Joan Lowery Nixon was the author of more than 130 books for young readers and was the only four-time winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Best Young Adult Mystery Award. She received the award for The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore, The Seance, The Name of the Game Was Murder, and The Other Side of the Dark, which also won the California Young Reader Medal. Her historical fiction included the award-winning series The Orphan Train Adventures, Orphan Train Children, and Colonial Williamsburg: Young Americans.
Gr 4-6 This is Nixon's second book that chronicles the adventures of six Irish-American siblings who have been sent from the slums of New York City to new homes on the Frontier in the years just prior to the Civil War. The focus here is on 11-year-old Mike Kel ley, who is placed with a German immi grant farmer more interested in acquir ing cheap labor than a new family member. When Mike overhears Frie drich and his kind-hearted wife discuss ing their fear of retribution over a man's death, he suspects foul play. The imagi native youngster's suspicions are ag gravated when his best friend Reuben, an educated farmhand, disappears after a loud altercation with the overseer. The puzzle is believably pieced togeth er as the motivations of father and son are revealed at story's end. Unfortu nately, this revelation does little to ex tend the dimension of these two flat characters who approach ethnic stereo types. The industry and discipline re quired by agrarians of the period, along with their isolation (an element which contributes to the book's suspenseful, at times melodramatic, tone), is ade quately conveyed. On the other hand, information about slavery and immigra tion is presented in a contrived manner. Flaws outweigh attributes. Events re ferred to which occured in the first in stallment are unclear, plot threads are unresolved, and the dialogue is weak. In the final analysis, this is more of a suspense novel with a historical setting than a solid historical novel with a sus penseful storyline.Julie Corsaro, Univ. of Chicago Laboratory Schools