Elvira Woodruff, . . Scholastic, $15.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-439-28133-1

Opening in 1735, Woodruff's (Dear Levi ) historical novel has much to say about the nature of war, judgment and prejudice. Eleven-year-old Forrest lives with his family in the Tower of London, where his father serves as Ravenmaster, tending to the royal birds and keeping watch over whatever prisoners come his way. When one of a trio of captured Scottish rebels is placed in their care, Forrest, who has been raised to believe the Scots are devils, is hostile at first ("She's not like you and me," Forrest says to his best friend, Rat, about an imprisoned Scottish countess, "for she is not English. She's a Scot"). But the new prisoner is a girl, Maddy, the daughter of a rebel leader, and in the course of bringing Maddy her meals, he begins to see that she is in fact very much like him. Forrest begins to question everything he believes and, with the help of Rat (who seems headed for a dismal fate as a chimneysweep's "climber"), Forrest helps stage a risky escape for both Rat and Maddy. The resulting chase offers a spirited wrap-up, yet what readers may find even more engrossing is Forrest and Maddy's growing sense of empathy and understanding as they realize the shaky ground on which their prejudices are built. The period touches will fascinate readers, too—from the stench of the moat to Forrest's mother's thrill at a public hanging. A colorful tale. Ages 8-12. (Nov.)