cover image Cezanne Pinto: ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Cezanne Pinto: ALA Best Book for Young Adults

Mary Stolz. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (279pp) ISBN 978-0-679-84917-9

Rarely does historical fiction achieve the immediacy and power of this exceptional novel. The eponymous narrator recounts how, 80 years earlier, a slave on a Virginia plantation and only 11 or 12 years old (often slaves didn't know their exact age), he escaped with a far-seeing, clandestinely educated slave woman and traveled the Underground Railroad to freedom. The account of the journey, much of it on foot, is enthralling, but marks only the start of Cezanne's travels. Stolz shifts the narrative, briskly paced but keenly atmospheric, to the farm of a wealthy Canadian, to Civil War Washington, D.C., to the Texas range, to Chicago. Liberal references to Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman not only serve a purpose in the plot but revitalize the reader's understanding of such figures' heroism and accomplishments, while equally adroit mentions of Mathew Brady and Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable reclaim these famous individuals' places in the African American heritage. Stolz dazzles with the scope of her vision, challenging her audience to reconsider American history through the eyes of those who, until recently, had little hand in writing it. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)