Friday, August 10, 2012

Beneath the Slashings by Michelle Isenhoff A Review

Beneath the Slashings

by Michelle Isenhoff
Goodreads Summary:
After four uncertain years of war, twelve-year-old Grace Nickerson is desperate to return to a sense of normalcy. But when her father returns from the army, he sells the farm and drags the family off to a lumber camp in Michigan's northern wilderness. Grace is devastated; she's never been brave. When her tears and tantrums won't change Pa's mind, she stops speaking to him altogether.
Grace spends long hours working with her brother Sam and Ivan, the surly Russian cook, but at least in the kitchen she is safe from the lumberjacks. She's seen them from the window. They're rough, unkept, and terrifying. But slowly, with Sam's help, she comes to understand they're all missing home and recovering from loss, just like she is. Her fear begins to evaporate--until she learns one of them is trying to kill Pa. 
Who is sabotaging the camp, and why? Will the winter in the woods bring the healing Grace needs? Or will it drive a wedge into her family?

I'll be honest and say, that I wasn't anticipating liking this novel as much as I did. I'm not a big Civil War novel lover and the fact that this takes place just after the Civil War, I thought that it would be about that completely. It does in fact deal with some of the horrors of war and some lingering racism. Ha, racism, I'm not even sure if that's the right word. Second class citizen, I just don't even have the right word for what most of the men thought of the one lone black man that was in the logging camp. Even the northerners that fought against slavery consider this black man beneath them. Anyway, that isn't all the book is about. In fact, that's only a small part.

The book is told through 12 yr old Grace Nickerson's very reluctant voice. She hates the idea of leaving the farming community she grew up in, her friends, her aunt and uncle she's lived with while her dad fought in the war to go to this logging camp. She expects the worst and isn't really disappointed. The men are somewhat crude and dirty, not liking the bathing every other Sunday rule that her father institutes. (honestly you'd think they were 12 yr old boys!) But they don't allow any mistreatment of their little Grace even if she doesn't speak to them or look them in the eye. She cooks in the kitchen with her twin brother and Ivan, the chef and they work hard. But on the occasion that she does have a break, she goes and pouts somewhere. Yep, she's taken the silent treatment to a whole nother level! Anyway, one of the loggers sees someone mistreat her and he gets a little mistreatment of his own. It's very funny what they do to him and when Grace hears through her brother what happened she warms up to the men. But not her father. This little girl can give the silent treatment like nobody's business!

She keeps busy by snooping around and trying to figure out who is causing a series of nearly fatal accidents at the camp. The last camp boss, her father's position, was found dead of a shotgun wound and no one is sure if it was self inflicted or an accident or if he was killed. She may not be talking to him, but she doesn't want her father to die. While she puts the clues together, she makes friends with the men and begins to see the logging camp differently. We get a crash course in logging. I found it very interesting. Grace finds her way to an old Ottawa woman's tepee where she learns to make moccasin's out of rabbit skins. She reads to the men on Sunday afternoons, fairy tales and Alice in Wonderland, and she grows up quite a bit. 

The novel would have been dull if it had been just about living in a logging camp, but the added mystery, the Native American woman, a teeny tiny romance and the men reminiscing about home, about the losses in the war, all of that made for a really interesting novel. I'd definitely recommend this to any MG reader who can read a chapter book of this size. There were a few words I didn't know, but read in context (and a little help from the Kindle dictionary) I figured them out. I did not, however realize who the bad guy was until  Grace did. This book is part of a trilogy, but can work as a stand alone as the characters are different and unrelated in each story. Also for teachers, there is a Curriculum Guide available if you want to go along with the book. Below are some links you might find helpful.

Thanks to the author, Michelle Isenhoff for the complimentary copy of Beneath the Slashings given to me for an honest opinion in my review. I was in no way influenced in my review.

Here are the authors links:



  1. Thank you for this awesome review, Heather. I'm so glad you enjoyed it as much as you did.

  2. Oh interesting. I'm kind of thrown by the introduction of the last characters... hm... I would have to say that treating someone like a second class citizen (or often not human) is a perfect example of racism. Glad that this is tackled in an MG book. Thanks for the great review!

  3. I wouldn't have chosen this one due to the subject matter, just not something I've been interested in reading about. Though I am glad it surprised you in how much you ended up liking it - that's always a wonderful thing!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  4. Fantastic review! I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book when I started either. I teach 5th grade and read a lot of HF for this age group. Some I love and some I do not. I very much enjoyed this book and I am so glad I read it! Glad you enjoyed this book, too! I look forward to reading more of Michelle's books.


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