ARC: The Palest Ink

A fascinating and informative look at China's Cultural Revolution. #spon | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Summary via NetGalley.com.

Set against the backdrop of Chairman Mao’s tumultuous Chinese Revolution, bestselling author Kay Bratt’s The Palest Ink is a beautifully rendered novel about two best friends from very different walks of life.

A sheltered son from an intellectual family in Shanghai, Benfu spends 1966 anticipating a promising violinist career and an arranged marriage. On the other side of town lives Pony Boy, a member of a lower-class family—but Benfu’s best friend all the same. Their futures look different but guaranteed…until they’re faced with a perilous opportunity to leave a mark on history.

At the announcement of China’s Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao’s Red Guard members begin their assault, leaving innocent victims in their wake as they surge across the country. With political turmoil at their door, both Benfu and Pony Boy must face heart-wrenching decisions regarding family, friendship, courage, and loyalty to their country during one of the most chaotic periods in history.

I have to admit my almost total ignorance about China’s Cultural Revolution before I read this book. I asked my husband when I started reading the book, “What exactly was happening in China in the 60s?” Boy, did I find out.

Benfu is the teenage son of two scholars who expect him to follow in their footsteps, becoming a professor and marrying the girl they have chosen for him. However, Benfu would rather spend his time playing violin and helping his lower-class friend, Pony Boy, support his family. But when Chairman Mao’s revolution begins sweeping the nation, neither of these dreams come to pass. Benfu and Pony Boy are both caught up in the chaos as they both do their best to keep their heads down, watching friends and family be mistreated and sometimes facing extreme circumstances themselves. They are soon presented with the opportunity to speak up about the atrocities being committed in the name of creating a modern China, but this opportunity may cost them–and their families–everything.

I was amazed at how much I learned by reading this book. According to the author, the destruction and crimes committed as part of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution are only now starting to be discussed in China, so I was glad to learn more about this little-known piece of history. Chairman Mao and his followers committed atrocities on the level of Stalin or Hitler, and it was heartbreaking to witness two teenagers as they watched their world fall apart and their families and neighbors turn on each other. As a lover of history, it was also horrifying to read about how much of China’s rich historical and cultural artifacts were destroyed for being too “bourgeoise” during this period.

Benfu and Pony Boy are both interesting characters, and I enjoyed following their very different journeys and decisions. I found the book slow at the start, but once the action really began, I couldn’t put the book down. Highly recommended for teenagers or adults who are fans of historical fiction and want to learn more about this chaotic period of China’s history.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Book Tour: Goodbye Tootsie


New Release….
Mystery and Romance in 1920s Manhattan…
A homicide detective and a tabloid reporter are on the road to romance but at cross-purposes at work when they investigate the New Year’s Eve murder of a young heiress after she comes into control of a family fortune.

New York City, 1925

It’s after midnight on New Year’s Day, and the richest girl in America has just fallen to her death from the top floor of the posh Cleveland Hotel in Manhattan.

When Detective Sean Costigan arrives at the scene, he learns it’s the day after Abigail Welles’s twenty-first birthday—the day she inherited a family fortune. It’s not the kind of coincidence that warms a detective’s heart. Neither is the fact that she wasn’t alone when she fell. Her new husband, Long Island party boy Nick Welles, lies incoherent in the master bedroom.

Sean’s girl, tabloid reporter Trixie Frank, is the first newshound on the scene. It’s a bigger scoop than she dreamed. The young heiress’s death will make national headlines. More importantly, this story hits close to home. And heart. The victim’s husband is Trixie’s ex-fiancé.

When Sean focuses on Nick as his prime suspect, Trixie is certain he’s dead wrong. But will saving her first love from the hot seat prove fatal to her new romance?

GOODBYE TOOTSIE is a stand-alone romantic mystery sequel to IT HAD TO BE YOU. It’s a complete mystery that can be read alone, after the first book, or before the first book. It contains romantic elements, which means it may include love scenes (sensual but not graphic).

Available to buy from…

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of both mysteries and historical fiction, so Goodbye Tootsie sounded like the perfect book for me. Set in the opulent 1920s, tabloid reporter Trixie and her romantic interest, police detective Sean Costigan, both set their sights on unraveling the mysterious death of a young heiress. As they continue their investigations, the pair uncovers family secrets and dark pasts that may relate to the heiress’s death.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The setting is awesome–just turn on some jazz and you’ll be transported back to the Roaring Twenties. Trixie was very enjoyable as a character, and I found myself wanting to know more about her. (I found out later that this is the second book in the series, and you can in fact learn more about Trixie’s background in the first book–details below!) I didn’t enjoy Sean’s character as much, though, since he often seemed to belittle Trixie’s chosen career and even her family background. Still, I enjoyed the two as a couple; just be forewarned about a couple of mildly explicit romance/sex scenes, if you’re not into that sort of thing.

The mystery itself is also interesting and enjoyable. It’s full of juicy secrets and lots of suspects–including one suspect whom Trixie is closer to than Sean expected. But all of that pales in comparison (at least for me) to the setting. Late nights filled with dancing and drinking, grand mansions, gorgeous dresses and jewelry… This book lets you slip into another time and immerse yourself in that world.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Also Available…
It Had To Be You

New York City, 1924

Determined to pursue her dream of becoming a crime reporter, heiress Trixie Frank believes she’s off to a running start when she lands a job at the most successful tabloid in Manhattan. Unfortunately, her high hopes fade fast when she’s assigned to the rewrite desk.

Sean Costigan is a demoted homicide detective on the commissioner’s blacklist. The last thing he needs complicating his life is a perky debutante with delusions of becoming the next great American journalist. Too bad she happens to hold one of the keys to solving his latest case, the Central Park murder of a notorious gangster. The other key?

Sean’s childhood sweetheart, the victim’s widow, who has gone missing.

Sean soon has more trouble with dames than any good man deserves. But that’s the least of his worries. When he suspects deadly corruption within his own department, it’s not just his and Trixie’s careers that depend on finding the killer. It’s their lives.

It Had to Be You, a finalist for the 2014 NJRW Golden Leaf Award

 

Available to buy from…
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk   Barnes and Noble   iBooks   Kobo   GPlay

About the Author

Delynn Royer is the older, smarter, funnier, more ornery alter ego of author Donna Grove, who, as a young mother, published several lighthearted historical romances. The first, A TOUCH OF CAMELOT, won a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Soon after that, Delynn set aside her pen to concentrate on her day job and raising her two sons.

Motherhood never ends, but kids eventually fly the nest. Delynn has returned to her first love, writing. She has updated editions of her backlist to be available as ebooks and is working on new titles that she hopes will entertain and lighten readers’ hearts.

Delynn’s latest ebook release is GOODBYE, TOOTSIE, the sequel to IT HAD TO BE YOU, a romantic mystery set in 1920s Manhattan.

Aside from delving into the historical research that inspires her novels, Delynn enjoys classic movies, reading, travel and yoga. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Find the author on the following sites…


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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

 

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All the Light We Cannot See

A beautifully written account of WWII France and two teenagers who find themselves on opposite sides. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This is another award-winning book that I’ve heard nothing but good things about. And since I have a soft spot for WWII fiction (see here, here, here, and here), I knew I had to pick it up. All the Light We Cannot See focuses on two teenagers: One is a blind French girl whose father helps her flee to a small town by the sea when the Nazis invade Paris; the other is a German boy with a proclivity towards mechanics, which leads the Nazis to give him special responsibilities. The pair is linked, though they don’t know it at first.

As the story switches between Marie-Laure and Werner, and occasionally giving us a peek into the Nazi search for one of the most valuable jewels in Europe, we see the two children grow. The contrast between Marie-Laure, blind but not helpless, desperate to reach her shell-shocked uncle and do something for the war effort, and Werner, a young and impressionable German boy who sees the brutality of the Nazi regime but feels helpless to stop it, is fascinating. It’s heartbreaking to watch an intelligent, kind boy become subsumed by the horrific culture around him, but watching Marie-Laure go from afraid and lonely to strong in her own right is uplifting.

The prose, of course, is beautiful. I don’t typically read books just for the quality of the writing, and fortunately this book has the plot and characters to back it up, but there were sentences in this book that required me to stop and re-read them just to absorb their beauty. This book won’t leave you sobbing like Code Name Verity; it’s a quieter, more introspective glimpse into the lives of two very different teenagers caught up in the midst of a destructive war.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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ARC: The Flying Circus

The Flying Circus captures the fun and the wonder--and the danger--of early air travel. #spon | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the rapidly changing world of 1920s America, this is a story of three people from very different backgrounds: Henry “Schuler” Jefferson, son of German immigrants from Midwestern farm country; Cora Rose Haviland, a young woman of privilege whose family has lost their fortune; and Charles “Gil” Gilchrist, an emotionally damaged WWI veteran pilot. Set adrift by life-altering circumstances, they find themselves bound together by need and torn apart by blind obsessions and conflicting goals. Each one holds a secret that, if exposed, would destroy their friendship. But their journey of adventure and self-discovery has a price—and one of them won’t be able to survive it. (Summary via Amazon.com)

I enjoyed a lot of things about this book, and I disliked many others, but I’m having a hard time articulating exactly what those things were. To hopefully alleviate this terrible lack of words that make sense, this review will take on bulletpoint form. Onward!

  • The setting, first of all, was pretty great. I love to read about cool things I’ll probably never see in person, like flying circuses, and read about people who do those things that I’ll probably never do. Barnstorming is awesome, and I so wish I could have seen a wingwalker perform! [Update: after a quick YouTube search, I found some awesome vintage clips of barnstormers doing their thing! You can see it here.]
  • However, the characters themselves were a bit stereotypical. Henry is a young man running from his past (a murder that was pinned on him and a town that rejected his entire German family during WWI) who has difficulty believing women are useful for something other than being protected. Cora is a young daredevil woman running from an arranged marriage, longing for something more in a time when women were expected to stay home and raise babies. Gil is scarred from his part in World War One, and he lives an itinerant lifestyle, only finding joy in the air. Of course, these stereotypes are stereotypes because they work, but I wish the characters had been given a bit more depth.
  • The plot had a lot of interesting interwoven pieces for each character. Will Henry ever be cleared of the murder charge he is running from? Will Cora’s family accept her decision to become a barnstormer? What happened to Gil during the war that scarred him so much? Can these three damaged and rootless people get along well enough to make the money they need to survive?
  • On the other hand, with so many plot threads, some are inevitably dropped. Cora’s story, for one, I felt was not done justice to.

If you’re into historical fiction about lesser-known American phenomena (I certainly am), you’ll probably enjoy The Flying Circus. Just be forewarned of the weaknesses of this book.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

ARC: Serafina and the Black Cloak

This historical fiction mystery is dark and interesting, but it needs more meat. #spon | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (Summary via NetGalley.com)

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, but she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. She has learned to sneak and hide.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must not only face her darkest enemy, she must delve into the mystery of her own identity.

This historical fiction mystery was fun and dark, but I wanted more content. I loved the setting at the Biltmore, and I wish the author had done more with that setting. I also wanted more of Serafina’s pa (how did he feel raising Serafina in the basement of a fancy house? What were some of his struggles?), the young master Braeden (what was his life like moving into the Biltmore?), and the Vanderbilts themselves.

So, short review even shorter, although Serafina is an interesting character–she’s good at catching rats, climbing, and seeing in the dark, and she loves to sneak around the Biltmore at night–there was not enough meat on this mystery. Disney is creating a whole line of similar mysteries and fairy tale retellings, so I’m interested to see if I enjoy those better.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Joint Review: Navigating Early and The Mostly True Adventures

In this review, my sister and I compare two stories of a boy's journey to find his brother, despite the difficulties of war. | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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In this review, my sister Melanie and I will be reviewing two different middle grade books that both focus on quests, brothers, and war. (You can see my sister’s earlier posts here and here.)

Navigating Early (Melanie’s review)

Alone in a new school, mourning the recent death of his mother, Jackie does what any young protagonist would do: he accidentally befriends the school loner, Early. Jackie soon discovers that Early is more than a loner, he is a synesthete who sees a story in the infinite numbers of Pi.

Jackie does not intend to join Early’s fall break quest, but when his father lets him down, he impulsively finds Early and joins him. Early is searching for his older brother, Fisher, obstinately refusing to believe the official reports of his heroic death in a battle in World War II. He associates his story of Pi with Fisher, and believes that if he follows the steps of Pi’s journey, it will lead him to his brother. Early holds on to his belief that his brother is alive with all the tenacity of someone whose world will fall apart if he lets go. He never wavers from his purpose, never doubts that he will succeed in finding his brother and bringing him home (forget the implausibility of finding anyone on the Appalachian Trail, let alone someone who died in Paris). Jackie is understandably skeptical of Early’s tenacious, desperate optimism in the face of the facts (and is unkind and often patronizing to Early for almost the entire book), yet he gets caught up in Early’s story as their journey begins to take on strange similarities to the mythological story of Pi.

Unusually for historical fiction, WWII is almost an afterthought in this book, a setting more than a theme. Because of their young ages, Jackie and Early are affected by the war only through their father and brother, respectively. Rather than focusing on the war, the book emphasizes the tension between military and civilian life, as Jackie and his father struggle to relate to each other, and how difficult it is for a soldier to come back home.

To me, the most fascinating part of this book is how Jackie and Early’s journey parallels the mythological story of Pi. The line between reality and fiction blurs as what happens to Jackie and Early grows more and more similar to the tale of Pi. It starts off a little slow, but by the end I was just as caught up in the story as Jackie was. The ending is extremely satisfying, bringing closure without being unrealistically happy.

(Note from Monica: This book was written by Newbery-winning author Clare Vanderpool, and though I haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend her Newbery book, Moon Over Manifest.)

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (Monica’s review)

In this Newbery Honor-winning page-turner, twelve-year-old orphan Homer runs away from Pine Swamp, Maine, to find his older brother, Harold, who has been sold into the Union Army. With laugh-aloud humor, Homer outwits and outruns a colorful assortment of civil War-era thieves, scallywags, and spies as he makes his way south, following clues that finally lead him to Gettysburg. Even through a hail of gunfire, Homer never loses heart–but will he find his brother? Or will it be too late? (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book was much funnier than the one my sister read. In it, Homer traverses the country in search of his older brother, who was forced into the army to fight in the Civil War. He meets some colorful characters, from the owner of a medicine show to a kind but eccentric Quaker man. All the while, Homer relies on his ability to tell convincing falsehoods in order to keep one step ahead of everyone around him–crooks, authorities, and well-meaning adults alike.

Homer’s devotion to his brother, his only living relative, was touching without being sappy. When Harold is taken away, Homer springs into action without a second thought–even though a second thought probably would have told him it was stupid to go charging into the bloody battlefields of the Civil War without any clue of where his brother had been taken. Homer’s ability to outwit the adults around him was pretty hilarious, and with all the bumbling grownups wandering around this story, you can hardly blame him for not trusting any of them to help him.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Though both of these stories contain a journey to find a brother lost in the midst of a terrible war, Navigating Early is definitely much more serious than the madcap adventures of Homer P. Figg. Both would be worth a look if you’re interested in sibling bonds and long journeys.

Mini Review (ARC): The Story of Land and Sea

Land and sea are explored in this novel about parents and their children, faith, grief, and death. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received this ARC from my mom, who got it at a charity auction. Not sure if that requires notification, but just in case!

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery. (Summary via Amazon.com)

 

This book is beautifully written, and the comparisons just get deeper and richer as you go.  The women–Helen, Tab, and Asa’s wife–are mostly seen in memories from the past.  The only actively living female character is a slave named Moll, who formed an uneasy friendship with Helen as a child and who desperately clings to her oldest child, Davy.

The men–Asa and John–are compared and contrasted throughout the book.  Asa represents land, and how saddened he was that the home he worked so hard to create was never able to be passed down through the generations.  Meanwhile, John represents the sea, and how he has difficulty settling down (both literally and figuratively).  The men grieve and face death in very different ways, and the author describes both without making the reader choose a side.  The book also compares love and loss, wives and husbands, fathers and daughters, faith and doubt.

If I were an English major, I’m sure I’d have a ball dissecting this book.  As it is, though, I still really enjoyed it.  The writing is beautiful and really portrays land and sea in its exploration of the two men and the women who left them too early.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

ARC: September Sky

This time travel novel by John Heldt doesn't quite hold up to The Mine, but it's definitely enjoyable. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When unemployed San Francisco reporter Chuck Townsend and his college-dropout son, Justin, take a cruise to Mexico in 2016, each hopes to rebuild a relationship after years of estrangement. But they find more than common ground aboard the ship. They meet a mysterious lecturer who touts the possibilities of time travel. Within days, Chuck and Justin find themselves in 1900, riding a train to Texas, intent on preventing a distant uncle from being hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their quick trip to Galveston, however, becomes long and complicated when they wrangle with business rivals and fall for two beautiful librarians on the eve of a hurricane that will destroy the city. Filled with humor, history, romance, and heartbreak, SEPTEMBER SKY follows two directionless souls on the adventure of a lifetime as they try to make peace with the past, find new purpose, and grapple with the knowledge of things to come. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book is another time travel novel by John Heldt (author of The Mine, which I really enjoyed).  It follows Chuck and his son, Justin, who have been newly reunited after years of very little contact.  I found the set up is a bit poorly put together.  Whereas in The Mine time travel takes place because of the alignment of the stars and the main character’s entry into a mine at just the right moment, time travel in this novel takes place because of a stone passageway and white and blue crystals and a professor who sends Chuck and Justin into the past for no real reason.

Fortunately, after a rough beginning, the story picks up.  Justin and Chuck time travel back to Galveston in 1900, just before the big hurricane.  Chuck and Justin make their way there to solve a murder and save a good family friend from being executed wrongly for it.  While there, they struggle with how much of their future knowledge to share in order to save their new friends from the hurricane–and each man also struggles with a growing love for a certain lady in the town.

I have to say, when the storm finally hits, it is so exciting!  It’s just the opposite of the beginning–I couldn’t stop reading, and I found myself truly concerned for each of the characters.  The romances were sweet, if a little rushed (Chuck and Justin are only there for a few short months).

The ending made me cringe a little, but that’s just personal preference (I’d tell you why, but spoilers).  It looks like this is set to be the first in a series, and I definitely wouldn’t mind reading more from this series.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

P.S.  Looking for more time travel books?  I’ve got you covered: To Say Nothing of the Dog, Time Switch, Pool of Echoes.

Newbery: Good Masters, Sweet Ladies!

A realistic look at medieval life, as seen through the eyes of young people of the time. | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Maidens, monks, and millers’ sons — in these pages, readers will meet them all. There’s Hugo, the lord’s nephew, forced to prove his manhood by hunting a wild boar; sharp-tongued Nelly, who supports her family by selling live eels; and the peasant’s daughter, Mogg, who gets a clever lesson in how to save a cow from a greedy landlord. There’s also mud-slinging Barbary (and her noble victim); Jack, the compassionate half-wit; Alice, the singing shepherdess; and many more. With a deep appreciation for the period and a grand affection for both characters and audience, Laura Amy Schlitz creates twenty-two riveting portraits and linguistic gems equally suited to silent reading or performance. Illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings by Robert Byrd — inspired by the Munich-Nuremberg manuscript, an illuminated poem from thirteenth-century Germany — this witty, historically accurate, and utterly human collection forms an exquisite bridge to the people and places of medieval England. (Summary via Amazon)

This book was so neat!  Written for classroom use, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! consists of vignettes of young people in a medieval village.  Many of them are poems, and a few are written for two people.  All are made to be read aloud by young students, and they are perfect for that.

For anyone who wants to know what the daily life of the rich and poor in medieval times, this is the perfect book.  And the illustrations are a perfect fit!

A realistic look at medieval life, as seen through the eyes of young people of the time. | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Definitely check out Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  It’s not sweet.  It’s realistic without being painful; it’s educational while still being fun.  And it’s great for kids with a dramatic side, since they can read it aloud, alone or in pairs.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Mini Newbery Review: The Great Quest

Despite a Treasure Island-esque story and interesting characters, this 1922 Newbery book is marred by racist ideas. | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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The story opens in fictional Topham, Massachusetts, in 1826. After con man Cornelius “Neal” Gleazen unexpectedly returns to town, he involves boyhood friend Seth Woods and Seth’s nephew, twenty-year-old protagonist Josiah “Joe” Woods, in a dangerous sea journey to retrieve a hidden treasure. Accompanying them are Seth’s two store-clerks, Arnold Lamont and Sim Muzzy, and farmer Abraham Guptil, on whose mortgage Neal forced Seth to foreclose in order to raise money to outfit the expedition.

When the travellers reach Cuba it is revealed that there is no hidden treasure, and that Neal’s actual intent is to kidnap native Africans from to Guinea sell as slaves. However, it is not until they reach Africa that Joe, Seth, and the others find an opportunity to take control of the expedition from Neal. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

The Great Quest is a Newbery honor book from 1922, the very first year the award was given. I just finished reading it, and I had mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, the story is great. It’s entertaining, dramatic, almost Treasure Island-esque. Joe, the main character, is a young man who finds himself swept up in an adventure with some unsavory characters and a couple of good friends on his side. They go through battles, shipwrecks, illness, and many other trials, all in search of treasure that may or may not materialize.

On the other hand… This book is pretty old, and, I have to say—it’s pretty racist. Although the main character and his friends abhor slavery and are horrified that the aforementioned unsavory characters are slavers, there are plenty of patronizing views of black people, especially the Africans they fight against when they land on the coast of Africa. At first I thought I could ignore the racism, as I have to do in many older books that I read, but since a large portion of the book takes place in Africa, it’s pretty unavoidable.

Because of this, I can’t fully recommend this book, despite its entertaining story and interesting characters. Proceed with caution if you’re interested, and don’t give this book to young children.

Rating: Skip This One

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