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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*The Golden Rat* by Don Wulffson- young readers fantasy book review
The Golden Rat
by Don Wulffson
Ages 9-12 168 pages Bloomsbury USA July 2007 Hardcover    

The Golden Rat is a tale worth catching. Expertly written and with a powerful plot, it will sweep middle grade readers along on a fast-moving story that explores the deeper issues of sacrifice, trust and love.

Set in twelfth-century China, the atmosphere is charged with a sense of history and purpose. Sixteen-year-old Baoliu resents his fatherís new wife, preferring instead to cling to the memory of his beloved mother. In a horrifying set of circumstances, Baoliuís stepmother is murdered, and the evidence points to one logical suspect. After a quick trial finds Baoliu guilty and worthy of death, a legal and commonplace agreement is made, called a kadi, which allows another person to die in his place. As this young boy witnesses the execution, he solemnly vows to clear his name and regain his honor.

Descriptive phrases and intriguing dialogue capture the emotions that both steer and haunt this teenager. Although he is innocent of murder, as he watches another man receive his punishment, Baoliu is consumed with guilt. Despite being shunned by family and friends, he steadfastly sets out to prove the identity of the real killer. As the novel tracks Baoliuís seemingly futile vow to repair his reputation, the rules of Chinese society and rigid legal restrictions layer the story with many interesting details.

Readers will be impressed with the determination and resourcefulness of this young man, in spite of overwhelming odds. His fragmented relationship with his father transcends the ages to speak to a contemporary audience, while his grief at watching a stranger die in his place will spark deeper thoughts of sacrificial actions. As the characters interact with a sense of purpose, the author sensitively examines the larger themes of love and trust. Plot twists provide plenty of page-turning power and make the conclusion more than satisfying.

Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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  Joyce Handzo/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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