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Posts Tagged «historical fiction»

One Came Home

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Amysbookby Amy Timberlake, 257 pages, Grades 6-8

Georgie does not believe her sister, Agatha, is dead even when the sheriff shows her family a body wearing the dress her mother made for Agatha. Georgie and her sister don’t always see things the same way: Georgie is planning to take over the family store, and Agatha wants to go to college even though that is unusual for women in 1871, but Georgie knows her sister is too strong willed and smart to end up dead. The facts are that her sister did run off and no one has heard from her, the body has bright red hair just like Agatha’s, Georgie’s mother believes it is her daughter and proceeds to grieve and bury her accordingly, but Georgie is so convinced that cannot be her sister that she decides to investigate Agatha’s disappearance to see if she can scare up the truth and hopefully bring her sister home.

If you like historical fiction taking place in this time period you might also enjoy Lily, by Cindy Bonner, or Sunshine Rider: the First Vegetarian Western, by Ric Lynden Hardman.

Invasion

Monday, March 31st, 2014

invasionby Walter Dean Myers, 212 pages, Grades 8 and up

It is springtime in 1944. Josiah, Marcus and countless other young men are trained and waiting. They practice getting in and out of boats over and over never knowing when their commanders call them if it is this time it will be the real thing. In a way, they are all sort of hoping the next time they get woken up to do the drill will actually be the real invasion. They all know their instructions backwards and forwards, but even that could not prepare them for what they encounter on the beach at Normandy; no one could prepare for the kind of devastation and terror that occurred on what came to be known as D-day during World War II.

If you enjoy war stories you might like other books by Walter Dean Myers, especially:  Fallen Angels, and Sunrise Over Fallujah.

Ghost Hawk

Monday, March 31st, 2014

ghost hawkby Susan Cooper, 328 pages, Grades 6-9

It is time for Little Hawk to transition from a boy to a man so he must venture out into the wilderness and survive for a few months bringing along only his tomahawk, bow and arrow, and a knife. This harrowing survival story is only the beginning. When Little Hawk returns to his village ready to rest and visit with his family he finds his village empty; plague has taken everyone but his grandmother. Little Hawk’s life is an inspiration to a young white boy named John Wakely who suffers challenges of his own; his life would not follow the path it does without the influence of Little Hawk, and Little Hawk’s life is forever changed as well. Even though this is fiction, the story includes a historical timeline of the true events at the end of the book.

If you enjoy historical fiction that takes place in early American history you might also like: Sofia’s War, by Avi, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Hattie Big Sky

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Hattie Big Sky cover 2by Kirby Larson, 289 pages, Grades6-8

* STUDENT REVIEW*

It’s 1918 and, sixteen year old Hattie Inez Brooks, has just gotten a letter that her mom’s brother, Chester, has died and is leaving his claim (a piece of land) for Hattie. Hattie no longer wants to be Hattie Here-and-There so she gets up and leaves Iowa for Montana. When Hattie gets to Montana she has to brave hard weather, a cantankerous cow, old horse, chickens, and try her hand at the cookstove. Also Hattie meets her new neighbors Perilee, Karl, Chase, Mattie, and Fern that turn out to be the best neighbors ever!

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If you enjoy historical fiction about strong young women you might also like: Our Only May Amelia, by Jennifer L. Holm, or Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool.

The Lions of Little Rock

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

by Kristin Levine, 298 pages, Grades 6-8

lions of little rockMarlee is growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas the year after the famous Little Rock Nine integration. In the aftermath of that difficult year, the town is pushing back against the federal integration order, and the schools that are refusing to integrate are shut down.  Marlee is in middle school and has her own personal struggles. She is great with math, but speaking aloud is a real struggle, in fact to many she appears completely mute. This year there is a new girl in her class and when they are partnered up for a project Marlee finds herself able to talk to Liz; they become close friends. Liz is smart and confident and enjoys Marlee’s company as well. Unfortunately, Liz has a secret. A secret so big that she cannot even tell Marlee no matter how much she wants to trust her; a secret so big that it might endanger both girls lives.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction about the civil rights era in the United States, you might also enjoy: The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

Twerp

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

twerpby Mark Goldblatt,  275 pages,  Grades 6-8

As punishment for bullying Danly Dimmel, Julian Twerski is forced to write an explanation for his English teacher. Julian’s “explanation” meanders describing a series of funny and embarrassing events Julian and his friends get themselves into. Somehow Lonnie convinces Julian to write a love letter to the girl Lonnie likes, but when Julian delivers the note, she believes Julian is the real “secret admirer.” Another time, when Julian trades partners on the field trip to help out a friend from his block, he gets attacked by a kid who thinks he is trying to steal the girl he likes. Julian’s obliviousness makes each of the situations funnier and each of his mistakes are highlighted by his older sister’s explanations. Even though some of these situations are humiliating, Julian learns a lot and is grown up enough by the end of his writing-detention to come up with a way to pay for what he had done to Danly, and become a better person for it.

Another book about a kid doing detention is called Scrawl by Mark Shulman, and book about being an upstander is called The Misfits, by  James Howe.

Hero On A Bicycle

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

hero on a bikeby Shirley Hughes,   213 pages,  Grades 6-8

Paolo lives with his sister and parents in a village outside of Florence, Italy during the second world war.  The city is occupied with Nazi soldiers, and the Partisans (Italians organizing on the side of the allies) roam the hills in hiding waiting for the allied war to come to Italy.  Paolo’s family has always been considered good citizens even though his mother is English, but when Paolo’s father disappears and is suspected of joining the Partisans many of their friends are not allowed to spend time with them. Between this, the curfew, the rations and all the other wartime constraints that Paolo feels cooped up and wants something exciting to do; he begins to sneak out of the house at night on his bicycle to ride into Florence. Soon enough Paolo does not need to go looking for adventure and he realizes boredom was just the calm before the storm.

 

The author, Shirley Hughes, is British and grew up in Liverpool, but she spent time living in Florence and was inspired by the stories of a family she came to know who had helped escaped Allied soldiers get protection from the Partisans. This is a link to her website: http://www.heroonabicycle.co.uk/p/author.html

 

Year of Wonders

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

by Geraldine Brooks, 308 pages, adult fiction, but great for adolsecents.

Anna Frith’s is a story of survival during the years of plague beginning in 1666 in Europe.  Her life was already filled with hardship even before the plague arrived to their village.  Her mother died when Anna was very young, her dad remarried, but the woman was not much of a mother and her father became more and more verbally and physically abusive to his children.  Anna got out of the house by marrying young, but even before their second child reached one year old, her husband died in the mines.  Anna’s tough and optimistic spirit helps her meet all of these challenges and it might be just these qualities that give her the strength to survive the horrors that the Black Plague brings.

If you enjoy historical fiction you might also like:  Now is The Time for Running, by Michael Williams, or Looking for Me, by Betsy R. Rosenthal.   Also, Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson is another historical fiction novel of survival in a time of devastating disease.

 

The Mighty Miss Malone

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

miss maloneby Christopher Paul Curtis, 307 pages, Grades 5-7

Deza lives with her parents and her older brother, Jimmie, in Gary, Indiana.  It is 1936, and even though her parents are both hardworking people, the Depression has taken its toll on their family.  Her father lost his job a while back and even though he is always looking for work there is just nothing to be found.  

Deza makes her family proud because she is the gets the highest marks in her class and does her best to keep her brother in line as well; this is how she earns her nickname, “the Mighty Miss Malone.”  It is a good thing she is mighty, because their family is put through the wringer; it seems like whatever can go wrong does go wrong, and the question is can Deza tough enough to help her family make through the terrible trials of the Depression?

If you like historical fiction you might like other titles by Christopher Paul Curtis such as: Bud Not Buddy, Elijah of Buxton, or The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.

Monkey Town

Friday, December 14th, 2012

monkeytownby Ronald Kidd, 259 pages, Grades 6 and up

Fifteen year old Frances’s biology teacher is absolutely dreamy, so when she sees her dad talking to him in their family coffee shop, she fantasizes about getting to know him better.  Frances’s dad and his friends are scheming to get business to pick up; they decide to organize a publicity stunt involving the handsome science teacher, Johnny Scopes.  They create a case against Scopes who is teaching evolution in his science classes, and get the religious creationists rallying against him.  

The whole thing ends up in one of the biggest trials in American history right in the center of Frances’s world, and her beloved Johnny, or Mr. Scopes, is being framed by her own father!

If you enjoy historical fiction about United States history, you might also like Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or The Minister’s Daughter, by Julie Hearn, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Promise the Night

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

promise the nightby Michaela MacColl, 262 pages, grades 6 & up

When Beryl’s dog was dragged away from her mud hut by a leopard in the middle of the night because she forgot to secure the door flap, Beryl vows to find him… then does.  When people start refering to her as a “wild child” and Beryl’s dad tries to get her a British nanny, Beryl seeks education alongside the boys from the local Nandi tribe.  When she is told that girls don’t get to go on lion hunts…

Beryl Markham was the first pilot to fly solo from England to North America.  She spent her life defying the rules that society placed on her and other women of the time.  Promise the Night is a novel based on Beryl’s remarkable childhood in Africa.

If you would like to read Beryl’s own story of her life as a pilot, you could read her autobiography, West with the Night.

Uprising

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

uprisingMargaret Peterson Haddix, 346 pages, Grades 6-8

Uprising is told from the point of view of three young women living in New York City in 1911.  Two are immigrants, one from Russia, Yetta, one recently arrived from Italy, Bella; both are factory girls living downtown, working long hours, and saving every penny possible to send home to their families in the old country. The other girl, Jane, has grown up privileged; she has a closet full of fancy dresses, servants to dress, feed and drive her.
The immigrant girls work for a shirtwaist factory where bosses force girls to work in dangerous conditions, for long grueling hours, and then cheat them when payday rolls around.  Jane finds herself moved by the factory workers plight and circumstances bring these women together.  It soon becomes clear they are really not so different; all are trapped and powerless as are most women of that time.
The suspenseful conclusion brings vivid detail to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that took the lives of so many young girls on March 25, 1911.
If you enjoy suspensful historical fiction you might also like Across the Nightengale Floor, by Lian Hearn, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

 

Moon Over Manifest

Monday, August 13th, 2012

PDF Creation in Quark 7by Clare Vanderpool, 351 pages, Grades 5-8

Abilene is used to moving from place to place in 1936.  She and her dad never stay too long anywhere so she has seen a lot of different towns in her 12 years.  Unstable as life on the road might seem to an outsider, Abilene’s dad has been the one constant in her life; they always stick together.  This summer, though, things are different; her dad just drops her in his hometown of Manifest with complete strangers (his father’s good friends) and leaves her there alone.  He says it is just for the summer, but Pastor Shady makes her attend the last day of school anyway.  At first she thinks she’ll be quietly counting the days until her stay in Manifest is over, but then she discovers a loose floorboard with treasures beneath:  letters and mementos about the town in 1918 and a notorious WWII spy called the Rattler.  Abilene is surrounded by mysteries and is determined to discover how these characters fit together and what they can teach her about her father’s personal history as well.
If you enjoy stories about kids overcoming family hardship, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, or A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews.

Jefferson’s Sons

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Jeffersons-Sons-Coverby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 360 pages, Grades 6-9

History shows that Thomas Jefferson had a second family with one of the women enslaved on his plantation.  Sally Hemings was the mother of four of Thomas Jefferson’s children:  Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston.  
Bradley’s work of historical fiction uses the president’s sons, Beverly, Madison and Eston, as narrators.  Each eleven year old boy tells his part of the story, so the novel, in three parts, is an adolescent’s point of view.
There are many things that happen on the plantation that are scary and frustrating for the enslaved people who live there; almost nothing is in their control. It is clear that Jefferson’s children are given special privileges for enslaved people: music lessons, work in the house instead of in the field, etc, but, in the end, they are still trapped and controlled by their white master.  The children are never allowed to refer to Jefferson as daddy or papa, but he has promised each of them freedom when they come of age.  Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings hope that those children who are light complected can pass into white society and improve their situations.  This would mean never seeing their mother again; whites and blacks did not freely associate in those days. And what about the children who cannot pass for white?  Will Jefferson’s sons find freedom and find better lives off the plantation?
If you enjoy historical fiction books about people struggling for justice you might also enjoy Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, or Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan.

Dead End In Norvelt

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Dead-End-in-Norvelt-Coverby Jack Gantos, 341 pages, Grades 5-8

“School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.”  

Isn’t that a great way to start a book?  

The surprise Jack’s mom has in store for him is that he will be working this summer for the old lady next door.  It seems like that might be boring, but this is no ordinary old lady. When he arrives his first day Miss Volker is boiling her hands in a pot on the stove, next thing you know Jack’s breaking-and-entering in a neighbor’s house on her orders.  Miss Volker is an expert on the town’s history; it was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt.  She needs Jack’s help to write obituaries for all the town’s original residents who are suddenly “dropping like flies.”

Poor Jack.  Between covering for his dad who wants to build an airport in their yard for the plane he is hiding in the garage, trying to avoid arrest for polluting, spying on the Hell’s Angels, and working for his crazy neighbor, his summer is not delivering the fun and games he had hoped for.

If you like funny fiction with a bit of history you might also enjoy:  A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Walking Across Egypt, by Clyde Edgerton, or The Worst/Best School Year Ever, by Barbara Robinson.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

revolutionby Ying Chang Compestine, 249 pages, Grades 5-8

Ling is nine, her parents are both doctors and they live in China surrounded by neighbors who are their friends.  Little by little the China they know begins to change around them.  The young people call themselves revolutionaries and say they value equality for all, but soon their chants “Down with the bourgeois!” and actions turn against people like Ling’s parents who have been educated.  Ling faces challenges of school bullies, the disappearance of friends and family, the lack of food and necessities as well as the abuse of loved ones as the China she knew transforms into a different place entirely.

If you would like to read more about this time period you might also enjoy a biography called:  Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-ling Jiang, or Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Chun Yu

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

small actsby Gloria Whelan, 209 pages, Grades 6 and up

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Rosalind, an English girl growing up in India, prefers to spend her days exploring the city streets and bazaar with her friend Isha, but her parents don’t know that.  Her father is away at war and her mother is still grieving over Rosalind’s brother who died while he was away at school in England.  It is her brother’s death that made it possible for Rosalind to remain in India – her mother cannot bare to part with her only child now even though most British children are educated in England – but her father is becoming concerned about Rosalind’s education and behavior; her disobedient, unconventional ways might get her sent to England after all, and just as she is becoming interested in Indian politics, in particular a dynamic leader working for India’s independence through peaceful protest named Ghandi.

If you enjoy this book you may also like other titles by Gloria Whelan including:  Parade of Shadows, Homeless Bird, or Angel on the Square.  They are all historical fiction novels with strong female characters.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

Elijah of Buxton

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

elijahofbuxtonby Christopher Paul Curtis,  341 pages,   Grades 6-8

Elijah wishes he was not quite so fragile.  He can take off running when he sees a snake, or might feel like crying when someone tells the sad story of escaping from slavery in America.  His parents worry that his fragile nature might make his life difficult, but it is that very nature that turns him into a hero.

Buxton was a real town established in 1849 by an American abolitionist who hoped to give people escaping American slavery a place to live as free human beings. The story of Elijah is fictional, but things that happen are realistic for the time and place.

Even though his family thinks he is a delicate soul, Elijah finds courage deep inside himself and takes a lot of risks to do the right thing.  It is a dangerous time to be African American; Elijah’s adventure is truly heroic.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Connections:  Christopher Paul Curtis is gifted at creating exciting stories that happen to be set in realistic times in history.  If you like Elijah of Buxton, you might also like Bud Not Buddy, or The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, both by Curtis as well.

The Poison Diaries

Friday, June 3rd, 2011
poison diariesby Maryrose Wood,    278 pages,   Grades 7 and up. Even Jesamine, who is the daughter of the apothecary and a skilled gardener,  is not allowed beyond the locked gate of the poison garden. Jesamine lives with her father, who heals the sick in and around London, in a country house in the mid 1800s.

One day the man in charge of the local home for the insane delivers a mysterious young man he calls Weed to their doorstep.  Jesamine’s father agrees to take him in even though he seems dangerous; he might be to blame for curing those in the asylum, and creating an epidemic of insanity in town.

The arrival of Weed reveals things to Jesamine that she has not realized about herself, about her father, and about the nature of poisons. Her life will never be the same.

If you like romance, mystery and fantasy you might also like Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, or Matched by Allie Condie.

 

Prisoner in the Palace: How Victoria Became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

prisoner in the palaceBy Michaela MacColl, 367 pages  Grades 7 & Up

Seventeen year-old Liza’s circumstances changed suddenly and for the worse.  One day she was living a life of luxury in a fancy hotel with her parents and the next she is destitute, after her parents die in a carriage accident.  Liza considers herself fortunate when she is hired to be the maid for the young princess (and soon to be queen), Victoria.  She quickly finds herself caught up in the intrigue, with the previous maid mysteriously dismissed and the princess’s mother and confidante trying to take away control from the soon to be queen.

Connections: For other tales of enterprising orphans from other eras, try reading Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi, and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.  If none of those appeal, a subject search in our OPAC would reveal 190 books with the tracing of “orphan.”

Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori (Book One)

Friday, September 24th, 2010

nightingale floorBy Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction

Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family.  The rest of Japan is not so;  it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country.  When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and  sees his village burning, something inside him takes over.  He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground.  Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers.  They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors.  This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.

Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward.  He is adopted by the Otori and  he discovers his father was a famous assassin.  He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities.  He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.

In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father:  kill Iida, the same  lord who burned his village and killed his family.  The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it.  How can he  cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?

Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

calpurniaby Jacqueline Kelly   p. 340  Grades 5-8

All twelve-year old Calpurnia Tate wants is to become a scientist.  She’s spent the long hot summer of 1899 in the small town of Fentress, Texas,  as an amateur naturalist recording her observations of and questions about nature in a notebook–questions such as, ” Why don’t caterpillars have eyelids?”  She finally thinks her parents understand her and acknowledge her dream when she begins to unwrap her birthday present from them.  It’s a book, and the first word of the title is Science. Unfortunately, the whole title is The Science of Housewifery!

Calpurnia is the only daughter in a family of seven children.  She has no interest in the traditional home arts a young girl at the turn of the century should be learning to make a good wife.  Instead, she develops a close relationship with her reclusive grandfather, who encourages her to use the scientific method in her quest for answers about the natural world and his own quest for a new species.

This is a very entertaining read with an intelligent, spunky protagonist, family humor, sibling rivalry, and good science.  Let’s hope for a sequel.

Connections:  Each chapter of this novel begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, so you may also want to read Charles Darwin : Naturalist by Margaret J. Anderson or Darwin’s Ghost: the Origin of Species updated by Steve Jones.  Other good novels dealing with the theory of evolution are The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer and Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd.

The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

firefly lettersBy Margarita Engle, 151 pages  Grades 6 Up

In this novel-in-verse told in three voices, inspired by the diaries and letters of 19th century suffragette, Frederika Bremer, we learn about the many barriers women faced in Cuba.  Frederika visits Cuba from Sweden and stays with a wealthy family whose daughter, Elena seems more confined by her society’s expectations for women than the family’s slave, Cecilia who travels with Frederika as her interpreter.

Connections:  For other novels in verse, try reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Out of the Dust or Witness by Karen Hesse.

Blessing’s Bead

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

blessings-bead-debby-dahl-edwardson-book-cover-artBy Debby Dahl Edwardson, 178 pages  Grades 6-9

The mysterious blue bead in her grandmother’s sewing basket and the stories of her Inupiaq ancestors provide the grounding Blessing needs when she is forced to live with her grandmother in a remote village in northern Alaska while her alcoholic mother is in treatment.  This novel, in two parts, starts in 1917 with the story of Blessing’s great-grandmother’s experiences with the arrival of Siberian traders and survival of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

Connections:  Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is another story of a girl caught between worlds in Alaska.  For a story that focuses on the effect of influenza on a small Alaskan village, read The Great Death byJohn Smelcer.

One Crazy Summer

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

one crazy summerby Rita Williams-Garcia  p. 218  Grades:  5-8

It’s the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine flies from New York to Oakland with her two younger sisters to spend the summer, uninvited, with the mother who walked out on them when Delphine was seven and Fern was just a few days old.  Her father feels the girls need to get to know their mother, but that does not make Cecile any more welcoming.  In fact, she won’t even let the girls into her kitchen.  Dinners are take-out food on the living room floor and breakfast is at the Black Panther summer camp.   The girls are on their own, but each comes into her  own that summer.   Told from Delphine’s perspective, this is a lively, often humorous, story of resilience with characters you will come to know and love.

Connections:  A novel about the Black Panther Party for older readers  is The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.  Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers is set during the Harlem Renaissance, another significant period in African American history, and tells the story of another crazy summer.

Pastworld

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

pastworld-coverby Ian Beck   p. 353    Young Adult

In 2050, central London has been transformed into a theme park for modern day tourists to visit.   These “gawkers”  fly in on an airship  for a day or two to experience what life was like in Victorian London, including dangerous street crime and hangings.  When seventeen-year-old Caleb flies in with his father, one of the originators of Pastworld, his father is kidnapped and Caleb is accused of murder.  He meets beautiful and innocent Eve, a teenage inhabitant of Pastworld, and they become embroiled in a ScotlandYard investigation of a series of gruesome murders by the mysterious Fantom.  This story is a compelling mix of science and historical fiction.

Connections:  Another suspense novel with people living in an  historical amusement park  is Running Out of  Time by Margaret Haddix.     Other great mysteries set in Victorian London are Montmorency by Eleanor Updale,  Smith by John Garfield, and the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Imperfections

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

imperfection_by_lynda_durrantBy Lynda Durrant   p. 171   Grades 5-8

What is perfection?  When Rosemary Elizabeth arrives at the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, she has plenty of delicious food to eat, spotlessly clean, white clothes to wear and beautiful surroundings.  She also gets to leave her drunk, abusive father and knows that her younger brother and sister are safe, too.  But, can Rosemary Elizabeth live up to the Shaker ideal of perfection with all of the rules about eating, sleeping, dressing, working, praying and talking?  Even if she can, does she want to?

Connections – Other stories that depict the impact of the Civil War on the youth is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

When the Whistle Blows

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

whistle blowsBy Fran Cannon Slayton, 162 pages  Grades 6-10

The B&O Railroad passes just outside Jimmy Cannon’s window, and since his dad is the foreman, the engineers hit the whistle every time they pass.  Jimmy has learned to sleep with a pillow over his head, but on Halloween night in 1943, his brother Mike snatches away the pillow so they can sneak out and follow the Society to learn their secrets.  On Halloween night, 1944, and Jimmy and his buddies (the Platoon) are planning to use some rotten cabbages to get  revenge against the local bully, Stubby Mars.  On Halloween night, 1946, Jimmy and the team are playing in the championship game of the first undefeated season in Rowlesburg High school history.  Halloween happens to be Jimmy’s dad’s birthday and through Jimmy’s teen years the day (and night) always bring him something, including mysteries, antics, and heartache.

Connections:  Another historical fiction book about working on the railroad is Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep.  For another book set in the country, try reading Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech. Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone is another historical fiction title with a complicated father and son relationship.  To learn more about the book, the author or the railroad, check out the author’s website.

War Games: a Novel Based on a True Story

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

war gamesBy Audrey Couloumbis & Akila Couloumbis, 229 pages  Grades 5-8

Before the Germans invaded their village in Greece, Petros fought with his brother, played marbles with his buddies and loved hearing stories about his heroic cousin fighting in the war.  Now, people have left the village, neighbors can’t be trusted, and friends need help.  In these trying times, twelve year-old Petros finds that even his services are essential to the war effort.

Connections:  Hitler’s Canary by Sandy Toksvig and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry are other stories of kids involvement in the resistance during World War II.

Crows & Cards

Friday, February 26th, 2010

crows and cardsby Joseph Helgerson   p. 279   Grades:  6-8

Twelve-year-old Zebulon Crabtree is angry with his father for shipping  him off on a Mississippi riverboat to St. Louis to become a tanner’s apprentice.  He quickly decides to disobey his dad when  Chilly Larpenteur, a cardshark and con man, tricks him out of his money and convinces Zeb to join his racket.   Zeb pretty much becomes Chilly’s prisoner, being locked in the cupboard of the gambling house each evening and forced to work the wire that signals Chilly about his opponent’s cards, so he can cheat.   Zeb’s only hope is to escape, and with the help and friendship of a slave and a Hidasta Indian chief and his daughter, he may succeed.  This is a humorous, rollicking adventure reminiscent of Mark Twain’s novels.

Connections:  The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventues of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by W. R. Philbrick.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Monday, January 25th, 2010

bloodontheriverby Elisa Carbone    p. 224   Grades 5-8

Barely escaping the gallows in London, orphan Sam Collier finds himself the page to Captain John Smith and on his way to the New World to help settle the Jamestown colony.  Smith believes the survival skills Sam has honed on the streets of London and even his violent temper will make him a successful settler in this challenging new frontier.  Captain Smith faces challenges of his own.  Although he has a good relationship with the Powhatan, the British aristocrats resent the leadership role he’s taken and do everything in their power to undermine and even arrest him.  This is gripping historical fiction, based on primary source documents, that presents the Indian perspective as well as the colonial.

Connections:  The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac, A Pickpocket’s Tale by Karen Schwabach, and The light in the Forest by Conrad Richter are other good novels about the Colonial Period in America.

The Rock and the River

Monday, January 25th, 2010

rockriverby Kekla Magoon   p. 283   Grades:  7-10

Fourteen-year-old Sam is caught between a rock and a hard place.  It’s Chicago 1968.  His father, a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s,  is a lawyer and Civil Rights leader who has been organizing nonviolent protests and demonstrations most of Sam’s life.  His seventeen-year-old brother Stick is impatient with the nonviolent approach, and after King’s assassination, joins the militant Black Panther Party.  Sam’s life is thrown into further turmoil when he witnesses the brutal police beating and arrest of an innocent Black teenager and finds a gun hidden in the bedroom he shares with his brother.  This wrenching story propels the reader along with Sam toward his ultimate decision:  will he be the rock or the river? Through Sam’s personal story, the reader comes to understand how 1968 was the year that the Civil Rights Movement changed course.

Connections:  Freedom Songs by Yvette Moore is another novel about the Civil Rights Movement.  Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe tells the infamous story of Emmett Till, a fourteen year-old African American boy from Chicago who was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi.  Our library owns many nonfiction books about the Civil Rights Movement.  One of special interest is Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

Flygirl

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

flygirlby Sherri L. Smith  p. 271  Grades 6-8

It’s World War II, and the Japanese and Germans aren’t the only enemies.  On the homefront, Ida Mae Jones is fighting racism and sexism.  All she wants to do is become a pilot and to help in the war effort.  The U.S. government has formed the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), but they won’t accept African Americans (“colored”) into what was still the segregated armed services.  Risking her life and disappointing her family, Ida Mae decides to pass for white by joining up and reporting for training in Texas, where enforcement of Jim Crow laws was especially harsh.  To avoid the constant threat of danger, Ida Mae must skillfully maneuver not only her airplane but also her relationships so that her true identity is not discovered.

Connections:  To learn more about women pilots in World War II, read Yankee Doodle Gals:   Women Pilots of World War II by Amy Nathan.

Keeping Corner

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Keeping Cornerby Kashmira Sheth    p. 272  Grades: 6-8

Twelve-year-old Leela, betrothed at age two and married at age nine,  suddenly becomes a widow when the husband whom she’s never lived with dies in a tragic accident.

It’s 1918 in Gujarat, India, and widows are not allowed to remarry nor to participate in community celebrations or activities.  They are viewed as bad luck and must shave their heads and spend the first year in their parents’  home “keeping corner.”  Life seems over for Leela until a tutor arrives to help her get an education.  Gandhi is not only working toward freeing India from British rule but also for women’s rights, especially rights for young widows.  This compelling story shows a young, self-absorbed girl growing into an accomplished, confident young woman against the backdrop of  India’s independence movement.

Connections:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelen also tells the story of a teenage widow, but in contemporary India.  Neela by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of Gandhi and the Independence Movement.   Kashmira Sheth’s other novels are also excellent:  Blue Jasmine and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

6277972by Dene Low.  p. 196    Grades 5-8

What a funny, frothy farce!  Set in Victorian England, this improbable mystery concerns sixteen-year-old Petronella who is about to have her London debut when her guardian Uncle Augustus swallows a giant beetle and develops an insatiable hunger for all insects.  The story begins at Petronella’s sixteenth birthday party on her large country estate where her uncle swallows the bug, two of her celebrity guests disappear, and we meet the romantic Lord James Sinclair.  Filled with Petronella’s witty observations and banter, lots of slapstick, luscious language,and some romantic possibilities, this books is a delight to read.

Connections:  If you enjoy this book, try the short stories and novels by P.G. Wodehouse such as How Right You Are, Jeeves, Carry on, Jeeves, and Leave It to Psmith.

One-Handed Catch

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

one-handed-catch-mary-jane-auch-paperback-cover-artby M. J. Auch  p. 246  Grades: 5-8

The summer before sixth grade,  Norm loses his left hand when it gets caught in a meat grinder.  Poor kid!  His mom’s not cutting him any slack, and his dreams of making the baseball team seem hopeless–until he hears about a one-handed major league baseball player and a customer gives him a right-handed baseball mitt.  Now it’s up to Norm.

Connections:  Here’s some other great baseball fiction:  Hang Tough Paul Mather by Alfred Slote;  Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa; Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter; High Heat by Carl Deuker; and Hard Ball byWill Weaver.  Browse 796.357 for baseball nonfiction and search baseball biography in the catalog for famous players.

Child of Dandelions

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

child of dandelionsby Shenaaz Nanji, p. 210  Grades: 7-10

What do you do when your whole world seems to be falling down around you?  Do you deny that it is happening?  In 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda gave all foreign Indians 90 days to leave the country, fifteen year-old Sabine didn’t think that included her family, as they were all Ugandan citizens.  When her uncle disappears mysteriously, she convinces herself that he will turn up soon.  When her best friend, Zena turns against her, Sabine hopes she will come around eventually.  But, when the soldiers come looking for her father . . .

Connections:  Some other stories that deal with conflict between different groups within one country include Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Best bad luckby Kristin Levine, p. 264 – Grades 6-9

While many of the townspeople in early 20th century Moundville, Alabama were shocked at the arrival of the new African-American postmaster, twelve-year old Dit was disappointed when he realized the postmaster’s child, Emma, was a girl rather than the playmate he had been hoping for.  Adventuresome Dit is sure that he will never enjoy spending time with bookish, refined Emma, but he grudgingly shows her around and eventually the two end up finding common ground in the digging of a fort in Dit’s favorite hill mound.  With the start of school in the fall, Dit comes to more fully understand the realities of the Jim Crow laws as Emma is forced to go to a different school and his buddies tease him about their friendship.  Racial tensions in the town really erupt when the the town’s African American barber is charged with a crime against the overtly racist sheriff, and as witnesses to the crime, Dit and Emma can’t help but get involved.

Connection:  For another story about a friendship challenged by racism, read Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone.

Alligator Bayou

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

alligator bayouby Donna Jo Napoli, p. 280 – Grades 7-10

Fourteen year-old Calogero lives with his four uncles and one cousin in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana at the end of the 19th century.  He has left his four year-old brother behind in Sicily after the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother.  At a time of strong anti-immigrant sentiment and Jim Crow laws, the Sicilians are being forced to keep separate from not only the white but also the black members of the community.  Calo’s secret crush on an African American girl, Patricia, and the success of the family’s produce market provide the fuel to feed the flames of racism in this small town.

Connection:  The King of Mulberry Street is another novel, by Donna Jo Napoli,  that describes the experience of Italian American immigrants (in New York City).

Laurie Halse Anderson

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

chainsCheck out this new historical fiction title from a favorite author:

Chains, p. 316 – Grades 6-10

Highlight:  Watch this great interview (from Reading Rockets) with Laurie Halse Anderson talking about her life and her books.

Hitler’s Canary

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

hitler's canaryby Sandy Toksvig, p. 191 – Grades 5-8

Bamse, just 10 when the Germans invaded Denmark, is coming of age during the occupation.  He must decide whether to follow his brother in working with the Danish Resistance or listen to his father and stay out of trouble.  His mother’s acting career and her theatrics provide the structure for the story as well as drama and comic relief.  Bamse comes to realize that not all German’s are bad nor all Danish good, and why his friend Anton’s participation in the resistance is particularly dangerous/courageous.  The author’s note explains what parts of this work of fiction come from her own family’s experiences.

Connection:  This book might appeal to those who enjoyed Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  –CRW

The Porcupine Year

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Porcupine Yearby Louise Erdrich, p. 193 – Grades 5-8

This third book in the series that started with the Birchbark House can stand alone.  Omakayas is twelve as her family is forced,  by increasing numbers of white settlers, to move westward through northern Minnesota from their original home on Madeline Island.  The story picks up quickly with Omakayas and her younger brother being swept far down river through raging rapids.  The family faces many dangers (human, nature and animal) while Omakayas moves through the uncharted territory of womanhood (changing relationships, responsibilities and romance).

Connection:  Another story of personal growth along with voyages and travel is Sharon Creech’s Ruby Holler.  –CRW