THE RIFLE

Once again Paulsen (The Tent, p. 474) proves that less is more in a short but extremely powerful cautionary tale. Four sections limn the elements of the story: the creation of the gun and its path through history, the life of a boy, the moment when the boy and the gun are "joined," and the rifle's fate after that event. This is Hitchcock's bomb under the bed: The suspense is nearly killing, yet from the 1768 scenes of the crafting of this "sweet" rifle, Paulsen forges descriptions to rival any he has written, and readers—on any side of the gun-control issue—must linger over each phrase. Gunsmith Cornish McManus's rifle shoots farther and truer, maybe, than any firearm ever created. The rifle's next owner, woodsman John Byam, depends on the gun for his livelihood; his skill picking off British officers during the Revolution becomes legendary. Upon his death the rifle falls into the hands of a woman who hides it in her attic, where it lies undetected for more than two centuries. In 1993 it is discovered and changes hands several times before finding a place over the fireplace in the home of Harv Kline, a decent man. When Harv and his wife light the decorative candles on their mantel for Christmas Eve, the stage is set for a horrifying sequence of events that results in the death of a neighbor's 14-year-old son. Paulsen is at the peak of his powers in a book that is as shattering as the awful events it depicts. Unforgettable. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-15-292880-4

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1995

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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