SATURNALIA

Fleischman, 1989 Newbery poetry winner, returns with historical fiction about masters and servants in 17th-century Boston. Kindly Mr. Currie, a printer, celebrates the winter solstice with an innocent day of role reversal: he and his wife serve their apprentices and their six children a feast; in the tradition of the ancient Saturnalia, wine flows and merriment prevails. But for many of their neighbors, the darker side of the season, resonant with the bitter legacy of King Philip's War six years earlier, is paramount. In carefully composed vignettes, Fleischman portrays the denizens of the night—a woodcarver who links his daughter's death to a haunting memory of massacring Indians; Stalking Rudd, a vicious eyeglass-maker, the terror of his apprentices; a mysterious lurker in the shadows; the night-watch. By contrast, a buffoon of a wigmaker and his conniving servant play their slapstick roles by day. In both worlds is William, Currie's Indian apprentice, who ranges abroad at night seeking the family from which he was brutally separated by the war; who is the obvious scapegoat when Rudd comes to a mysterious violent end; and who finally draws together the story's disparate strands in a choice he makes. Like Leon Garfield, Fleischman brings the past to life with pungent descriptions, incisive portraits, and robust humor. He observes his dark drama with a compassionate modern conscience and relates it with a storyteller's sense of audience and a poet's precision. A fine achievement.

Pub Date: April 10, 1990

ISBN: 006447089X

Page Count: 132

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS

A monster spreads madness through the streets of Shanghai.

It is the autumn of 1926, and Shanghai is poised at the brink of transformation. Foreign powers have carved out portions of the city for themselves; what remains is divided between two feuding gangs, the Chinese Scarlet Gang and the Russian White Flowers. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai has returned home from New York City, wreathed in a reputation for ruthlessness and ready to step into her role as heir to the Scarlet Gang. Four years ago, a betrayal by the White Flowers heir, Roma Montagov, a young man of 19, led to the deaths of countless Scarlets, and Juliette is determined to avenge her gang. But when a lethal contagion strikes the city, targeting Scarlets and White Flowers alike, Juliette and Roma grudgingly agree to cooperate on an investigation in order to save their city. The slow-burning romance in this book takes a back seat to the gripping mystery grounded in immersive historical detail. Allusions to Romeo and Juliet are evident in names and specific scenes, but familiar themes of family, loyalty, and identity bear new significance in Gong’s inventive adaptation. Language is a tool wielded deftly by the multilingual characters, who switch easily among English, French, Shanghainese, Russian, and more, with Mandarin as the primary dialect for Chinese phrases. A strong supporting cast that includes a trans girl completes this striking debut.

A must-read with a conclusion that will leave readers craving more. (Historical fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5769-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers...

NEVER FALL DOWN

A harrowing tale of survival in the Killing Fields.

The childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond has been captured for young readers before, in Michelle Lord and Shino Arihara's picture book, A Song for Cambodia (2008). McCormick, known for issue-oriented realism, offers a fictionalized retelling of Chorn-Pond's youth for older readers. McCormick's version begins when the Khmer Rouge marches into 11-year-old Arn's Cambodian neighborhood and forces everyone into the country. Arn doesn't understand what the Khmer Rouge stands for; he only knows that over the next several years he and the other children shrink away on a handful of rice a day, while the corpses of adults pile ever higher in the mango grove. Arn does what he must to survive—and, wherever possible, to protect a small pocket of children and adults around him. Arn's chilling history pulls no punches, trusting its readers to cope with the reality of children forced to participate in murder, torture, sexual exploitation and genocide. This gut-wrenching tale is marred only by the author's choice to use broken English for both dialogue and description. Chorn-Pond, in real life, has spoken eloquently (and fluently) on the influence he's gained by learning English; this prose diminishes both his struggle and his story.

Though it lacks references or suggestions for further reading, Arn's agonizing story is compelling enough that many readers will seek out the history themselves. (preface, author's note) (Historical fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: May 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-173093-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more