Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

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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New Shoes

May 7, 2015

index (1)New Shoes

by Susan Lynn Meyer

illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Ella Mae always got hand-me-down shoes from family. She looked into the shop windows of the local shoe shop with longing, wishing she could have her very own pair of new shoes. As she got close to the next year of school, the traditional hand-me-down phase of shoes got her a pair that just don’t fit. For the first time, she went to the shoe store and pick out a new pair of shoes. Instead of getting to try on the new shoes like the white girl in the shop ahead of her, Ella Mae had to trace around her feet on a piece of paper so the shop owner could guess at her size. Embarrassed, Ella Mae doesn’t even enjoy her new shoes. In response, Ella Mae and her friend Charlotte decide to make a shoe store all their own where ANYONE can try on their shoes before they buy them.

Set in the 1960s when segregation was still going strong in the south, New Shoes is a great way to learn about the history of our country. Ella Mae and Charlotte’s creative and determined approach to overcoming discrimination is inspiring for any reader.

Recommended for grades 1-3.

Nicki P.

Schimelpfenig Library

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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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