Hur, June. The Forest of Stolen Girls. Feiwel and Friends, 2021. 978-1-250-22958-8. 369 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.
Min Hwani and her younger sister, Maewol, were raised on the Korean island of Jeju, in the small village of Nowon. In 1421 (five years before the events of The Forest of Stolen Girls), Hwani and her father, a renowned detective, relocated to the mainland while Maewol stayed in Nowon as a shaman’s apprentice. During those five years, Detective Min returned to Jeju many times to try and crack the only case he ever failed to solve: the “Forest Incident,” in which his own daughters were found nearly frozen to death, near the body – a possible suicide – of a village girl. Hwani has no memory of the incident, and Maewol has only a fleeting recollection of a masked man. Indeed, the forest is a dangerous place for the girls of Nowon: thirteen of them have vanished over the years. And a year ago, Detective Min failed to return from his journey to Jeju; he has been declared dead, though his remains were never found. Now in possession of her father’s investigative journal, Min is desperate to locate her father and solve the mystery of his disappearance before she is recalled to the mainland and an arranged marriage. June Hur’s expertly crafted blend of clues, suspicions, memories, and suspects builds slowly but surely to a nail-biting boil.
THOUGHTS: The Forest of Stolen Girls is a gripping and deeply immersive historical mystery, depicting a time period and setting that will be new to many readers.
Historical Fiction Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
McDonough, Yona Zeldis. The Bicycle Spy. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-85095-7. $16.99. 195p. Gr. 4-7.
Marcel may be small for his age, but he has big dreams of competing one day in the Tour de France, which has been cancelled for the last two years due to the outbreak of World War II. Marcel works to improve his cycling technique as he makes bread deliveries for his parents bakery. At school, he makes a friend in Delphine, a new student who shares his enthusiasm for bicycling, but times in his small French town have become tense with arrival of German soldiers. When Marcel discovers a hidden note in one of his bread deliveries, he realizes that his parents are part of the Resistance. His previously carefree bike rides now take on critical importance as he must navigate Nazi checkpoints in order to deliver Resistance communications. When Delphine reveals that her family is Jewish, Marcel and his parents must work with their contacts to arrange escape plans to ensure her family’s safety. THOUGHTS: An excellent historical tale that incorporates a topic (the Tour de France/bicycling) not often featured in juvenile literature. Readers will hold their breath when Marcel must embark on a harrowing bike ride at the conclusion of the story in order to help arrange Delphine’s escape. Historical notes at the end of the book feature an overview of World War II as well as background information on the Tour de France.
Historical Fiction (1940s) Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS
Broach, Elise. The Wolf Keepers. New York: Holt, 2016. 978-0-8050-9899-0. $16.99. 343p. Gr. 4-7.
Lizzie lives in a zoo–literally. Her father is a zookeeper at the John Muir Wildlife Park in Lodisto, CA, and Lizzie lives with him in a house on the zoo grounds. Lizzie loves observing and drawing the animals, particularly the wolves. During the summer before 7th grade, Lizzie spends time observing the wolves, specifically the pack leader Lobo, for a homework assignment in which she must journal in the style of John Muir. One day she encounters Tyler, a runaway from a foster home who has been hiding out at the zoo. Tyler tells Lizzie about mysterious happenings going on at the zoo at night in the wolf exhibit. Could someone be behind a mysterious illness the wolves (including Lobo) are beginning to exhibit? Lizzie and Tyler are determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, which ultimately leads them to stowaway on a late night ride to nearby Yosemite National Park where they must spend two days on their own in a remote part of the park, where the stumble across the remains of a cabin that may have belonged to John Muir. THOUGHTS: This book is ideal for fans of animal stories or mysteries. The characters realistically cope with with issues such as loss, friendship and the meaning of family. The ethics of keeping animals in zoos is well integrated into the story and gives readers much to think about. The text is enhanced by pencil drawings and an author’s note that discusses the history of Yosemite.
Mystery Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS