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The Broken Lands
Kate Milford
BIBLIO: 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 12 to 18, $8.99.
REVIEWER: Kristi Bernard
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN:  9780544439429

Author Kate Milford loves writing stories set in the past with plenty of true historical references. Her book, The Boneshaker, is the sequel to The Broken Lands. The Boneshaker puts readers in 1914 Missouri where readers are introduced to Natali Minks. Natali loves machines and her story revolves around solving the mystery of a traveling medicine show. Milfords underlying themes in these books shares a story of family, community, courage and looking evil in the eye. The Broken Land hotel had gotten its name in an act of bad translation from a Dutch word for Long Island. Meet Sam Noctiluca of Coney Island in 1877. He lived at the Broken Land. He didn’t lose at cards often and he was good at playing games and cheating at them too. But when he met two interesting strangers he was soon opened up to a world of good versus evil of the supernatural kind. Jin and her uncle Liao stayed at the Broken Lands too and run The Fata Morgana Fireworks Company, which had the best displays around and would be in town for three days. Jin was sent to buy items and a dispensary, on her way back she literally stumbled over a dead body with its head missing. Here is where she met Sam. It was then that the mystery of the dead body opened a door to a world of supernatural beings. Sam, Jin and their friends call on the story of Jack Hellcoal. He was a woodsmen pioneer who was given three wishes from a beautiful women who came to his door looking for warmth, food and shelter. One day she was gone and Jack searched for her and didn’t find her. He used his wishes in a selfish way. Other strangers like the woman come to him to carry him to hell, but he refused to go and tricked them. Eventually, Jack left his cabin and ended up at the gates of hell. The devil gave him a piece of coal and sent him on his way to find his own place in the world. Not welcome in heaven or hell Jack set out to find a place where the crossroad is present.  Sam and Jin know that the world is in a very sensitive place since the Civil War ended. The people were angry. Lots of lynching’s, bombings, strikes and people out of work had made the country vulnerable. The country was at a crossroads for freedom. Jack and his band of roamers would do whatever it took to make Sam and Jin’s home their place. Will Sam and Jin along with the others be able to harness their own supernatural gifts to save the world from Jack Hellcoal and is evil agenda? Milford provides readers with loads of history.

Readers will learn about Ambrose Bierce, the Brooklyn Bridge, Chinese Fireworks, the Civil War and much more. Readers will be engaged with the characters, scenery and especially the battle. Teachers could use this tool to open up dialogue regarding history as a classroom read-a-loud. Readers will also find detailed black and white illustrations that will enlighten on the characters and their surroundings. The front of the book has an illustrated map of Coney Island, Brooklyn and its surroundings.


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