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Published: Saturday, 10/27/2001

Books showcase young heroes

This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children's literature. Today's are by Barbara St. John, a professor of children's literature at Bowling Green State University.

Books can help us to imagine life in another place or another time. The main characters in the books reviewed today exhibit strength and courage and are excellent role models for today's young people. Perhaps children will realize that in worlds filled with turmoil, others have found ways to survive.

NORY RYAN'S SONG. By Patricia Reilly Giff. Delacorte Press. Ages 8-12. $15.95.

For generations Nory Ryan's family has lived on Maiden Bay along the west coast of Ireland. Nory loves this land filled with magic and beauty. But it is 1845, and life is hard. The English lord who owns the land wants the farmers to leave, and many have. When the potato crop fails and the rent cannot be paid, Nory must find ways to save her family and friends. Her solutions lead them to America. It's a story of courage.

PROMISES TO THE DEAD. By Mary Downing Hahn. Clarion. Ages 8-12. $15.

In this novel set in the early days of the Civil War, Jesse learns that promises must be kept at any cost. While hunting turtles in the marsh Jesse meets a dying slave woman. He promises to take her son, Perry, to Baltimore. Aiding slaves is against the law, so the boy's journey is filled with danger. He is followed by a determined slave catcher and caught among rioters on the streets, and the journey becomes more frightening than Jesse imagined. But determination pays off and Jesse delivers his charge safely. A vivid picture of the Civil War readers will not soon forget.

THE JOURNEY. By Sarah Stewart. Illustrated by David Small. Farrar Straus Giroux. Ages 4-8. $16.

Stewart and Small present the delightful story of a young Amish girl's first trip to a big city. Hannah is overwhelmed by the things she sees in Chicago, but she is continually reminded of her home and her family. Diary entries keep the reader appraised of Hannah's reactions. Small's wonderfully detailed illustrations bring both of Hannah's worlds to life.

THE EXECUTIONER'S DAUGHTER. By Laura E. Williams. Henry Holt. Ages 10-14. $15.95.

Lily's father is Lord Dunsworth's executioner; her mother is a healer. The family is shunned by the townsfolk, except for a few who need her mothers medicines. Lily's only friends are animals. After her mother's death, Lily must become her father's assistant. But it is too much for Lily - she wants to heal, not destroy. So Lily leaves to build a new life.



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