The 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.”
The Plot in 5 Sentences or Less: Georgie Burkhardt is a 13 year old girl living with her mom and grandfather in Placid, Wisconsin in the 1870’s. When the book opens, Georgie is mourning the death of her older sister Agatha whose body has turned up miles away near Dog Hollow. The body is too decomposed to be recognized, but it is wearing Agatha’s distinctive dress. Georgie refuses to accept that her sister is dead and slips away one night with Agatha’s former beau Billy McCabe on a journey to Dog Hollow. But seeking answers will put them in great danger and test Georgie’s bonds of sisterhood.
My Take: This is an excellent YA mystery set in the mid west in the 19th century. The characters are well developed and I did not find them artificial as I so often do in YA fiction. Timberlake does an excellent job of expressing that Georgie is a strong female without making her into some over the top Katniss Everdeen. I did think that the ending could be more mournful and therefore more poignant and open ended, but people love happy endings. One Came Home makes me want to read more by Timberlake. Ages 12+
One Interesting Note About the Author: Passenger pigeons play a large role in this book. Timberlake’s inspiration to write One Came Home derived from her discovery of the rich history of this extinct bird. In 1871, the largest nesting of pigeons ever recorded occurred in south-central Wisconsin. The entire length of it was 125 miles long!
The Story (in 5 sentences or less): Dave is a slave purchased by Harvey Drake in Augusta, Georgia in 1815. Harvey takes him to Pottersville, South Carolina and not only teaches him pottery, but also how to read. Over the span of years, Dave suffers greatly as his loved ones (including two wives) are sold away. Dave begins carving words and poems into some of his pottery, a small act of sedition and outlet for his grief.
My Take: I wondered if this book would be able to measure up to the quality of the Caldecott Honor book “Dave the Potter;” I believe that it does. Written in short chapters of verse in 1st person, the poetry is never intrusive or self conscious, but rather breathes real life into the characters. The poems are lean and spare, but sketch out the characters enough so that we grieve at the tragedies in Dave’s life. I’d recommend this book to readers ages 11+ who are interested in knowing what being a slave feels like. An appendix explains the life and times of Dave from an historical perspective.
One Interesting Note about the Author: Andrea Cheng’s interest in Civil Right’s issues began at an early age when, growing up in Cincinnati, she remembers “sitting in the front yard with [her] friends, most of whom were African American, and hearing the sounds of the 1968 race riots just a few blocks away.”