Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Dash by Kirby Larson

April 22, 2016

DashjacketX6W1G7TADash by Kirby Larson

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, because I love learning about other time periods and other perspectives of life.

Dash is set during World War II. The story revolves around Mitsi, who is separated from her dog, Dash, when her family is sent to a Japanese internment camp.  Based on the story of a real life person, the story touched my heart.  Larson’s writing pulls you into a young girl’s emotional perspective.  Fortunately, Mitsi and Dash are reunited, but unfortunately the internment camps were a reality that impacted so many people in America in a negative way.

I have read a couple of Kirby Larson books for teens and kids, and I’m glad I tried this one. On page 200 of the book, one of the adult characters who has created a tumbleweed garden at the camp, says, “…if you look with your heart, you can find beauty anywhere.” This book would be great for young readers and adults who are willing to discuss the past and look to the future!

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Ruby Lee & Me

April 20, 2016

Ruby Lee & MeRuby Lee & Me

By: Shannon Hitchcock

It’s 1969 and everything is changing for twelve-year-old Sarah Beth Willis. Sarah blames herself when her six-year-old sister, Robin, is hit by a car and is seriously injured. There is also racial tension in North Carolina where Sarah lives and it affects Sarah’s friendship with her best friend Ruby Lee. Sarah, who is white, has been best friends with Ruby, who is black, since she was a small child. In addition, the school the girls attend is being integrated and they will have their first black teacher. Despite the title of the book, the story centers more around the relationship between Sarah and her little sister Robin. Sarah tries to ease her guilty conscience by giving her sister something she has always wanted.

This is a touching story with well-developed characters and a realistic historical setting.

Reviewed by: Renee (Parr Library)

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Minna’s Patchwork Coat

March 8, 2016

Minna’s Patchwork Coat

by Lauren A. Mills

8-year-old Minna lives with her family in a rustic cabin in the Appalachian Mountains during the beginning of the 20th century.  Life is difficult.  Her father works in the coal mines where he has contracted the deadly black lung disease and is forced to miss work more and more often. The family is extremely poor.  Too poor, in fact, to afford a coat for Minna. Without a coat, Minna must remain at home during the harsh winter months.  No coat means no school – her greatest wish. Minna knows how to read and write thanks to her mother who has taught her at home but Minna desperately wishes that she could go to school and make friends with the other mountain children.

Sadly, Minna’s beloved father finally dies from his disease and her mother must make ends meet by joining the local Quilting Moms who sell their quilts to city people to bring in an income.  When the mothers discover Minna’s coat dilemma, they offer to make her a coat from the scraps of material that are part of their family’s life.  Each scrap has a story behind it – stories of the children that Minna hopes will eventually be her friends.  Can the children see beyond the rags to the girl inside who is offering them her friendship?

The author has based this middle grade chapter book upon her 1990 picture book The Rag Coat and in so doing has expanded Minna’s story and built it upon her own childhood memories of summers spent with her grandparents in West Virginia.  In addition, Mills has complemented Minna’s tale with exquisitely drawn pencil sketches that skillfully bring the setting and characters to life.

Recommended for grades 4 – 6.

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)




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Grace’s Letter to Lincoln

March 2, 2016

grace's letter to lincolnGrace’s Letter to Lincoln

This is a wonderful historical fiction story for all ages.  It tells the story of Grace Bedell’s letter she wrote to then-candidate Abraham Lincoln.  She encouraged him to grow whiskers and wished him success in winning the election.

Not only is it a great story, but at the end of the book are copies of the actual letters in both Grace’s and Mr. Lincoln’s handwriting.

This book is a treat to young and old alike.

Read this to your child. Have your child read it to you; or just read it for yourself.

grace's letterFIVE STARS!!

-Doug F. (Haggard Library)

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Freedom in Congo Square

February 3, 2016

congoFreedom in Congo Square

By Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

New Orleans has a history of music and dance dating all the way back to colonial times. These two Coretta Scott King honorees set out to tell the story of Congo Square, a place that served as a refuge for enslaved and free African Americans alike. During this time, there was a law stating that Sunday must be a day of rest, so for half a day a week the slaves of New Orleans gathered in Congo Square. This was where they could sing and dance and forget their oppression for a little while.

Freedom in Congo Square tells of people’s capacity to find hope and joy even under the most difficult circumstances. Through bright, vivid paintings and simple language, this story can start a conversation on a much deeper subject. Consider pairing this with other books like Ellen’s Broom and I, Too, am America as a story time for Black History Month.

Recommended for ages 4-8.

Nicole P.

Schimelpfenig Library

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The Wolf Wilder

January 12, 2016

The Wolf Wilder

By Katherine Rundell

Feodora “Feo” Petrovich and her mother Marina are “wolf wilders” who live in the snowy wilderness of Russia during the early 20th century with only wolves for company.  This may seem like strange company for them to keep but they have a strange job.  Their job is to “undomesticate” wolves who have been trained as pets for the Russian aristocracy but have grown too dangerous to own.  As their owners wish to return them to the wild, they turn them over to Feo and her mother so that they may remind the wolves of their natural instincts and help them to survive when they’re reintroduced to the wild.  This is a happy existence for both mother and daughter who live comfortably with their family of wolves until the evil and blood-thirsty General Rakov (ruler of the Tsar’s Imperial Army) orders the wolves to be destroyed. Unwilling to follow the General’s order, they are declared traitors which, of course, comes with its own consequences.  As her mother is carted off to prison “for defiance of the Tsar”, Feo vows to save her and sets off with her 4-legged friends across the wintry wilderness to rescue her and stop the General.

Is this a folk tale or a survival story?  Actually it feels like a bit of both.   Feo’s loyalty, courage and bravery sustain the story as she sets out to do what’s right in the harshest of circumstances and gains a reputation as “the little wolf girl” among the Russian peasants and those who rule them.

Recommended for grades 4 – 6

Reviewed by Connie (Parr Library)

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26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie DePaola

August 27, 2015

26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie DePaola.

Once and awhile I come across a book that I term “lost in the stacks.”  This is a book that is cataloged in a place that is not usually browsed by parents and children, or it might even just be on the bottom shelf, and no one bends down and sees it!  Many times, if not “lost,” the book would be out because it’s really good stuff!

26 Fairmount Avenue by DePaola falls into this category in my library.  It is a short chapter book, the first written by DePaola who is a favorite with young children for Strega Nona and Big Anthony. It is also the first in a series of chapter books centered on DePaola’s family memories.

I think the series is a great read-aloud for young families who would like to begin their venture beyond picture books.  DePaola tells about his extended family in a matter of fact way, and children will learn about everyday life in the 1930’s and 40’s.  At the end of one chapter, DePaola describes his mother crying, and his father using “bad words” as they struggled with the ups and downs of building their new home.  DePaola doesn’t sugar coat his memories, but it’s still told in a way that is accessible to children.  One of his other memories involves seeing the Disney version of Snow White for the first time, and being upset that it wasn’t the true version that his mother had read to him.

Why not “find” this book today?  I’m glad I did!

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The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

July 16, 2015

calpurniaI do love Calpurnia Tate!  She is a bright and inquisitive young woman living in a small Texas town in 1899.  At a time when girls are expected to be interested in needlework, Calpurnia’s interests lie in the natural world, much to the consternation of her mother. 

In this second book about the character, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Callie Vee’s interest in the natural sciences, encouraged by the influence of her grandfather, continues as the pair dissect various creatures. The relationship between Callie and her grandfather, however, takes a back seat to the story of Callie and her younger brother, Travis. The majority of the book tells of the various escapades and adventures resulting from Travis’s unlikely animal adoptions and Callie helping to care for (and hide) the creatures. The author leaves the book open-ended enough that I suspect (and hope!) there will be another about this strong female character.

calpurnia 1You may also wish to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, the book that introduces the character, although this title can stand alone. 

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy.


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I am Jackie Robinson

May 27, 2015

jackieI am Jackie Robinson

By Brad Meltzer

Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

Brad Meltzer’s series Ordinary People Change the World show heroes all throughout history in a new light. Each book is told in first person, with the historical figure telling the story about their lives and accomplishments. The illustrations are comical and fun, making it an interesting read for younger kids as well as older. What makes the books unique is that the heroes are drawn to look like children, letting the reader relate to these normally bigger-than-life people.

In his newest book in the series, Brad Meltzer shows the life of Jackie Robinson, world renowned athlete and warrior for equality. Jackie was the first African American to play on a major-league baseball team. Though he faced discrimination all of his life, Jackie learned tolerance from his mother and applied it wherever he could. People were mean to him on the field and off of it, but Jackie kept his head high and played baseball with everything he had. His example opened the doors for all races to play together.

Recommended for grades K-2.

Nicki P.

Schimelpfenig Library

If you enjoy I am Jackie Robinson, make sure to check out the other books in the series!


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The War That Saved My Life

May 19, 2015

The war that saved my lifeThe War That Saved My Life

By: Kimberly Bradley

This wonderful historical novel by Kimberly Bradley explores WWII through the eyes of a disabled child. Ada and Jamie Smith live with their abusive, neglectful mother in London. Ada is crippled by an untreated club foot which keeps her dependent on her mother. With the threat of German bombs hitting London, parents are eager to send their children to the countryside. Ada’s mother plans to send Jamie, but intends to keep Ada in London. Ada takes it upon herself to teach herself to walk while her mother is away at work and she escapes with Jamie to the train bound for the countryside. The children are placed with Susan Smith, a woman without any experience with children. The children are emotionally damaged, but slowly they come to trust Ms. Smith and thrive under her care. Susan’s care is life-changing for Ada. Ada also gets the chance to ride Susan’s horse and she enjoys the freedom of being able to travel without walking on her club foot. This story, set against a backdrop of war, is both uplifting and heartwarming.

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