DANCING AT THE ODINOCHKA

One hundred and fifty years ago, Alaska belonged to Russia and was called Russian America. The Russian American Company ran trading posts called odinochkas, trading tobacco and tea for furs to send back to Russia. A young girl named Erinia Pavaloff lives at just such an isolated trading post. A Creole—a native person with a Russian father or grandfather—Erinia likes the life she lives, despite its isolation and the ongoing conflicts among natives and Russians. She likes the place and the characters in her life, and she wants things to stay the same. However, things do change when the U.S. purchases Russian America and residents of Erinia’s community become American Alaskans. Based on a memoir of Hill’s ancestor, the narrative tells the story of a little-known time and place. Admirable research and attention to historical detail yield a densely written work with a slow pace but a wonderful recreation of this part of the world, one of the few such resources for young readers. However, the author’s works for a bit younger audience, such as The Year of Miss Agnes (2000), are more compelling reading. (maps, author’s note, bibliography) (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: July 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-87388-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2005

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THE TEQUILA WORM

Sofia, growing up in an urban Latino neighborhood in McAllen, Texas, has a chance to attend an expensive boarding school in Austin on scholarship. Like her father, Sofia lives the life of the mind, rich with story and possibility. How can she convince her mother to let her take this opportunity? By learning to dance and showing her that she can leave home and still learn to become a good comadre. Canales, the author of the story collection Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales (2001), is a graduate of Harvard Law School, suggesting that Sofia’s story at least closely parallels her own. She is an accomplished storyteller, though not yet, perhaps, a successful novelist. The episodic narrative has disconcerting leaps in time at the beginning, and a sense of completion, or a moral displayed, at several points throughout—all lacking the tension to carry the reader forward. This said, the characters and setting are so real to life that readers who connect with Sofia at the start will find many riches here, from a perspective that is still hard to find in youth literature. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-74674-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN

It’s 1949, and 13-year-old Francine Green lives in “the land of ‘Sit down, Francine’ and ‘Be quiet, Francine’ ” at All Saints School for Girls in Los Angeles. When she meets Sophie Bowman and her father, she’s encouraged to think about issues in the news: the atomic bomb, peace, communism and blacklisting. This is not a story about the McCarthy era so much as one about how one girl—who has been trained to be quiet and obedient by her school, family, church and culture—learns to speak up for herself. Cushman offers a fine sense of the times with such cultural references as President Truman, Hopalong Cassidy, Montgomery Clift, Lucky Strike, “duck and cover” and the Iron Curtain. The dialogue is sharp, carrying a good part of this story of friends and foes, guilt and courage—a story that ought to send readers off to find out more about McCarthy, his witch-hunt and the First Amendment. Though not a happily-ever-after tale, it dramatizes how one person can stand up to unfairness, be it in front of Senate hearings or in the classroom. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-50455-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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