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Black duck

by Lisle


Book Review     

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Publishers Weekly :

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Starred Review. The title of Lisle's (The Art of Keeping Cool) suspenseful novel refers to a rumrunner—one of the boats used during Prohibition to smuggle outlawed liquor into the U.S. Readers will likely look past the awkward frame story—a contemporary student interviews Ruben Hart, who was a child during Prohibition—as they sink deeper into Ruben's story. In the spring of 1929, while Ruben and his friend Jeddy look for lobster pots, they come across a man's body washed up on the beach, elegantly dressed, with a bullet hole through his neck. They go back to report it, but when the police arrive, the body has vanished. The situation grows complicated: Jeddy's father is chief of police, Ruben's father works for general store owner Mr. Riley, whom Ruben suspects may be involved in the bootlegging, and an old fisherman living in a seaside shack is roughed up as some men come looking for a mysterious "ticket." Much is at stake, as many locals supplement their livelihood by unloading the rumrunners, and townsfolk suspect there is a traitor in their midst. This is a gripping tale of families and friendships stretched to the breaking point as the community around Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay is caught in the escalating conflict between rival gangs. Faux reproductions of period articles anchor the narrative and move the story along. Even though readers know from the get-go that the Black Duck will come to no good, they will eagerly turn the pages to find out how. Ages 10-up. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal :

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Starred Review. Gr 7-10–A teen determination to be published in the local paper leads him to Ruben Hart front door and an unlikely friendship. The elderly man has a mysterious past, and David soon becomes wrapped up in his tale of how he played an integral part in the adventures surrounding the legendary rum-running ship called the Black Duck. In 1929, in Newport, RI, Ruben and his friend Jeddy, 14, found a body on the beach. By the time they convinced the authorities to check it out, the dead man had disappeared, and soon both the New York and Boston mobs were after Ruben. The author explores the subject of Prohibition as well as various underlying social themes. She shows the difficulty of staying honest when everyone else is breaking the law and when local authorities all seem to be in on the action. Another issue involves the Coast Guard shooting of three men believed to be rumrunners, and whether the murders were justified. Readers will be inspired by both Ruben and David will to succeed when faced with an overwhelming challenge and how they stand by their convictions in doing so. The decade-alternating chapters may be a bit challenging for reluctant readers, but the riveting mystery and nonstop adventure will provide enough incentive for older readers.–Kimberly Monaghan, formerly at Vernon Area Public Library, IL

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BookList :

From BookList, May 1, 2006, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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Gr. 7-10. David, a 14-year-old aspiring journalist, suspects that his elderly neighbor, Ruben, has a story to tell about Prohibition in their Rhode Island town, and he wonders “how to pry it out of the geezer.” Surprisingly, Ruben opens up, and his chapter-length recollections of “rumrunners and highjackers, fast boats and dark nights,” form the bulk of this gripping, layered mystery, which begins with young Ruben's discovery of a dead body. Questions about the corpse's identity draw Ruben into a dangerous local smuggling war. Transitions between then and now are sometimes jarring, and David is more narrative device than defined character: he poses the questions that the reader wants answered. Still, the setting's cinematic detail brings the exhilarating action close, and readers will easily see themselves in young Ruben, whose boiling frustration with family and convention lead him deeper into adventure. The ethical questions will also fascinate teens: Were the locals less guilty than the big-city crime bosses? How do you piece together a story when “there's no way of getting back there for a clear view”?
GillianEngberg.

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