Tag archives for Historical Fiction
Have you ever felt unsure of yourself when venturing into the unknown or making a decision? It may have been something small like “I wonder what color socks I should wear today”. Now imagine if it wasn’t something small, but a choice that could change your whole life. This pressure and uncertainty is exactly what Charlotte feels in this book and trust me, the journey she makes is a lot more important than what color socks she is wearing! Charlotte Doyle is a thirteen year old girl who lives in England in 1832 where she receives the finest education money can buy at the Barrington School for Better Girls. She has lived in England since she was six, but was born in America. The rest of her family lives in Providence, Rhode Island. So now Charlotte is set to sail on the Seahawk on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to live with her family. She can barely remember America so it is almost like moving to a whole new country again! Despite the unknown, she is excited to go because there will be two families with kids her own age travelling with her. However, at the last minute Charlotte finds out that the two families cannot accompany her to America so now she must travel alone.
At first Charlotte is uneasy about being the only lady aboard the ship. But the captain is well known and works for her father and she begins to make friends with the crew. After a time, she finds that there is a peculiar hatred of the captain of the ship. Charlotte now has to decide if she believes the rumors of the captain’s cruelty or if she should betray the sailors she has befriended.
I usually don’t read that many adventure books, but this one immediately captivated me. I had recently learned sailing at summer camp and thought I could test my knowledge since this book is set on a ship. Still, many words were unfamiliar to me, so I thought it was really handy that it had a diagram of the ship so I would know what they were referring to as I read along. I also thought it was amazing that I could relate to Charlotte even though she lived in 1832. I couldn’t believe the trip she was taking at age 13 and it helped bring to life the fact that my great-grandmother made a similar trip when she was only 16. I can better appreciate how I would feel if I had to move to an unfamiliar country without the support of my family. This is definitely a book that will stick with you through the years and I guarantee if you read it, you will be rereading it a couple of years afterwards.
BOOK NAME: Glory Be
AUTHOR: Augusta Scattergood
Glory’s lazy summer had been slowing strolling along until a big event happened that didn’t just change her summer, but her whole life! Set in 1960s Mississippi, Glory Be introduces you to Glory, a regular eleven year old girl who bothers her older sister, causes trouble, and looks forward to the swimming pool during the blazing summers. She’s had every birthday celebration there since she could swim, but now there are rumors the pool might close. In fact, nothing in town has been the same since a Yankee girl named Laura and her mother have come from Ohio to stir things up. Apparently those folks in the north don’t care much for segregation. In fact, Laura evens goes so far as to help an African American girl drink out of the white’s only fountain!
Glory doesn’t know any different way of life because she has grown up with segregation. But now there’s all kinds of talk about change such as her best friend leaving her school if it becomes desegregated. All these different opinions are making Glory’s head spin as she witnesses first-hand the civil rights movement starting into motion. She is now faced with some difficult choices as she stands up for what she believes is right.
This book was truly amazing and readers will love it just because it is a good read, and they won’t realize they are learning at the same time. The southern spin on the book also makes it all the more enjoyable, opening up a new window to the world for me as a northerner. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn about an interesting topic in our nation’s history or just wants a book to brighten up dark days.
BOOK NAME: Across Five Aprils
AUTHOR: Irene Hunt
9-year-old Jethro Creighton has lived on his father’s farm in southern Illinois his entire life. He is finally old enough to work on the farm and do his part to provide for the family. Jethro is proud to pitch in, and is extremely content with his boyhood. All seems peaceful to him, but underneath the placid mask lie turbulent times. The United States is being torn apart. Civil war seems just over the horizon.
Then the first shots ring out at Fort Sumter. The American Civil War has begun. As the men around him rally for war, Jethro doesn’t think much of the battle, just faraway gunfire on a faraway building. How could it possibly affect him?
As the battles rage on, his brothers begin to leave. Tom Creighton, John Creighton, and Jethro’s cousin Eb Carron, all leave to fight for the Union side. Jethro still doesn’t think much of war. His brothers will live; it will be the Southern Confederates, the enemy, who perish on the battlefield.
Then, Jethro’s favorite brother, Bill, quietly slips away to fight for the Confederacy, discreetly telling Jethro of his intentions. What if Bill is one of those Confederates who dies in battle? Could Bill die by another brother’s bullet, or will it be the other way around? How will a Union-favoring town react to the news of a Confederate in their midst? Most importantly, how long will the brutal war rage; will all of his brothers return home?
This book was not the greatest book I’ve ever read, but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. The storyline was a little dull. The beginning of the book, before the Civil War begins, is especially slow and boring to read. It does have its moments, especially during the war years. I found the recounts of the battles to be especially interesting. Still, there was one main characteristic of this book that I found somewhat annoying. To authenticate the Illinois setting, the characters speak with a drawl. All of the slang, improper grammar, and accented words made the dialogue difficult to understand. Still, if you like history, you should definitely give Across Five Aprils a try.
BOOK NAME: Elephant Run
AUTHOR: Roland Smith
Nick Freestone is a young teen living in a time when the world is at war. Due to the fact that the city he resides in, London, is being bombed by German bombers constantly, Nick’s mother decides to send him off to Burma where his father manages a teak plantation. Nick feels that he will be safe in Burma halfway around the world and is ready to learn about the world of mahouts (elephant handlers) and teak harvesting. At the plantation, he befriends Mya, a girl his age, and the legendary elephant monk Hilltop.
Everything seems to fare well for Nick until the day the Japanese invade the country. Japanese troops overrun the plantation and hold the villagers hostage. Nick’s father and several other plantation workers are sent off to a labor camp while the rest (including Nick) are held in captivity at the plantation. As Nick adapts to harsh life in the Japanese-occupied plantation, he is forced to play the role of servant and suffers from the abuse of Bukong, the plantation’s former chef who is a Burmese collaborator with the Japanese. Eventually, he and Mya cannot tolerate the Japanese occupation of the country any longer and secretly plan to escape the plantation and rescue their imprisoned family members with the assistance of Hilltop. The two know that escape is nearly impossible. Japanese soldiers control the entire countryside and the jungle wilderness is an inhospitable place. Despite the risk of capture and punishment, nothing will stop Nick and Mya as they embark on a dangerous journey to free themselves from the Japanese.
Elephant Run by Roland Smith is one of the best books he has ever written that is intended for younger audiences. The book combines history, cultural studies, and nature, and is a unique book with something for everyone. Elephant Run takes an in-depth look at Burma during WWII and tells the story of Nick’s experiences living in a wartime Japanese-occupied Burma. I appreciate the fact that Smith examines an uncommon, “backwater” front of the war that is not as studied as the other famous fronts of the Second World War. The story’s background settings will allow readers to know what life was like for the Burmese as they were subjugated and dominated by the Japanese including labor conditions and the dangers of disobeying the military authorities. Roland Smith’s book also takes a fascinating look at the culture and wildlife of Burma. He accurately describes the clothes that the Burmese wear (skirt-like clothing known as a Longyi), the diverse wildlife of the country, the inside of a traditional Burmese home, the trade of a mahout (elephant handler), and other aspects of Burma.
I especially enjoyed the plot, which was fraught with suspense, action, and memorable characters. I’m pretty sure that Elephant Run could be made into a film, because the action never seemed to cease for even a moment! Elephant Run is an excellent read for any historical fiction fans, and I’d give it a 9.5/10. This book is simply brilliant and creative, and will not fail to satisfy!
BOOK NAME: The Secret School
Ida Bidson is devastated when she hears that her teacher, Miss Fletcher, must travel to take care of her sick mother, and therefore her one-room school is closing. Since it is almost the end of the school year, Mr. Jordan, the mean head of the school board, decides to save money and refuses to hire another teacher to substitute. This ends all of Ida’s dreams of taking her exit exams, and maybe going to high school! But wait… could there be a solution?
Tom Kohl, Ida’s best friend who is in eighth grade with her, tells her that he thinks she should be the teacher. At first, Ida is quick to decline the idea. But as she thinks more about it, she starts to convince herself that maybe, just maybe, she could be the teacher! After all, that is what she wants to do in life! So after voting with the class, Ida Bidson, who is only 14 years old, becomes the teacher. Yet the kids know that if they tell the school board, Ida will not be allowed to be the teacher, so they make it a secret school. At first, Ida has some troubles. It’s not easy to teach seven children in one room, especially if the kids are from first to eighth grade! Yet soon enough, Ida begins to get
used to playing the role of “Miss Bidson”, and is a great teacher.
One day, the school board finds out about the secret school. Will they close the school down? Or will Ida speak up and find a way to allow the school to continue?
I really enjoyed this book. Although it is an easy reader, I would recommend it to anyone. The book is great for ages eight and up. The characters are well developed, and sometimes the suspense of the story is unbearable!
BOOK NAME: Moon Over Manifest
AUTHOR: Clare Vanderpool
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool is one girl’s journey to learn more about her father’s
In the summer of 1936, twelve year old Abilene is sent by Gideon, her father, to Manifest,
Kansas, his hometown. Here, in a room, Abilene discovers a cigar box filled with letters, a fishing lure,
doll, cork, and skeleton key. Her mind is stuck as to whether these mementos belong to her father.
While on her quest to learn more about her father’s childhood days, she enters Miss Sadie’s divining
parlor, the Path to Perdition. Miss Sadie tells her the adventurous, yet tragic story of two boys, Ned and
Jinx, from 1918 Manifest. Still, there is no mention of Gideon. Abilene tries to make connections
between the stories and the mementos. Where is Gideon’s place in this story? Read the book to find out.
This 2011 Newbery Medal Winner is an all-star read for middle school kids. Readers will get
involved with Abilene’s adventure, and they, too, will wonder who Gideon was when he was a boy. Also,
at the end so many mysteries come together that the reader will be amazed with the contemplative
mind of the author. The author sets up the plot wonderfully by incorporating newspaper articles and
written letters. Page after page, stories, connections, and wonders build on, making the reader want to
keep reading this book.
BOOK NAME: Esperanza Rising
AUTHOR: Pam Munoz Ryan
I was a little skeptical about this book when they gave it to me to read in school, but once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. This is a very inspiring and unique book set in the 1930s about a girl named Esperanza. She initially lives in Mexico and through a series of tragic events, goes from riches to rags. This includes her beloved father being killed by bandits hired by Esperanza’s evil uncle, and a terrifying house fire that she almost takes her life. The family is left with a terrible decision to either give into the uncle’s wretched demands or to leave the land they know and love.
Esperanza goes on the road with her mother to America to escape her uncle. Though devastating, this experience helps her appreciate what she still has–family and love. This appreciation is strengthened when she finds herself actually having to work not only for herself, but also for her now ill mother. She settles into a work camp located miles away from the land she knew all her life as home, and soon learns all too well what hard work is really like.
This is a wonderful book that I recommend for kids in middle school. Spanish words, Mexican culture, and traditions are woven in throughout the story, making it even more fun to root for Esperanza. Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish, so the title literally means Hope Rising. The author actually modeled this story around her grandmother’s life, and I enjoyed being able to share in her adventure.
BOOK NAME: Toliver’s Secret
AUTHOR: Esther Wood Brady
Ellen Toliver lives in New York with her mom and grandfather during the American Revolution.
She leads the normal life of a young girl, except for the fact that her house is filled with
redcoats (British soldiers). Her grandfather is a barber, and all of the soldiers come to his shop.
One day, Ellen catches her mother baking a snuffbox inside a loaf of bread. When she asks what
the purpose of this mysterious bread is, her mother merely dismisses the question. Ellen gets
suspicious. Why would her mother be baking a loaf of bread with a snuffbox hidden inside?
When her grandfather is injured on the ice, Ellen finds out the story. Her grandfather is a spy for
the Americans, and in that snuffbox is an important message for General Washington. Ellen’s
grandfather was going to deliver the message, but now he can’t!
Suddenly, it’s all up to Ellen. She will deliver the message. The instructions sound simple
enough: Disguise yourself as a boy, cut your hair, go to the harbor, get a boat ride to Elizabeth-
town, and give the loaf of bread to a man named Mr. Shannon. Ellen agrees to take the
message for her grandfather. Yet everything goes wrong! First, she ends up on a ship filled with
British soldiers, and then she ends up ten miles away from where she has to be! At times, Ellen
feels like turning back and going home, but she doesn’t give up. The entire country is depending
I really enjoyed this book. It may be easy for kids ages 10 and up, but is still definitely a great
read! Ellen’s display of courage and determination is something we can all learn from. I would
definitely recommend this book to anyone.
BOOK NAME: Boomtown
AUTHOR: Nowen N. Particular
In the state of Washington, one can find the not-so-quiet little town known simply as Boomtown. The town isn’t named for springing up in a few weeks during a gold rush, the meaning is quite literal. In Boomtown, the home of Chang’s Famous Fireworks Factory, exploding just about anything is everyone’s favorite pastime.
Reverend Arthur Button and his family have moved to Boomtown for the peacefulness of small-town life. They did not quite get what they expected. Right from the start, Boomtown, and its wacky citizens, turn out to be much more than the Buttons bargained for. Upon stopping for a quick view of the fireworks factory that is Boomtown’s heart and soul, Reverend Button finds himself nearly beheaded by a rocket being tested by the factory employees. The rocket, which was unintentionally launched by his accident-prone daughter, eventually blasted a research building to smithereens. But perhaps the thing that bewildered the new pastor of the local church most was the town’s reaction, people congratulating him left and right for his family’s part in the destruction.
The oddities don’t stop there. The Button family is given a huge box of fireworks as a welcoming gift, a container with enough explosives to level a house. Even something as simple and ordinary as a haircut turns crazy when Mr. Button is almost smashed by a barber chair flung by the local barber, a massive man with severe anger management issues. The most unusual, and troubling, discovery is made on Mr. Button’s first Sunday as pastor. It seems that all of Boomtown’s 24 previous pastors died from freak accidents, almost as if a curse looms over the ministry. That would explain why Reverend Button was almost killed twice already.
As Reverend Button continues to preach, all the while having near brushes with death, citizen’s belongings start disappearing all over Boomtown. The robberies are the start of a mystery that will add to the excitement, and the insanity, of Boomtown.
Boomtown was a decent book. The main problems I had were some slow parts, such as most of Mr. Button’s first Sunday of preaching. Other than that, there are plenty of wild adventures the Button family experiences, enough to keep a reader interested. The most unique thing about this book is the pictures, drawn to look like actual photographs. The illustrator’s life-like renditions of the events in the book made them seem more real. The pictures also helped me get a general understanding of what the characters and the events looked like. Some even matched the images I had formed in my head of the events. This book is part of a series, so if you like it enough, you may want to read the other books, which should be coming soon.
BOOK NAME: The Glory Field
AUTHOR: Walter Dean Myers
The Glory Field, a realistic historical fiction book by Walter Dean Myers, is a story of many generations of an African-American family. It shows that struggle can often lead to success.
In 1753, Muhammad Bilal is captured from Africa, put on a slave ship, and brought to a plantation in Curry, South Carolina. During the 1860′s, some of his descendants secretly run away and go off to fight for the Unions in the Civil War. Soon after in 1900, the descendants of this African-American Lewis family are free and work on the small plot of land that they own. Luvenia Lewis accomplishes her goals to succeed in a segregated country in the 1930′s. Soon after, in 1964, Tommy Lewis shows his inner courage by helping in the fight for equality. Malcolm Lewis is born in the modern equal world, but struggles to get his cousin off drugs. The whole family sticks together with family reunions in their original land on Curry–the Glory Field.
This book is well written and others should read it. The author ties in all of the important historical times for African-Americans helping me get a deeper understanding. For example, the 1860′s describes slavery and the Civil War, and the 1930′s section develops on the idea of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North. The characters change in some of the sections, but this is not confusing, because there is a timeline in the beginning to show the relationships between the characters.
BOOK NAME: R My Name is Rachel
AUTHOR: Patricia Reilly Giff
In 1936, the Depression affects almost everyone. This was a time when jobs were scarce and many people suddenly found themselves poor. Twelve-year-old Rachel and her family are no exception. Pop lost his job in the city and the bills are piling up at home. It seems like there is no longer a way for them to afford to keep their home. So, Pop finds out that a bank job is available out in the countryside and Rachel is scared of this change. The city is all she knows. Miss Mitzi, a neighbor and best friend of Rachel, would have to be left behind. Rachel sees Miss Mitizi as a kind of mother to her because her mother died when she was young. She secretly hopes that Ms. Mitzi will marry her father.
When she sees their new country home with the run down barn and half weather-proofed house, Rachel yearns for Ms. Mitzi to bring some new life to the land. But not everything is terrible as Rachel finds hidden treasures throughout the home. She loves the drawings hidden around and wonders who drew them. But things turn from bad to worse when Pop finds out that the job he was promised is not available and now they are stuck. Pop then finds a new government project to build a bridge. This is great news, but he would have to go away and leave his three children by themselves. Even though Rachel is only twelve years old, she is in charge of the family and feels like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. It is even more desperate when she finds out her little sister lost the only money Pop left them.
What a story! This book is all about strength and finding beauty everywhere you look. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Great Depression or historical fiction. You will be amazed at how desperate situations sometimes bring out the strength in you.
BOOK NAME: Crow
AUTHOR: Barbara Wright
Hello, Blog readers! I have another history book to review and I hope you like it. (It’s actually historical fiction, which makes it less stuffy and more interesting than a plain history book, but that’s just my opinion!) I read Crow, by Barbara Wright, and really got lost in it. I mean, once I picked it up, I had a hard time putting it down, and even when I had to put it down I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s that good!
Crow is set during the time right after the Civil War. Slavery has been abolished, but a lot of people are still thinking African-Americans should not have the same rights as white people. Anyway the book is about an African-American boy named Moses who tries to sort out what is happening around him and why people are so racist and prejudiced. Everything in the book happens from his point of view which is really cool for young readers like me. Moses’s father is my favorite character in the book though. He works for the only colored newspaper in the town and stands up for what he believes in. I admire him because he is really good and fair leader. When I read the part about how some white people took offense at some of the things printed in the newspaper and burned down the newspaper building, I felt horrible for Moses’s dad. In fact, there were a lot of parts of this book that made me feel angry or sad, but I still really liked it. It was pretty realistic and Moses was definitely someone a kid could relate to. I also learned a lot about history without being bored so that’s a big plus.
If you don’t mind a very serious book and can handle intense things like violence and people being cruel to each other, I would recommend this book to you.
BOOK NAME: Code Talker
AUTHOR: Joseph Bruchac
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac is a memoir of one Navajo’s true life which is filled with pride, humiliation, and struggle.
Ned Begay is only a 6 year old Navajo boy when he leaves his parents to go to a boarding school, where he learns the ways of the white people. A few years later, America is whisked into World War II and bilingual Navajos are desperately needed. Courageous Ned signs up for the Marines and is engrossed with a confidential job of a code talker. He learns and helps add to a special Navajo code, on which the lives of thousands of Americans depend on during this war. Ned succeeds with this challenge and faces many dangerous battles in the Pacific while radioing back messages in the Navajo code. Ned, along with his fellow Navajo code talkers, uses his native tongue to protect his beloved country.
This amazing novel which brings out Navajo culture and traditions would be enjoyed by middle school kids. I like how this book depicts the Pacific side of World War II. The descriptions of the war scenes are detailed. However, the violence does not go too much in depth, so it is still pleasant to read. Readers will be astounded with what a big role the Navajos played in the war and how their special code worked. There are many examples of words in the Navajo code giving readers an insight into the code and elevating the excitement.
BOOK NAME: Little House on the Prairie
AUTHOR: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Hi guys. You know that book series of The Little House on the Prairie books? All of those books are about a real girl growing up in pioneer times with her family in the midwest. There’s one book in the series though that is about her husband when he was a boy. It’s called Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Farmer Boy is about Almanzo Wilder who is about 9 years old in the book. Though he’s just a kid in terms of age he is expected to work like a man most of the time. He plows fields, chops wood and drives a team oxen when he isn’t going to school, which he hates, by the way. What he really wants to do is work with his family’s horses, but his father who is pretty strict doesn’t think he is old enough.
I really liked this book even though I wasn’t sure about it at first. It gave me a clear picture of what it was like to grow up on a farm in the olden days–lots of work but lots of unstructured time also. I thought the author used great descriptions in the book and some humor too. Almanzo is an easy character to like because even though he lived so long ago he is pretty much like all kids I know. He’s pretty nice and hard-working overall but has some not so nice and lazy feelings also. I could really relate to Almanzo because he wants to grow up so badly but he’s treated like a little kid sometimes. In the end of the story, which I won’t give away, Almanzo realizes that his father understands him after all. I really recommend this book to anyone, but especially to boys ages 7-12. It’s totally worth it!
BOOK NAME: Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark
AUTHOR: Gail Langer Karwoski
I own a dog named Bailey. She is a beloved member of the family, her pack. She is our constant friend, protector, playmate, and comforter. Dogs are known as “man’s best friend”, and have been a part of human history since the Stone Age. Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark describes one such dog in American history.
Lewis and Clark are known as the captains of the first American expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Along with the Native American woman Sacagawea and the other explorers in the Corps of Discovery, Lewis and Clark explored the many wonders of the western United States. A lesser known member of this group of adventurers was Seaman, Lewis’ loyal Newfoundland dog. The four-legged pioneer contributed to the expedition in many ways. Seaman assisted the Corps of Discovery as a sentry and hunter. Most importantly of all, he lifted the spirits of his traveling companions, even in their darkest and bleakest moments. Seaman truly was the dog who explored the west.
Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis & Clark embodies a well-written historical fiction novel. The author based the storyline on actual journal entrees by Lewis and Clark as well as other pieces of historic evidence. She also improvises and elaborates on events that are not described as clearly by the journals and other sources. The book did lack some excitement in certain areas, such as when the Corps of Discovery made rest stops or was delayed by foul weather or other conditions. My favorite aspect of the book was that it included illustrations depicting events in the story. It made the book more interesting because the pictures allowed me to see the event as the Corps of Discovery would have seen it many years ago. The captions of the pictures were written accounts of the journey by Lewis and Clark, which were interesting to read. All in all, Seaman was a worthwhile read.
BOOK NAME: Fever 1793
AUTHOR: Laurie Halse Anderson
An epidemic in the United States, yellow fever, is brought to life in the book Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Matilda is a young girl growing up in 1793 in the town of Philadelphia with her mother and grandfather. In the coffeehouse that her family runs, all the talk is that Yellow Fever is spreading in the city and taking lots of lives. Soon, her mother is infected with fever and there is no good cure. Yellow fever is contagious; hence Grandfather and Matilda flee from the town. However, Matilda contracts the disease and is cured by knowledgeable French doctors. The two of them head home and are shocked to find the city of Philadelphia deserted. Facing such hard times, Matilda wonders when the epidemic will end and life will be normal.
Fever 1793 is a very intriguing historical fiction book. It brings out a tragic time in America’s history through an interesting story. The story weaves in facts about the Yellow Fever like symptoms such as yellow skin and black vomit and treatments for the disease such as bleeding and the drinking of mercury. It is inspiring how a care-free girl like Matilda learns to help others and take on responsibilities in difficult times. At the end of some chapters, there was a lot of suspense, which made the book really fun to read.
BOOK NAME: Turtle in Paradise
AUTHOR: Jennifer L. Holm
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm is like a ship that sways with the idea of fitting in, sails far with adventure, topples with betrayal, and regains position after coping with loss.
Turtle is an 11 year old girl who lives in New Jersey with her mother during the Great Depression. Due to her mom’s housekeeping job for a lady who dislikes kids, strong and tough Turtle has to move to Florida to live with her cousins in the Key West. It is hard for Turtle to get accustomed to living with her rowdy cousins. Soon, she realizes how everyone in Key West is related to her in some way. She feels better, but she dearly misses her mother. Turtle joins her cousins in the mischievous activities they do. Together, they find Pirate Black Caesar’s treasure and split it among themselves. But after a disturbing event in the family, Turtle understands what her true treasure is.
I would definitely recommend this 2011 Newbery Honor book for all ages. The book has a simple, interesting plot that brings out customs of the Key West. In the book, Turtle is constantly comparing her life with that of movie star Shirley Temple and Little Orphan Annie, a comic character, both popular in the 1930s. Just like a turtle, the character Turtle has a hard shell due to the tough circumstances she has faced, but she soon realizes that she too has a soft inner self. I really enjoyed reading about the kids’ adventures, especially the treasure hunt.
BOOK NAME: Heart of a Samurai
AUTHOR: Margi Preus
Traveling can be a unique, exciting, and sometimes scary experience. The experiences you have can be remembered for ever and possibly change your life. However, what if traveling came at the cost of never returning home again? Would you still be willing to leave?
14-year-old Manjiro lives in a small village in Japan. One day, in the year 1841, while Manjiro is out fishing with four other fishermen, a terrible storm blows their small boat out to sea, eventually stranding them on a deserted island. Manjiro and the other fisherman are rescued by the crew of the John Howland, an American whaling vessel. Manjiro has grown up hearing tales about “barbarians” from distant lands, but because of his country’s isolation, he is overcome with curiosity about the strange culture of the people around him. It’s this curiosity that leads him on an epic journey to distant countries like America. Even though Manjiro is fascinated by the wondrous places he visits, all he really wants is to go back to his family and homeland. Due to Japan’s isolation policy at that time in history, that may not be possible. If he returns from his travels, he may be imprisoned or executed.
This book was a unique story that I truly enjoyed reading. I am part Japanese, so the story had a special impact on me. I enjoyed learning more about the culture and history of the country to which I owe some of my family’s origins. Manjiro is an interesting character because he is based on a true life diplomat, adventurer, and negotiator. The book even included sketches that Manjiro actually drew about the places he visited and the things he saw. The only aspect of the book that I was not fond of was that it involved whaling. Whales are my favorite animals, and although whaling is a major part of the world’s history, I do not like reading about humans slaughtering such majestic creatures.
BOOK NAME: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
AUTHOR: Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare is a story of fitting in, friendship, bravery, and love.
Kit, a well-known girl in Barbados, moves to the colony of Connecticut in the late 1600′s aboard the ship, the Dolphin. Kit comes here to live with her aunt. But, everything in America feels so different to Kit, all the housework, plain dresses, dull landscape, and so much more. Slowly Kit learns to do the housework, but she still feels lonely and homesick. The only place where she finds comfort and peace is kind, old Hannah Tupper’s home. But, the colonists believe Hannah is a witch and one day set out as a mob to kill her. Kit’s time has come to show her courage and to go save Hannah. Will Kit do this, or will she get scared and give up? Read this book to find out.
This is an outstanding novel for teens. The author uses vivid language which allows readers to understand the different feelings such as loneliness, curiosity, and anxiety that a newcomer like Kit goes through. This book takes you back in time to the late 1600′s when people were just beginning to settle in New England. It shows how harshly the religious-minded Puritans treated the Quakers who trembled at the word of God. The Newbery Medal on this book is just another reason why you should get this historical fiction book off the library shelf.
BOOK NAME: The Fighting Ground
Have you ever dreamed of becoming a soldier when you grow up? Have you ever thought of what it might feel like experiencing war? Well then you would want to read The Fighting Ground by Avi.
Jonathan, a 13 year old boy has always dreamed of fighting in the Revolutionary War, battling the British and winning glory. When the tavern bell rings, calling soldiers to battle, Jonathan knows his dream is close to coming true. Soon, he is with the Americans, carrying his gun, following the path to the battle site. During the battle against the Hessians (German allies of the British) Jonathan is exhausted and is caught prisoner by three Hessians. He and the Hessians finally seek shelter at an abandoned house. Here Jonathan finds a young boy whose parents are killed and he wonders who killed them. Jonathan is left confused as to which side in the war is he really. When the truth about the boy’s parents is revealed, along with the other incidents, Jonathan realizes the horrors of war.
This is a Newbery Medal winner novel which is simple to read. It is very unique because the plot takes place in only one day. Because of this reason, there are no chapters; rather small sections identified by the time, for example 5:40 and then an incident. Since the book focuses in on war, readers get a clear picture of what it is like to be in a battle. Jonathan’s change in attitude towards the war shows how experience can change a person’s view point.
BOOK NAME: Silent Stranger: A Kaya Mystery
A hawk frequently circles above the woman’s head, so Kaya thinks that a hawk may be the woman’s wyakin, or Guardian Spirit. She therefore calls the woman Hawk Woman. Hawk Woman kicks and punches in her sleep, as if she’s having a bad dream. Kaya still doesn’t know what this woman is doing in their tribe.
Hawk Woman has a strange connection to Kaya’s dog, Talto. One day, she disappears with Talto, and Kaya must follow the footsteps to uncover her story. Read The Silent Stranger to find out what Hawk Woman’s story is.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved reading about the Native Americans. Their culture always fascinates me. I also love all the Native American names, which are so different from ours. They name their children according to things in nature. I find that very interesting.
Throughout the book, Kaya’s feelings change towards Hawk Woman. Kaya keeps trying to convince herself not to have bad feelings with Hawk Woman. I think this is a very important lesson. Just because a person may be strange on the outside, we should not have bad feelings towards them, because they most probably are good people.
BOOK NAME: Number the Stars
AUTHOR: Lois Lowry
As Denmark surrendered to Germany during the war in 1940, life became harder for the Danish Jews. It was 1943. Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish neighbor Ellen Rosen were best friends. Annemarie had a little sister Kristi, and she had another sister Lise, who died in an accident two years earlier. Her parents never told her what had really happened to Lise. Ellen, the Jewish girl, was an only child.
Soon, the Germans started capturing Danish Jews and relocating them. Ellen came to live with Annemarie and the rest of the Johansens, and pretended to be part of their family. Peter, the boy who was originally engaged to Lise, helped hide Ellen’s parents in a safer place. It was very dangerous for a non-Jewish family to hide Jews in their homes. If they were caught by the Germans, they too would be killed! But even though times were tough for both families, through much courage, Annemarie managed to save her friend.
When the war ended, Annemarie found out that Peter was a member of a group that tried to destroy the Germans, and he was killed. That’s when the truth is uncovered about Lise. Lise was also part of that group, and the Germans had caught her, too. Annemarie decided to wear Ellen’s necklace with the Jewish star, until she sees her friend again.
I really enjoyed this book. The character I think I am most like is Ellen, because I am Jewish, just like her character was. I follow all the traditions she does in the book. I also loved Annemarie’s character, because I really admire what a great friend she was.
BOOK NAME: The Door in the Wall
AUTHOR: Marguerite de Angeli
Going through a painful event can be depressing, but you’ll always find a few sparks of hope. This is the moral that enhances the plot of The Door in the Wall. It is an adventure book by Marguerite de Angeli that won the Newbery Medal.
Robin, son of the knight, Sir John de Bureford, is a young boy living in London during the medieval times. Soon after his parents leave to help the King and Queen, Robin falls ill and paralyzes his legs. Robin is left alone thinking that nothing good will come, but a monk named Brother Luke rescues Robin and takes him to the church. Here, Brother Luke makes Robin cheerful by taking him swimming, teaching him how to read and write, and helping Robin carve wood figures. Brother Luke explains to Robin that these are all doors in the wall. Upon getting a letter from Robin’s father, Brother Luke and Robin begin a long journey to Lindsay to stay in the company of Sir Peter and his family. Not long after they reach, however, the Welsh army attacks Lindsay and the town is at battle. Brave Robin goes on a secret mission to seek help. It’s a risky journey that Robin takes, so will he be able to get help and find another door in the wall?
I would definitely recommend others to read this amazing book. The detailed description helps picture the Middle Age setting. It’s amazing how people got names in that time period, for example, John-go-in-the-Wynd is a messenger who travels very fast. I enjoyed identifying the different doors that Robin entered. The adventure in this book builds up the excitement till the very end.
BOOK NAME: Chains
AUTHOR: Laurie Halse Anderson
Chains takes place during the Revolutionary War, a time in history when we were trying to make our own country. This is a story about one particular African slave, Isabel, who fights unfair circumstances and treatment. During these trying times, she questions herself and her life, and has many doubts. Isabel lives with her owner and is set to be freed upon the owner’s death. However, she is sold to cruel, unpleasant people who are loyal to the British. Since this story takes place in New York City while the war is happening, Isabel has a front row seat to lots of action. She faces much danger, but does her part to fight for both her freedom and that of her new country.
One time as a punishment, she is given a scar on her cheek in the shape of the letter S. The S stands for insolence and it causes her much humiliation. But after all her trials, she begins to take pride in the letter and says it really stands for Isabel. The story ends with a surprise, so I wont’ give it away, but I can tell you to never give up! I learned from Isabel that there is always hope, even in the bleakest situations. In fact, hope may be the only thing you have to get you through difficult times.
I really like historical fiction because you get a better insight as to the issues people faced during a specific time period. In Chains, you can better appreciate the horrors of both slavery and war. I also chose this book because it was nominated for the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award and these books are always a good read. This is one of the better books I’ve read, so I really wanted to stay up all night to finish it. I think everyone should read this book to see the mistakes of the past so we can avoid making them in the future.