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Black Duck Paperback – September 6, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 7-10 A teen's determination to be published in the local paper leads him to Ruben Hart's 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's shooting of three men believed to be rumrunners, and whether the murders were justified. Readers will be inspired by both Ruben's and David's 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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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"? Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Overall, it was an enjoyable period piece with good characters.