Mini Review: Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas

PoliTitle: Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas
Author: Jay Neugeboren
Genres:  Historical
Pages: 123
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: In Bookstores now

Summary: In 1839, José Policarpo Rodriguez came north with his father from Zaragosa, Mexico, to the Republic of Texas. Poli was ten years old when he arrived in Texas, and he and his father settled in the Hill Country near San Antonio. Poli grew up with Comanches, surveyed territory for the Republic of Texas and the United States Army, fought against warring Indians, and mapped settlements for nineteenth-century German settlers in Texas. He was the first non-Indian to discover the Big Bend Country and Cascades Caverns, and during the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, he was Captain of the San Antonio Home Guard. Caught between the three main elements that made up early Texas—Mexicans, Indians, and Anglos—he struggled to decide where his true loyalties lay, and his decisions showed a kind of courage that was rare in those days. . .and is still rare today.

Review: In celebration of it’s 25 anniversary, Texas Tech University Press has decided to re-release Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas, and I happen to agree that this was a good move for the publisher. This historical novel is a quick and entertaining read that touches on a brief period of history that shows the tensions between the Comanche Nation, Mexicans, and the early Texans. The story follows young Jose Policarpo Rodriguez, and is based on the real Poli’s memoirs. The novel begins when Poli is 10 years old and just arriving in Texas from Zaragosa. Poli and his father have left Mexico for a better life after the death of his mother and other family members. Poli’s father then sends him to spend a week with the Comanche nation and there Poli forms a friendship with the Chief’s son, Eagle Blood. It is through his relationship with Eagle Blood that Poli is able to see and understand all three sides of the land use issue that is the cause of the tension between the Native Americans, Mexicans, and the Texans. Because of his relationship, Poli is also able to work as a surveyor and as a translator during negotiations that ultimately fail. The fact that Poli is so trusted by adults shows how during this period of time, adolescents were treated as adults and give adult responsibilities. Poli had to mature fast because of the harshness of life on the plain.

Not knowing much about Texas history, except what is briefly given in school textbooks, I found the focus on the lives of those effected in San Antonio fascinating as it took a larger conflict and allowed the reader to see how it effect the daily lives of the people who lived during that time period. I found it very easy to relate to Poli as through his travels he missed his father, and his friendship with Eagle Blood felt true and real. I feel that Neugeboren did his research in getting the historical details correct, especially when sharing the lifestyles and beliefs of the Comanche people. Neugeboren was able to handle the tension between the Comanche, the Mexicans, and the Texans in such a manner that the reader fully understood and empathized with the different factions (okay, maybe not so much with the early Texans as a whole, but the individuals whose lives were thrown in to chaos because of the fighting, yes).  While the novel is written for middle grade, Neugeboren writes in such a way that Poli would be enjoyable for readers of all ages. I feel this would be an excellent supplemental novel in a social studies class, as well as a good read of the youngster who enjoys historical fiction.

Recommendation: Get It Soon

To celebrate the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Poli: A Mexican Boy in Early Texas, we have two copies to give away! Raffle ends March 17th. Enter Now!

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Review: Black Dove, White Raven

Title: Black Dove, White Raven
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 368
Review Copy: ARC provided by publisher
Availability: March 31, 2015

Summary: A story of survival, subterfuge, espionage and identity.

Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking – one white, one black – is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it’s an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When Delia is killed in a tragic accident, Rhoda is determined to make that dream come true. She moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo.

Em and Teo have adapted to scratching a living in a strange land, and feel at home here; but their parents’ legacy of flight and the ability to pilot a plane places them in an elite circle of people watched carefully by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves inextricably entangled in the crisis — and they are called on to help.

Review: After reading Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire this book was automatically placed on my “Must Read” list. Elizabeth Wein has a way with historical fiction. This new addition to her Young Pilots Series centers around Ethiopia and its relations with Italy prior to World War II. I knew that Africa was part of the war, but that wasn’t a focus in my American history classes, so much of the politics and intrigue were new to me. Wein weaves in the history so readers aren’t totally lost, but she also managed to inspire me to research a bit during and after reading. I wanted to know more about this country that had avoided European colonization. I had to wonder if my history classes ever got into this conflict or if I just didn’t pay attention.

Beyond the setting, the characters were intriguing. In the beginning though, I found it difficult to keep up with everyone. The text is made up of letters, school essays, flight logs, and short stories. It’s meant to be a collection of information that will help persuade the Emperor of Ethiopia to help Em and Teo. The most difficult part for me was my need to have a chronology of some sort. I always wanted to know the ages of the writers so my mind could sort it all out, but things aren’t always in date order and it took a long time before an age was mentioned. Once I had that, I found myself always doing the math. Not all readers will have a need for that, but the first section of the book may be a bit confusing for some with multiple perspectives and seemingly random dates.

Em and Teo have been raised as brother and sister and are also best friends. Through childhood, they created stories of themselves as heroes. Teo is the Black Dove who can become invisible while Em is the White Raven and uses amazing disguises. They always have loving adults in their lives, but they are anchors for each other and are rarely apart.

While the political forces in the book are central to the story, there are other issues that come up too such as gender roles, religion, freedom, and courage. The main characters also explore what it is like to be the outsider in a community. In the U.S., their family didn’t always fit in because they were of different races. In Ethiopia, they have to learn the language and culture to try to fit in though Teo can visually blend in without any trouble.

Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy historical fiction. Black Dove, White Raven is interesting from start to finish – even the author’s note kept my attention. In the note, she quotes an Ethiopian proverb, “To lie about a far country is easy.” She explains that she did her best to avoiding changing or distorting history. Wein then provides a catalog of things that were true in the story and those that were fictional. Through it all, she brought Ethiopia to life and filled it with unique and memorable characters.

Extra: I can’t end this review without noting the difference between the U.S. cover and the one for the U.K. We got a title and a landscape. The U.K. has a focus on characters.



Black History Month

Here are some great historical fiction and non-fiction books that we would recommend for Black History Month or any time of the year. If we’ve reviewed the book in the past, the title is linked to the review.


How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson
Dial, 2014

Summary: A powerful and thought-provoking Civil Rights era memoir from one of America’s most celebrated poets.

Looking back on her childhood in the 1950s, Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson tells the story of her development as an artist and young woman through fifty eye-opening poems. Readers are given an intimate portrait of her growing self-awareness and artistic inspiration along with a larger view of the world around her: racial tensions, the Cold War era, and the first stirrings of the feminist movement.

A first-person account of African-American history, this is a book to study, discuss, and treasure. – Cover image and summary via IndieBound

copperCopper Sun by Sharon Draper
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006

Summary: Amari’s life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas, where she is bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a birthday present.

Survival seems all that Amari can hope for. But then an act of unimaginable cruelty provides her with an opportunity to escape, and with an indentured servant named Polly she flees to Fort Mose, Florida, in search of sanctuary at the Spanish colony. Can the elusive dream of freedom sustain Amari and Polly on their arduous journey, fraught with hardship and danger?


port chicagoPort Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press, 2014

Summary: On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.


flygirlFlygirl by Sherri L. Smith
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2009

Summary: Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014

Summary: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.


20130505-134748.jpg Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Puffin Books, 1976

Summary: Why is the land so important to Cassie’s family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she’s black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family’s lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.




Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick, 2013

Summary: World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. Back on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military. Enlisted black men are segregated from white soldiers and regularly relegated to service duties. At Fort Benning, Georgia, First Sergeant Walter Morris’s men serve as guards at The Parachute School, while the white soldiers prepare to be paratroopers. Morris knows that for his men to be treated like soldiers, they have to train and act like them, but would the military elite and politicians recognize the potential of these men as well as their passion for serving their country? Tanya Lee Stone examines the role of African Americans in the military through the history of the Triple Nickles, America’s first black paratroopers, who fought in a little-known attack on the American West by the Japanese. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, in the words of Morris, “proved that the color of a man had nothing to do with his ability.”

0-590-40943-3Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic, 1989

Summary: A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is there at all.




A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2005

Summary: In 1955, people all over the United States knew that Emmett Louis Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral, and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention.

Award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement. This martyr’s wreath, woven from a little-known but sophisticated form of poetry, challenges us to speak out against modern-day injustices, to “speak what we see.”

crystalNo Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Carolrhoda Books, 2012

Summary:Coretta Scott King award-winning author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s great uncle was Lewis Micheaux, owner of the famous National Memorial African Bookstore. Located in the heart of Harlem, New York, from 1939 to 1975, Micheaux’s bookstore became the epicenter of black literary life and a rallying point for the Black Nationalist movement. Some of its famous and most loyal patrons include Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Langston Hughes, and W.E.B. DuBois. In this inspiring work of historical fiction, Nelson tells the true story of a man with a passion for knowledge and of a bookstore whose influence has become legendary.


marchMarch Book One (March #1) by John Lewis with Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell
Top Shelf Productions, 2013

Summary: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

xX by Ilyasah Shabazz & Kekla Magoon
Candlewick Press, 2015

Summary: I am Malcolm. I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me. They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.


*Unless otherwise noted, the cover images and summaries were from Goodreads


Review: Under a Painted Sky

under a painted sky

Title: Under a Painted Sky
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Pages: 367
Genres: Action/Adventure, Historical, Romance
Review copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: March 17, 2015

Summary: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush.

Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Review: Two girls running to the west in the mid 1800s seemed like an unusual story. Add in that they are pretending to be boys and I knew it was bound to be interesting. The story begins with a bang or rather a smash. The action ebbed at times, but things never got dull. Just when the pace slowed a little, some new calamity would pop up. Strangely, even in the midst of tragedy and difficulty, the book had a positive feel to it. In spite of the death, violence, fear, and tragic circumstances of the characters, there was hope and as the summary indicates, there was “the power of friendship.”

The friendship between Sammy and Andy begins as they rely on each other for survival, but deepens as they share about themselves. I appreciated that the romance aspect of the book didn’t completely overwhelm the friendship narrative. I enjoy romance, but am happy when a book can be more than that.

Under a Painted Sky often has a lighthearted feeling, yet still deals with serious issues like racism, family loyalties, and gender roles. Stacey Lee has delivered a story that entertains yet also provides food for thought.

One more thing — the cover had me immediately. I don’t even think I cared what the book was about at that point. The sky is gorgeous and the silhouettes caught my eye. Eventually, I noticed the dragons, but it took me a lot longer to realize that the other squiggles weren’t just designs. I only understood when I closed the book at the end. Theresa Evangelista did a fabulous job on that cover design.

Recommendation: Get it soon especially if you enjoy historical fiction with plenty of action and a nice dose of humor. While not everything in the book is completely believable, I was totally willing to go along for the ride. Under a Painted Sky is a highly entertaining novel.

— Cover image and summary via author’s website


Review: X

xTitle: X
Author: Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review Copy: ARC via Netgalley
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

I am Malcolm. I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me. They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads

Review: How did Malcolm Little become Malcolm X? Who and what shaped him? These are some of the questions explored within these pages.

The novel starts out in 1945 with Malcolm running from trouble and in fear for his life. It then backtracks to show how he got to that point. The story moves back and forth in time to share the circumstances and influences that led Malcolm to such a situation.

Malcolm demonstrates time and time again that he is intelligent, but as a young man, frustration and desperation often lead to impulsive and risky choices with serious consequences. What is hard for him is that the consequences of some of his actions affect his entire family.

Through all kinds of conflict though, Malcolm hears the voices of his parents, especially his father, echoing in his heart and mind. They say that he can do anything, be anything. His parents had laid a foundation. They shared their love and wisdom. “Words have power, Papa used to say. Speak what you want to be true.” Even when Malcolm had doubts about what his parents had believed, their words still rumbled through his mind.

Malcolm runs from one situation to the next trying to find himself and trying to live free from rules that were defined by his skin color. One line that stood out to me in the ARC was, “There are so many rules for how to be a black person, things you cannot say and places you cannot go.” In Boston he thought he had found a place free of those rules, while he dated a beautiful white woman. Over time though, he found that the rules were unspoken, but were definitely still present.

Historical fiction adds a different weight to a novel for me as a reader. To see Malcolm losing hope and falling into despair is particularly painful because he isn’t a character someone created, but he lived this. For many people Malcolm X is an icon, a hero, or even in some eyes a criminal. In this book, he is first a human being. We can see him as a young man struggling to know who he is and who he truly wants to be. This means we see his ups and downs, not just a polished product.

Historical fiction can also bring up questions of which events and situations really happened and whether the portrayals are being tweaked for the sake of the story. Some of this is answered in the notes at the end of the book. For curious readers, there is also a suggested reading list that would help with that exploration. I know I immediately wanted to know more and will be heading to some of those resources.

Recommendation: Buy it now especially if you are a historical fiction fan. The book spans from 1930 to 1948 providing a view into Malcolm’s life in Michigan, Boston and Harlem. This is a book that brings the time and place to life including the styles, the dances, and the music among other things. Another reason to get it soon is that while progress has been made, this book touches on racial issues that are still being dealt with today. X will give readers much to think about.

Want to know more? Hear from the authors in these interviews/conversations:

Ilyasah and Kekla discussed the book in “X: A Conversation” on Diversity in YA

Interview: Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon on their YA Novel About Teenage Malcolm X via School Library Journal


Review: Mr. Samuel’s Penny

Mr. Samuel's PennyTitle: Mr. Samuel’s Penny
Author: Treva Hall Melvin
Genres: Mystery, Historical
Pages: 264
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Review Copy: Received ARC from publisher
Availability: Available now

Summary: It’s 1972 and fourteen-year-old New Yorker Elizabeth Landers is sent to the sleepy town of Ahoskie, North Carolina to spend the summer with relatives. Her expectation of boredom is quickly dispelled when police sirens and flashing lights draw her to a horrible scene at the Danbury Bridge. Mr. Samuel, owner of Samuel’s Lumber Yard, has driven his car off the bridge and into the river, drowning himself and his daughter. The medical examiner thinks it’s an accident, but the Sheriff finds fresh bullet holes on the bridge right where the skid marks are. Curiously, Mr. Samuel died clutching a unique 1909 wheat penny—a penny that is then stolen from the Sheriff’s office. Lizbeth witnesses Miss Violet’s grief upon learning that her husband and child are dead, and decides she will help by finding the penny.

Her search involves Lizbeth in the lives of many Ahoskie residents. Like the owner of the grocery store, mean old Mr. Jake, who—as all the kids in Ahoskie know—hates black folks. Plenty of pennies in his till. Then there is Ms. Melanie Neely, otherwise known as “Ms. McMeanie,” who thinks the lumber yard should belong to her. And Mr. Samuel’s handsome brother Ben, who struggles to keep the business afloat after his more clever brother’s death. Lizbeth searches through the collection plates at church and in the coin jars of crazy old Aunt Ode, a strange old woman missing one eye and most of her teeth, who keeps a flask in her apron pocket and a secret in her soul.

Review: Whether or not you’re going to enjoy Mr. Samuel’s Penny is largely dependent upon on your preferred ratio of mystery to character development and exploration. I’m happy to say that Treva Hall Melvin does an excellent job of centering the reader in Ahoskie and the summer of 1972. Lizbeth’s adventures and the people she meets while living with her aunt and uncle are definitely some of the book’s greatest strengths.

Lizbeth is a solid protagonist, and her narration is charming. Hall Melvin has a way of describing people, places, and events in such a way that grabbed my attention and stuck in my memory, like the first glimpse of Aunt Ode, Mr. Jake’s grocery store, or the scene where Miss Violet breaks down over her husband’s and daughter’s deaths. These descriptions are vivid and work together to bring the characters in this book to life. Lizbeth’s Ahoskie feels lived in and like its residents existed long before Lizbeth’s visit and will continue on with their lives after she heads back home.

Of the many standout characters in the book, I was particularly fond of Aunt Alice, Mr. Jake, and Miss Violet. After Lizbeth, Aunt Alice was probably my favorite character, especially as she helped Lizbeth understand that everyone had a story behind the who they appeared to be. She is a solid, safe presence in Lizbeth’s life, and her compassion as she deals with Miss Violet is particularly touching. Mr. Jake was a character I didn’t expect to like, but the more Lizbeth found out about him, the more I (and she) liked him. I wish Miss Violet had been featured more in the story, if only because I truly loved the few interactions she had with Lizbeth.

While the characters are an asset to this book, the mystery was a bit of a letdown for me. Lizbeth’s investigations throughout the story essentially boiled down to two tactics: run across some motivation for X person to have wanted to kill Mr. Samuel and then search around them for the distinctive penny. I was hoping for a more convoluted investigation, but the moment Lizbeth found the penny, she found the murderer. The murder often took secondary importance in my mind

Recommendation: Get it soon if you are looking for an easy, comfortable read with a charming and observant protagonist who makes the most out of a 1972 small-town summer. The murder mystery takes a back seat to character exploration, so if you prefer a more thriller-esque or complicated flavor to your mysteries, Mr. Samuel’s Penny is a book you’ll probably be happier borrowing from the library.