Fascinating and riveting, especially for history buffs and spy aficionados.

FACELESS

Spying for the British in the final years of World War II, 13-year-old English girl Alice Winfield embarks on a dangerous mission to Berlin.

Involved in British spying for centuries, the Winfields are Rasas, or agents with perfectly proportioned, forgettable faces, ideal for espionage. Alice’s mother is a veteran Rasa spy for MI6, her father’s an operative stationed in Berlin, and her 19-year-old sister, Louise, has been trusted with complex missions. When Louise suddenly resigns and has plastic surgery to alter her face, Alice feels lost. Parachuting into Germany with her mother to join her father in Berlin on her first top-level mission, Alice poses as a schoolgirl. Winning a coveted Reich Praktikum, or student internship, in Hitler’s household, she goes everywhere the Führer goes, observing and reporting back about his mental state as part of an assassination plot. With the Allies approaching, clever Alice tries to fulfill her mission, secretly help a homeless Jewish boy, uncover the mystery of Louise’s sudden appearance in Germany, and remain inconspicuous while surrounded by enemies. Alice’s behind-the-scenes position within the epicenter of Nazi power during the final days of the war provides an intriguing perspective on Nazi luminaries, 1940s German student life, wartime deprivations in Berlin, Nazi xenophobia and racial theory, and the excitement and danger of being a wartime spy. Repeated themes of identity and references to Wagner’s Ring cycle prove effective. Characters read as White.

Fascinating and riveting, especially for history buffs and spy aficionados. (historical notes) (Historical fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-269331-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this...

HOLES

Sentenced to a brutal juvenile detention camp for a crime he didn't commit, a wimpy teenager turns four generations of bad family luck around in this sunburnt tale of courage, obsession, and buried treasure from Sachar (Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, 1995, etc.).

Driven mad by the murder of her black beau, a schoolteacher turns on the once-friendly, verdant town of Green Lake, Texas, becomes feared bandit Kissin' Kate Barlow, and dies, laughing, without revealing where she buried her stash. A century of rainless years later, lake and town are memories—but, with the involuntary help of gangs of juvenile offenders, the last descendant of the last residents is still digging. Enter Stanley Yelnats IV, great-grandson of one of Kissin' Kate's victims and the latest to fall to the family curse of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; under the direction of The Warden, a woman with rattlesnake venom polish on her long nails, Stanley and each of his fellow inmates dig a hole a day in the rock-hard lake bed. Weeks of punishing labor later, Stanley digs up a clue, but is canny enough to conceal the information of which hole it came from. Through flashbacks, Sachar weaves a complex net of hidden relationships and well-timed revelations as he puts his slightly larger-than-life characters under a sun so punishing that readers will be reaching for water bottles.

Good Guys and Bad get just deserts in the end, and Stanley gets plenty of opportunities to display pluck and valor in this rugged, engrossing adventure. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 978-0-374-33265-5

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath.

NORTHWIND

A solitary young traveler paddles through an archipelago of natural, often dangerous, wonders, learning as he goes.

Though the metaphorical layer lies barely beneath the surface in this short novel, Paulsen’s spare prose and legendary knowledge of the challenges and techniques of wilderness survival make the journey through a landscape that evokes historical Scandinavia compelling reading. Sole survivor—and that just barely—of the gruesomely depicted cholera that sweeps through his camp, 12-year-old Leif comes away with a dugout canoe, a few basic outdoor skills, and the command from a dying, respected elder to head north. Subsisting largely on blackberries and salmon, he travels a winding route through fjords and a seemingly endless string of islets and inlets where he finds both danger and delight in searching for food and shelter, literally coming face to face with bears and whales, struggling to survive a deadly tidal whirlpool, and coming to understand the importance of seeing and learning from the ways and rhythms of “this place and all places that will come to me.” Calling on memories, Paulsen writes in an autobiographical afterword of his Norwegian immigrant grandmother’s tales. References to Odin and whalers give the setting a timelessly folkloric feeling. Final art not seen.

A voyage both singular and universal, marked by sharply felt risks and rewards and deep waters beneath. (Historical adventure. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-31420-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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