A Difficult Boy: Reviews


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“…a riveting historical fiction novel, set in Massachusetts, which is a great read for older children and adults.”
–Newburyport Public Library

“This well-researched historical places the reader squarely in the world of a 19th-century rural community in New England. A former costumed historical interpreter and archivist, Barker has in-depth knowledge of daily life in this time period; she also possesses the skill to make these details tangible for her readers. As protagonists, Ethan and Daniel are effectively developed and sympathetic, while the antagonists are appropriately nuanced…The book is intended for 9-12 year-olds, but teens and adults will also appreciate the rich language and detail.”
Sonia Gensler, Historical Novel Review, Nov 2008

“The beautifully written book, set in 1839, is loaded with rich detail, both historical and sensorial…”
–Susan VanHecke, Authorlink.com (June 2008)

“…Barker’s young adult novel is one of the best historical fiction works I’ve read in a long time, emotionally authentic, full of period detail, and beautifully written.”
–Author and reviewer Susan VanHecke’s blog, “Adventures in Authorhood”

“Barker’s gift for historical detail illuminates this absorbing first novel, accurately portraying the pleasures and the harsh realities of 19th-century Massachusetts farm life…Readers will like this book for its attention to heady issues like early prejudice against the Irish (Daniel is Irish) and the treatment of indentured servants as young as themselves, and for its satisfying and hopeful conclusion.”
Publisher’s Weekly (28 Apr 2008)

“What was the life of an indentured servant but that of a slave? M.P. Barker brings it ringingly, cringingly to life.”
Kirkus Reviews, First Fiction Special Issue (15 Apr 2008, p. 17)

“How Ethan and Daniel bolster each other and escape Mr. Lyman’s tyranny makes for a memorable tale of friendship and a fascinating glimpse into mid-19th-century Massachusetts. Like L. M. Elliott’s Give Me Liberty (HarperCollins, 2006), this is an eye-opening look at indentured servitude in American history.”
–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA, School Library Journal (1 May 2008)

“A fast-paced story set in 1839 but applicable to decisions young readers face today.” –Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger, Children’s Literature

“…readers will cheer for the two charming, perseverant protagonists as they force a corrupt grown-up to face the music.”
–Anne O’Malley, Booklist

“Set in 1839, the story provides an insightful look at the cultural norms and prejudices of the time while telling the story of two boys who, despite differences in age and background, develop a lasting friendship.”
Horn Book

“The boys’ changing relationship and how they come to bond penetrates the heart. The details give the story authenticity and texture. The middle of the story soars, where so many sag. The momentum lasts until the final page of the book. Wonderful.”
—Kari Baumbach, Children’s Literature Network

“Ethan and Daniel survive by supporting each other and trying to please the increasingly demanding and dishonest Mr. Lyman. Daniel’s love of horses promotes both his downfall and redemption in the heroic climax of this engaging story.” –Susan Wegmann, Orlando, FL, ALAN Online (Sep 2008)

“The eloquently written survival story provides a historical context to the mistreatment of many immigrants due to their racial, ethnic and socioeconomic statuses.”
–New England Reading Association Journal, 2010

“Most of all this book is about friendship and the importance of friendship. It is just a beautiful story set to a beautiful background…Daniel and Ethan’s relationship grows and evolves as the story goes on.
“My favorite aspect of the book is how real it feels. The racism Daniel gets. The hardships Ethan goes through. Their friendship even all feels very real……….and that’s why I love this book. I read it within 24 hours and I couldn’t put it down. At about Chapter 6 you will be hooked! I recommend this for all historical readers as well as those looking for a wonderful story about friendship.”
–Trainspotting Reads Teen Book Reviews

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