along, until Charmaine comes to the realization that Cissa may also have something to share.

The very real problem of sibling rivalry is explored here with the quirky humor that comes from Charmaine’s voice as the narrator. The main conflict between the half sisters is resolved, though some readers may wonder what happened to certain episodes that are brought up and explored for a couple of chapters but then forgotten. Despite these unfinished story-lines, young female adolescents, probably those in grades five through seven, would find something to relate to in Charmaine’s very honest character and in her relationship to Cissa.

The ALAN Review Tricia Pilcher
Spring 1998 Crestview Middle School, Ohio

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody
In the Stone Circle

Reviewed by Gary D. Schmidt
Professor of English
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

In the Stone Circle by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel Ghost Story/Welsh Fiction
Scholastic, 1998. 225 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 0-590-21308-3

In her first novel Elizabeth Cody Kimmel has crafted an atmospheric ghost story set in a sixteenth-century Welsh house. When Cristyn arrives with her father to spend a summer, she finds mysterious stairways, coins appearing out of the air, furniture moved, and the one picture of her deceased mother transported from room to room. Her own close connection with her father is soon mirrored in the close connection of a young twelfth-century girl who has lost a treasured necklace given to her by her own father, a necklace Cristyn must find. This pair of relationships is shown in the obverse by the other family living in the house, whom the father has hurt and abandoned. The resolution of all of these relationships and needs comes with the finding of the necklace and the mutual recognition of the bonds of love. The separate strands of these plots do not always weave together easily. The tense ghostly atmosphere created in the opening half of the novel, for example, is abandoned in the second half. Elements that could be developed, such as the circle of stones, are left hanging as mere icons. Nevertheless, this is a quick read and worth the fine twist at the end as Cristyn discovers the identity of the ghost in the Stone Circle.

The ALAN Review Gary D. Schmidt
Spring 1998 Calvin College

Westwood, Chris
Virtual World

Reviewed by Jim Brewbaker
Chair, Curriculum and Instruction
Columbus State University
Columbus, Georgia

Virtual World by Chris Westwood Science Fiction
Viking, 1996. 217 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 0-670-87546-5

Christ Westwood’s Virtual World is just what the doctor ordered for teenage computer games junkies. In it, Jack, Kyle, and Kate lose their way in Silicon Sphere, a scary virtual reality game so lifelike that it is all but impossible to draw the line between fact and fiction. The brainchild (literally) of evil genius Eddie Matrix, Silicon Sphere, available illegally via the Internet, so intoxicates those who play it that they become unwilling or unable to stop.

Virtual World is set at an unspecified time somewhere between ten and fifty years into the future. Its real world is one where, because of overpopulation, crime, and squandering of resources, the settings of computer simulations are, to some, better than life itself. Though Westwood doesn’t do much with this theme, the fact that his characters are caught in a less liveable time and place provokes thought and discussion.

If one makes the logical leap called for by Virtual World, it is a good read. Westwood’s descriptions of the simulated places of Silicon Sphere are vivid. Though his teen characters are pale by comparison, few young readers will notice. Recommended for ages thirteen and up.

The ALAN Review Jim Brewbaker
Spring 1998 Columbus State University

by TG