After Eli by Rebecca Rupp; Candlewick Press, 245 pages ($15.99) Ages 8 to 12.
Rebecca Rupp is a gifted author of novels for young readers, with a remarkable talent for creating appealing characters and portraying realistic situations of families in midst of crisis.
Eleven-year-old Daniel Anderson is devastated by the death of his older brother Eli, killed by an IED while serving as a combat medic in Iraq. With his mother a zombie from grief and his father more distant and more critical than ever, Danny creates a Book of the Dead, a binder filled with details about how people died (Archimedes stabbed to death; George Mallory, killed climbing Everest; Jenny Wade, 20, killed by a bullet in her kitchen while making bread during the Battle of Gettysburg) as he struggles alone to deal with his grief.
Eli was beloved, talented and brilliant. Danny can’t seem to do anything right. Then he discovers Walter, a classmate and outcast, is a good person; so is Eli’s friend Jim, a recovering addict who grows black carrots and blue potatoes on his organic farm. Danny also discovers Isabelle, an exotic transplant from New York City, living in a decrepit old mansion with her parents and her twin siblings.
This lovely novel, dedicated to “all the families left behind,” sensitively explores the trauma of a family rent by loss, of a boy learning to live with the massive hole in his life left by the death of his brother and best friend.
– Jean Westmoore
When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan Sarna; Schocken Books; 148 pages ($24.95)
Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th president, issued an anti-Jewish edict as general that targeted the removal of Jews “as a class” from a war zone in an attempt to remove profiteers. It was rescinded by President Abraham Lincoln three weeks later, but the anger and concern it unleashed among Jews fearing government-sponsored anti-Semitism, and their future relationship with Grant as he ran for and then served as president are the subject of Jonathan D. Sarna’s “When Grant Expelled the Jews.
The book details how Jews of the day grappled with Gen. Grant’s order, and how as president he atoned by forging close relations with Jewish leaders and appointing more Jews to his administration than any president before him. It’s an interesting look back into a historical act that carried grave implications, and resulted in redemptive acts by one of the country’s leading figures.
– Mark Sommer
City of Saints by Andrew Hunt; Minotaur, 336 pages ($24.99)
Salt Lake City in 1930 was a fast-growing town with big-city concerns, dominated by the striking divisions between the wealthy and the middle class, between Mormons and non-Mormons. This Depression-era Utah background proves to be an evocative and mesmerizing setting for this first-class mystery from debut novelist Andrew Hunt.
Art Oveson is a young Salt Lake County deputy who also is a loving family man and a committed Mormon. Art is forever haunted by the still-unsolved murder of his father, a decorated officer who was being groomed to be Salt Lake City police chief. Art is often overshadowed by his brothers, each of whom has risen in various law enforcement agencies. Art and his foul-mouthed partner Roscoe Lund become involved with the high-profile murder investigation of Helen Pfalzgraf, the young wife of the area’s most prominent doctor. The case takes Art and Roscoe into prominent homes and back alleys as they learn surprising dark secrets about Salt Lake City. The two also must navigate around the unscrupulous sheriff who is running for re-election.
– McClatchy Newspapers