Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’


May 16, 2014

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Revolution is the griping second book in The Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles. It is the summer of 1964 and everything in Sunny Fairchild’s life in Greenwood, Mississippi has changed. Her father has remarried, bringing a stepmother, new brother and new sister into her life. As if that weren’t enough to cope with she learns the local pool has just been shut down. Soon Sunny learns the issue is bigger than she realized.

This is Freedom Summer. Many local business owners in Greenwood, MS refuse to comply with Federal orders to serve blacks by closing their operations. Members of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stage protests and promote understanding. Volunteers from Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) begin to flood the south to register black voters and  start Freedom Schools, Community Centers and Freedom Libraries. The hot Mississippi summer gets hotter.

Against a backdrop of period photographs, hundreds of quotes and song lyrics, Wiles helps readers understand the history, human determination and political powers of that important time. Through her alternate storytellers, Sunny and a young black boy, she reveals a vast array of reactions from ordinary people: confusion, hatred, altruism, denial, love and awareness.

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What the Moon Said

May 6, 2014

What the Moon Said

 Gayle Rosengren

Esther Vogel’s immigrant mother is a worrier.  She worries when she sees a ring around the moon or when there is rain on the start of her family’s journey to a small farm in Wisconsin.  The year is 1930 and Esther’s father has lost his job during the Depression.  They leave Chicago and decide to start their lives over on a farm.  The run-down farm house does not have electricity or a bathroom, but Esther is determined to see the situation as an adventure.  She loves the horses, the cows, and especially having a dog.  She also loves school and the quiet country landscape.  However, what Esther really wants is more affection from her mother and a new best friend.  It will take a serious illness for Esther to realize that her mother loves her, but she expresses her love in her own way.

This quiet story will appeal to readers who enjoy historical fiction.  Esther is a sweet girl who is adventurous, giving, and charming.



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April 24, 2014

Paperboy by Vince Vawter

I am listening to this book and it is making me want to hang out in my car a lot more than usual!  Lincoln Hoppe’s narration of the main character and his stuttering dialogue is so touchingly done, I wonder if I would have been quite as enthralled by the book if I read it instead of listened to it.  As the boy throws papers and goes to collect each week, he gets to know many of the people on the route.  Hoppe brings to life Mr. Spiro, who treats the boy to real conversation and challenges him to think.  He lends a southern accent to the housemaid and a drunken slur to Mrs. Worthington that makes each character come alive.

I highly recommend this audiobook version!  Here’s a description of the book to get you interested:

An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he knows he’ll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. 

The paper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger. [from Goodreads]

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Seven Stories Up

April 2, 2014

Seven Stories Up CoverSeven Stories Up

By Laurel Snyder

12-year-old Annie Jaffin has always wanted to meet her grandmother but never has.  Unfortunately Annie’s mother has always wanted to keep them apart and Annie has never been able to understand why.  That is, until the day her mother is summoned to Baltimore to say her final “good-bye” to Annie’s grandmother who is very ill and possibly dying.  As it turns out, Annie’s mother has been protecting her from her grandmother who is a mean, spiteful and angry person even on her death bed. After a particularly awkward first meeting, Annie is hurried off to bed and is magically transported in her sleep to a hotel room in 1937.  There she meets another young girl her own age named Molly, whom she soon discovers is her grandmother as a young girl.  Without revealing their relationship, Annie becomes close friends with Molly and slowly uncovers her grandmother’s past and reasons for her behavior as they experience adventures together throughout Baltimore in the 1930’s.

Seven Stories Up is a skillfully written story of family relationships, friendship, historical fiction and time travel. Sprinkle it with magical realism and you have a finished product that grabs at the heart strings, pulls you in and doesn’t let go. I love the thought of going back in time and meeting my grandmother (or mother) as a young girl. Snyder handled it beautifully from beginning to end. I loved it!

Highly recommended for grades 4 through 6.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)


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A Medal for Leroy

January 24, 2014


A Medal for Leroy

Posed as a story within a story Morpurgo tells a tale of prejudices, secrets, families and love. Michael grew up in London in the 1940s. He didn’t have a father, just Maman. He looked different from most of the other boys. They called him “Poodle” for his frizzy black hair and because his mother was French.


There were two others in the family, Auntie Pish and Auntie Snowdrop they called them, who lived by the sea. Maman and Michael made regular visits to the aunties. Michael didn’t enjoy these trips but he did like to play with their dog Jasper and Auntie Snowdrop was always especially kind to him.


Michael knew so little about his father. The aunties had raised the orphan Roy together. They revered a framed photograph of him and reminded Michael how much he looked like his father. Roy, an RAF pilot, had several medals for bravery but was shot down and killed in 1940.


Several years after Auntie Snowdrop died Michael discovered a legacy from her. Behind the photo of his father she had tucked a story letter entitled ”Who I am, what I’ve done, and who you are.” It explained everything.   


Michael knew he had to make things right.


This sensitive, bitterweet story is recommended for ages 9+.

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This is the Rope

October 1, 2013

RopeThis is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome.

A rope becomes part of a family’s history after a girl finds it under a tree in South Carolina.  The rope is used to tie down the family possessions when that girl- now a grown woman, moves to New York City with her husband and baby daughter.  It is used as a clothesline to dry the baby’s diapers.  Of course it is used for jumping when the baby is a young girl and then later to hold down her possessions when she is driven to college. Ultimately the rope reminds the grandmother, who originally found it, of her childhood.

The lush illustrations contrast the wide-open country landscape with the crowded conditions of the city.  The story of this family represents the many people who migrated North during the 20th century looking for a better life.

Recommended for grades 1-3.
Donna C. (Schimelpfenig Library)

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Lara’s Gift

September 20, 2013

larasgiftLara’s Gift

By: Annemarie O’Brien

Lara works with her father as a kennel steward, breeding Borzoi dogs worthy of the Tsar.  The Russian wilderness, where this story takes place, has many wolves that kill livestock and threaten the people who live in neighboring villages.  Borzoi dogs are known for their bravery and speed, and trained to fight and kill the wolves on hunts.

Lara intends to become the next kennel steward to continue the family tradition, but her father has other ideas about her future.  When her mother gives birth to a boy, Lara fears that her newborn brother will be groomed to take the place of kennel steward.  Lara’s heart is with the dogs and she is able to rely on her special gift that helps her understand the dogs well.  She keeps her special gift as a secret from her father, who increasingly believes that Lara should learn sewing skills from her mother and marry.

Lara foresees her favorite dog, Zar, in danger with a pack of wolves.  Does she risk revealing her secret to her father?  Will Lara continue the family tradition as kennel steward?

This story interweaves the love of dogs, historical fiction, and finding your destiny.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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Written in Stone

August 30, 2013

written_in_stone260Written in Stone

by: Rosanne Parry

This story begins in the late 1990s with Pearl Carver remembering her past living on a Makah Native American reservation in Alaska.  The story goes back to the early 1920s when Pearl was a 13-year-old girl.  Whaling is an important part of the Makah society and their neighboring tribe, the Quinault.  From whales, they gain food, oil, and a way to make a living with neighboring communities.  Most importantly, whaling is part of their spiritual heritage.

Pearl is the daughter of the best Indian whaler in her community and possibly on the Pacific coast.  On a whaling trip, Pearl’s father doesn’t return home.  The tribal members mourn the loss and believe it is a sign that whaling should come to an end, as the whales are moving farther away.  Job prospects are slim for tribal members on the Pacific Northwest and Pearl does not want the tribe to become fragmented.  She struggles with maintaining her cultural identity and the integrity of her tribe.  Should they sell precious artifacts to an art dealer from the east coast?  Should she move into town like her cousin Susi to get a job?

Pearl comes to her own conclusions to blend old traditions with the new ways.

As an added bonus, the end of this book contains numerous footnotes written by the author, explaining personal connections to Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest and various facets of their cultures.  There is also additional non-fiction reading resources for both young readers and older readers, including a Quinault language glossary.

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Better to Wish: the First Generation

August 16, 2013

Better to Wish (Family Tree) CoverBetter to Wish: the First Generation

  Family Tree series: Book 1

By Ann M. Martin

Abby Nichols’ story begins in 1930’s Maine when she is 8-years-old.  Her story spans the course of the next 15 years with 2 chapters per year revealing the challenges and changes of her young life .  Most stories taking place during the 1930’s are tales of financial hardship during the Great Depression.  Abby’s story; however, is quite different.  Her father has built a successful furniture business catering to the wealthy summer tourists who come to the area every year.  As a result, her family moves from their beloved cottage by the sea to a bigger house in a larger town complete with hired servants.  Abby’s challenges are not economic ones but familial ones as her father is quite domineering with strict religious and ethnic prejudices limiting Abby’s friendships and activities. Wealth and comfort are no protection from loss and heartache for Abby and her family.  Abby’s strength and courage during the difficult times provide the reader with a portrait of a compassionate young girl growing into a resilient young woman, willing to speak her mind and assert her independence  during a time when women and girls’ independence was not encouraged.  This is the first book in the Family Tree series in which Ann Martin intends to tell the story of four girls from succeeding generations as we will meet Abby’s daughter, Dana, her granddaughter Francie and her great-granddaughter Georgia in the next  3 books.

Recommended for ages 8-12 and readers looking for something more advanced than the American Girl historical fiction series.

Reviewed  by Connie (Parr Library).



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Bo at Ballard Creek

July 29, 2013

Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill

I love stories about life on the frontier and those who made their lives in a world without television, stocked freezers at the corner grocery store, and central air and heat.  Bo at Ballard Creek is set in 1920’s Alaska in a gold mining town and Eskimo village, where Bo lives with her two papas and the other people who work together to create a thriving community.

One summer vacation we went to the Rocky Mountains and tried our hands at panning for gold.  Chapter Ten, “Sluicing and Cleanup,” opened my eyes to the gold mining process; panning is just a small part of the work intensive process.

The characters in Bo at Ballard Creek are interesting, and humorous daily situations fill each chapter.  Especially endearing is how the community takes loving care of each other.

I would recommend this for third grade through fifth grade, and families might also enjoy it as a read-aloud.

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