For readers who can swallow the notion that a 12-year-old newly orphaned girl from a wealthy, sheltered upbringing would run away to become a hobo, this is a gratifying adventure from DeFelice (The Ghost of Fossil Glen, 1998, etc.). A year after the Great Crash, Frankie’s widower father has lost everything and commits suicide. The girl is to go to live with her aunt in Chicago, but Frankie cashes in the train ticket, disguises herself as a boy, and hops a freight to freedom. Luckily, she meets a boy who knows the ropes; Stewpot, as he’s called, with a cough to foreshadow his eventual demise, has been riding the rails for a long time. Frankie soon realizes how hard life is, for they are always cold, hungry, or both; train-hopping is dangerous and illegal. They persevere until Stewpot becomes too ill to travel; with the little money she has, Frankie attempts to get medical help, but no doctor will go out of his way for a hobo. When Stewpot dies, Frankie understands that her real life is with her aunt in Chicago. DeFelice gets the details of the period right, with especially well-realized scenes of what it means to be a hobo, even though much of this is just one more girl-disguised-as-a-boy story. Those seeking out tales on unfamiliar aspects of the Depression—or a different kind of survival story—will find it engaging. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-35552-5

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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The author and illustrator bring to life an incident right out of history in this droll picture book enhanced by lively, color- washed pen-and-ink drawings. In Cheshire, Massachusetts, the home of mouth-watering cheese, the local residents grumble that President Jefferson is serving cheese from Norton, Connecticut, at the White House. “I have an idea,” says Elder John Leland to the assembled town folk, “If each of you will give one day’s milking from each of your many cows, we can put our curds together and create a whopping big cheddar.” Although some people scoff, the farmers bring load after load of milk—from 934 cows—to town and they set about making an enormous cheese. There are problems along the way, but eventually the giant cheese is dragged to a barn to age. At last it is perfect, and Mr. Leland and friends start the long haul to the East Room of White House. In a foreword, the author explains the truth and fiction in the tale, e.g., that the presidential residence wasn’t called the White House until about 1809. A humorous tale with a wide range of appeal and uses in and out of the classroom. (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7894-2573-4

Page Count: 30

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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From Dodds (The Shape of Things, 1994, not reviewed, etc.), a rhyming, reckless text that makes a math process pleasurably solvable; Mitchell’s illustrative debut features a smashing cast of 1930s characters and a playfulness that will keep readers guessing. The premise is a Great Race: at the sound of the gun, 80 bicycle racers take off at top speed. The path diverges at the top of a cliff, and half the racers hurtle forever downward and right out of the race and the book. The remaining 40 racers determinedly continue in boats, their curls, spyglasses, eye patches, matronly upswept hairdos, and Clara Bow—lips intact. Whirlpools erupt to divide them again and wreck their ships, so it’s time to grab the next horse and ride on. The race continues, despite abrupt changes in modes of transportation and in the number of racers that dwindle by disastrous divisions, until a single winner glides over the finish line in a single-prop plane. The pace is so breathless and engaging that the book’s didactic origins all but disappear; few readers will notice that they’ve just finished a math problem, and most will want to go over all the action again. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7636-0442-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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