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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An inspirational read.

THE LIGHT IN HIDDEN PLACES

A true story of faith, love, and heroism.

Stefania “Fusia” Podgórska longed for nothing more than to leave the rural Polish farm she was born on for the city of Przemyśl where her older sisters lived. At the age of 12, she did just that, finding a job with the Diamants, a family of Jewish shopkeepers who welcomed her into their lives. For three years they lived peacefully until the Germans dropped bombs on Przemyśl. The family struggled on as the war and anti-Semitism ramped up, but eventually, the Diamants were forced into a ghetto. Then 17, Catholic Fusia was determined to help them survive, even at the risk of her own safety, while also caring for her 6-year-old sister, Helena, after their family was taken by the Nazis for forced labor. Knowing the risks involved, Fusia made a bold decision to harbor Jews. As the number of people she sheltered increased, so did her panic about being caught, but she was determined to do what was right. Cameron (The Knowing, 2017, etc.) used Stefania’s unpublished memoir as well as interviews with family members as source material. She deftly details Fusia’s brave actions and includes moving family photographs in the author’s note. Narrated in the first person, the story highlights essential events in Fusia’s life while maintaining a consistent pace. Readers will be pulled in by the compelling opening and stay for the emotional journey.

An inspirational read. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35593-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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