Thursday, January 1, 2009

Review: Black Duck

Lisle, Janet Taylor. Black Duck. New York: Scholastic, 2006.

Aspiring newshound David Peterson wants to find a story that will get him a job with the local newspaper. He knows that rum-running was rampant in his small coastal town back in the 1920s. He asks around. He reads some newspaper accounts. His haphazard research leads him to Ruben Hart.

Maybe it's his age that compels Ruben to tell the story that's never been told. Maybe it's because David reminds him of his childhood friend Jeddy. Whatever it is, Ruben soon has David so enthralled in his story that he can't remember to take notes.

On December 30, 1929, the coast guard fired on the infamous elusive rum-runner, the Black Duck. 3 of the 4 men on board were killed. The other was injured. What nobody ever knew is that there was a 5th man on board. At a young age, Ruben saw, heard, and experienced things that no young man should.

What I thought: The Prohibition Era is a fascinating time in US history. Prohibition lasted from 1920 through 1933. The 18th Amendment became effective on January 16, 1920. On the 1920 Census, taken January 7th, the occupation of two of my great-grandmother's brothers was listed as "moon shiner." My personal connection makes books about that time even more interesting to me. This would be a great book to read along with Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts. I loved the way Taylor frames her story in the present. She alternates between the actual story and David's interview of Ruben.

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