Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

ImageThe Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Jack Hughes and Terrence Mullen are low level crooks in the late nineteenth century who make their living pushing counterfeit money a.k.a. “coney.”  With the capture of their engraver, Hughes and Mullen devise a crazy scheme to raid Abraham Lincoln’s grave and hold his remains for ransom.  On their trail is Secret Service Agent Patrick Tyrell, who plants a ‘roper’ or turncoat in their midst to keep an eye on the grave robbing gang.  The action climaxes at Lincoln’s tomb one night when Hughes and Mullen attempt to pull off their heist.

My Take:  Sheinkin successfully bottles lightning in a jar again.  In Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, he recreates the fast pace and interesting narrative of his previous book “Bomb” (please see my review of that book here).  I would recommend this book to any teenager interested in a little known episode of history.  This book will hold their interest.

One Interesting Note About the Author:   When he was doing research for this book, the curators of the Lincoln Monument showed Steve around the grounds and let him see places that most tourists never get to see– “like the old dirt floor labyrinth under the monument where Tyrell waited, gun in hand, for the robbery to begin.”

Duke by Kirby Larson

ImageThe Plot In Five Sentences or Less:  Hobie Hanson is a 5th grader in Seattle, Washington during World War II.  His father is away fighting the Germans, so Hobie spends most of his time with his friends and his German Shepherd Duke.  Life is not easy without his dad around, and only becomes harder when Mitch Mitchell, the school bully, sets his eyes on him and challenges him to give up Duke for the Dogs for Defense Program.  Much to Mitch’s surprise, Hobie rises to the challenge and soon Duke is part of the war effort and on his way to the Pacific.  Hobbie finds that he now must adjust to life both without his dad and his dog.

My Take:  I found this to be a very straight forward book about a boy’s experience and sacrifice on the home front during World War II.  My one criticism would be that Larson could have risked introducing more strangeness into the story.  There was a lot of baseball and paper routes, what one might consider stock 1950’s Americana.  Still, for those looking for a good read about the connection between and boy and his dog, this is a good pick.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, Kirby was born at Fort Lawton Army Hospital in Seattle, Washington. She cost $5.

Brotherhood by A.B. Westrick

ImageThe Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Shad is a young man living with his older brother Jeremiah and their mother on the outside of Richmond, Virginia in the years just after the Civil War.  Their father has died during the conflict and the family is trying to adjust to a post-war reality where Yankee soldiers roam the streets and carpetbaggers and free blacks compete for jobs.   Shad, longing for security and fellowship,  soon follows Jeremiah and joins up with the KKK.  This allegiance is tested, however, when he begins taking classes at Ms. Perkinson’s, a transplanted Yankee that runs a negro school.  When Jeremiah and the rest of the clan begin to threaten the Perkinson’s, Shad must decide where his true obligations lie.

My Take:  As a native Richmonder, I very much enjoyed this book.  As I read about the characters wandering down, say, Broad Street, I could see clearly in my mind the area through which they were traveling.  I give credit to Westrick because, by focusing on the years just after the war, she has given us a Civil War book that stands out for its examination of post conflict adjustment.  I felt that the characters and situations were sufficiently complex and, even at the end, there was upheld a good deal of ambiguity which evaded easy answers.  Ages 12+

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, A.B. Westrick was born in Pennsylvania, but now lives in Mechanicsville, Virginia.  This, of course, still makes her a Yankee! 😉