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Summary: The Matuski brothers, Carl (17) and Adam (15), are Polish Catholic born in Baltimore, Maryland in the early 1900s. When their mother died, they left Baltimore for Portland, Oregon, to live with their Uncle Pete. In 1922, about the time the boys arrive, the citizens of Oregon passed a law that closed down all Catholic parochial schools. When Adam is accused of stealing jewelry from his girlfriend’s home, Carl takes it upon himself to prove his brother’s innocence. Oregon, in 1922, is a hot-bed of anti-Catholic bigotry, what can a 15-year-old possibly do? What will happen to Adam? This is an historical fiction work about a 1922 anti-Catholic campaign set in Portland, Oregon.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 to 13
Interest Level: 9 to 13
Reading Level: 5.2
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a fine piece of historical fiction. [I] wish teachers had a source for identifying quality historical fiction that could be used in the classroom. There seems to be good work out there but teachers don't know it or have time to access it.
Pros: This is a good story. The author effectively and accurately maintains the historical integrity of the period while, at the same time, she keeps the reader engaged with interesting and believable characters and realistic challenges.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. First, this is an excellent and well-crafted piece of young adult fiction, making it an enjoyable read. Second, it is an excellent piece of historical fiction making it a valuable educational read.
Educational Themes: The story demonstrates how bigotry and fear permeated many American communities before and after World War I. Although the Allies won the war, many Americans had been against U.S. participation. They formed hate groups and targeted blacks, immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and others, threatening their lives, families, and communities. This story provides lots of material for group discussion of religious and ethnic prejudice.
Literary Categories: Fiction - historical fiction, Christian, 1900s, Judaism, death and loss, multicultural