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 Plot (in 5 sentences or less): Tipped off by European physicists in 1939 that it was possible to create an extraordinarily dangerous bomb, FDR signs the order which sets off the race to create this powerful weapon before the Nazis do. Brilliant physics professor Robert Oppenheimer puts together a team of world class talent and brings them to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Meanwhile, Russian agents scramble to cultivate spy connections to penetrate the military base and steal the secrets behind the atomic bomb design. Concerned that Nazis are ahead in the race to build the bomb, partisans attack a heavy water producing plant in Norway to to inhibit German efforts. The final chapters of the book cover the story of the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan and the devastating effects.
My Take: I was lucky enough to hear Steve Sheinkin speak at the Virginia Library Association’s Conference in Williamsburg, VA on September 27 when he accepted an award for this book. It is definitely well deserved. Bomb is tightly written and reads like a fiction thriller. I read it in probably two sittings and simply did not want it to end. My one critique of the book is its use of conversational dialogue throughout. I always question when historical non-fiction books use quotes: how do they know that they said exactly that? Still, this is a mild criticism for a wonderful book.
One Interesting Note About the Author: Steve Sheinkin started his career by editing and writing textbooks. Disenchanted with how many interesting stories that he had to leave out of the history books, he began writing history books for kids in which he could keep all of the fascinating odds and ends.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience Age: Older Teens
Rating (1-5): 4
The story in no more than five sentences:
17 year old Hank wakes up in Penn Station with no memories and no idea who he is. The only thing in his possession is a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. After falling in with a couple of street kids on the run, Hank makes his way up to Concord, Massachusetts to view the sight where Henry David Thoreau lived in the woods. Hank makes friends with a local Thoreau researcher and begins falling for a girl named Hailey. But as he begins to enjoy his life in Concord, he begins to remember, and must come to terms with, his troubled past.
The best part about the book is (in 1 sentence): Armistead is adept at interweaving Thoreau’s philosophy into Hank’s troubled life and thereby making it meaningful to teen readers.
The worst part of the book is (in 1 sentence): The opening plot device, boy can’t remember anything, may seem too pat for some readers.
1 interesting note about the author: Cal Armistead lives in the Boston area, is a voice over actress, and semi professional singer. Being Henry David is her first novel. Find out more about her at www.calarmistead.com