Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 by Sara Holbrook. MArch 7, 2017. Calkins Creek, 224 p. ISBN: 9781629794983.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 740.

Set in 1954, this compelling historical novel tells the story of a young girl’s struggles and triumphs in the aftermath of World War II. The war is over, but the threat of communism and the Cold War loom over the United States. In Detroit, Michigan, twelve-year-old Marjorie Campbell struggles with the ups and downs of family life, dealing with her veteran father’s unpredictable outbursts, keeping her mother’s stash of banned library books a secret, and getting along with her new older “brother,” the teenager her family took in after his veteran father’s death. When a new girl from Germany transfers to Marjorie’s class, Marjorie finds herself torn between befriending Inga and pleasing her best friend, Bernadette, by writing in a slam book that spreads rumors about Inga. Marjorie seems to be confronting enemies everywhere—at school, at the library, in her neighborhood, and even in the news. In all this turmoil, Marjorie tries to find her own voice and figure out what is right and who the real enemies actually are.

Includes an author’s note and bibliography.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Racism; Prejudice; Xenophobic epithets; Descriptions of World War II atrocities

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Poet Holbrook brings back the Cold War in her debut novel for middle grades. White sixth-grader Marjorie has lots to worry about in the late winter of 1954. Her father came back from World War II jumpy and abrupt. She’s not a fan of Frank, the 18-year-old orphan her father took in, or Carol Anne, her skittish 6-year-old sister. She’s best friends with Bernadette, also white, who rules the sixth grade and would make the world’s worst enemy, and she just got assigned to share a school desk with Inga, a “displaced person” whom Bernadette has decided to hate. Inga came to Detroit from Canada, but she speaks, sounds, and looks German. Marjorie is drawn to Inga, who’s sunny, determined, and kind, but she’s afraid to befriend her. Meanwhile Sen. Joe McCarthy’s national hunt for Communists has led to the banning of many books from public libraries; in defiance of her husband’s direct orders, Marjorie’s mother hides a box of rescued banned books under Marjorie’s bed. Holbrook pulls elements of the story from her own multicultural childhood in Detroit after the war. She’s ace at delineating the petty jealousies and tyrannies of middle school girls, and her evocation of the era feels absolutely true. Marjorie’s cowardice and ultimate courage lead to a rousingly satisfying ending that, if it doesn’t quite tie up all the plot threads, will resonate with readers. A solid fictional examination of a time rarely depicted for this age group. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (January 16, 2017)
As 12-year-old Marjorie Campbell navigates the standard awkwardness and small cruelties of sixth-grade life in 1954, she is increasingly plagued by questions. Should she befriend the new girl in school, who claims to be from Canada but seems undeniably German? Should she participate in the slam book her supposed best friend Bernadette has initiated? What about the books her college-educated, independent-thinking mother smuggled out of the library and stashed under Marjorie’s bed? Does wearing a red scarf make her a Commie sympathizer, as Bernadette asserts? And what’s worse, anyway, a Nazi or a Commie? Holbrook (Weird? [Me, Too!] Let’s Be Friends) brings home the complexities of the Cold War era in a multicultural Detroit neighborhood where neighborliness and name-calling coexist. With a WWII veteran father with PTSD and an annoying fatherless teenage boy living in her family’s basement, Marjorie is a sympathetic character whose struggles to understand fear and prejudice, as embodied in her friends and family, resonate sharply in today’s political climate. An author’s note explains Holbrook’s personal connections to the story and offers further historical detail about the era. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)

About the Author

Sara Holbrook is the author of multiple poetry books for children published by WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, including Zombies! Evacuate the School!, Weird? (Me, Too!), and Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam. This is her first novel. She lives in Mentor, Ohio.

Her website is www.saraholbrook.com.

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Girl With a Camera by Carolyn Meyer

Girl With a Camera: Margaret Bourke-White, Photographer by Carolyn Meyer. April 4, 2017. Calkins Creek, 352 p. ISBN: 9781629795843.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 880.

In this historical novel, noted writer Carolyn Meyer deftly captures the daring and passionate life of photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Growing up, young Peggy White was interested in snakes and caterpillars and other unfeminine things. She intended to become a herpetologist, but while she was still in college, her interest in nature changed to a fascination with photography. As her skill with a camera grew, her focus widened from landscapes architecture to shots of factories, trains, and bridges. Her artist’s eye sharpened to see patterns and harsh beauty where others saw only chaos and ugliness. Totally dedicated to her work, and driven by her ambition to succeed, Margaret Bourke-White became a well-known and sought after photographer, traveling all over the United States and Europe. She was the first female war photojournalist in World War II and the first female photographer for Life magazine, which featured one of her photographs on its very first cover. A comprehensive author’s note provides additional information to round out readers’ understanding of this fascinating and inspiring historical figure.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Antisemitism; Racism and racist epithets; Extramarital affair

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 6-9. Historical novelist Meyer introduces readers to groundbreaking American photographer and photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White. The middle child of a Catholic mother and a Jewish father (her father’s background was kept a secret from her until after his death), Margaret was a wallflower with high ambitions. At Barnard College, she took a photography class with Clarence H. White; from that point, her destiny was set. Noted for her fearlessness and innovation, her gender did not seem to present a huge barrier to her ambition, although a husband nearly derailed her dreams. Her work for Life, which featured one of her photographs on the cover of its very first issue, established her credentials as a storyteller with a camera. The novel spans 1916–42 and is written from Margaret’s point of view, giving it the feel of an autobiography. An author’s note provides details of Bourke-White’s later life. There are photographs throughout; more would have made the book even better. This solid fictionalized biography should prompt readers to seek out Bourke-White’s work.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was a well-known professional photographer at a time when most other women aspired to homemaking if they were not doing menial labor.Meyer has crafted an intimate biographical novel that mostly follows the facts of Bourke-White’s life but embellishes them with fictional details to flesh out the story. Bourke-White’s father was a nonpracticing Jew; references to contemporaneous negative perceptions of Jews are—realistically—included, as is use of the word “Negro.” The story begins with the most exciting episode, when the troopship Bourke-White was onboard in 1942 while working as a rare female war correspondent was torpedoed and sunk. Bourke-White’s quiet, first-person voice sounds authentic as she relates the minutiae, sometimes mundane, of the first 38 years of her life, including her unpopularity in school, failed marriages, and the bumpy beginnings of her photography career, peppered with encounters with the condescension of a largely male workforce. A smattering of her black-and-white photographs is included. Readers steeped in the process she used to craft them may wish for more. As with Meyer’s Diary of a Waitress (2015), this effort may appeal to those who have outgrown Dear America, but others may simply lose interest with the inclusion of too many minor details for engaging fiction. An insightful but sometimes (like life itself) bland story that is likely to hold appeal for a limited audience. (Historical fiction. 11-18)

About the Author

Carolyn Meyer is as versatile a writer as you will find. Along with historical fiction and realistic novels for young adults she has written nonfiction for young adults and books for younger readers on topics as diverse as the Amish, the Irish, Japanese, Yup’ik Eskimos, a rock band, rock tumbling, bread baking, and coconuts. And ten of her books have been chosen as Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. In her most recent historical novels she has dealt with the young lives of Mary Tudor, Princess Elizabeth, Anastasia, and Isabel of Castilla, Spain.

Her website is www.readcarolyn.com.

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Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank

Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank. March 7, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 304 p. ISBN: 9780544826083.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.5.

Charlie isn’t looking forward to sixth grade. After all, if he starts sixth grade, chances are he’ll finish it. And when he does, he’ll be older than his older brother ever was. Armstrong isn’t looking forward to sixth grade, either. This year, he’ll have to wake up at 5:30 to ride a bus to an all-white school in the Hollywood Hills.

When Armstrong and Charlie are assigned seats next to each other, what starts as a rivalry becomes a close friendship. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Armstrong and Charlie is the hilarious, heartwarming tale of two boys from opposite worlds. Different, yet the same.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Racism and racist language; Antisemitism; Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. When an all-white school in the Hollywood Hills experimentally takes a busload of African American students from South Central L.A. (this is 1974), two sixth-graders from very different backgrounds work their way over a decidedly rocky road towards friendship. Both are on emotional knife edges: for Charlie, who is white, it’s because his adored older brother died a few months ago, and now his friends are all suddenly transferring. Meanwhile, African American Armstrong, angry about his own transfer, is inclined to solve problems with his fists. Armstrong’s adjustment isn’t made any easier by his reception, which ranges from playground chants to an ambush after he kisses a white girl. Frank has his two protagonists share narrator duty (interspersed with multiple transcripts of incident reports) as they move from mutual hostility and incomprehension to respect. In the end, social and racial gulfs remain, but a closing wash of warm graduation-day sentiment leaves a sense of hope that they may one day close.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Two sixth-grade boys from different worlds are brought together by school desegregation in 1970s Los Angeles.“Opportunity Busing” brings Armstrong and nine other middle schoolers from South Central LA to integrate the previously all-white Wonderland Avenue School in the Hollywood Hills. Armstrong, a witty and sharp-witted black boy, plays fast and loose with the rules at his new school, where not everyone is welcoming. Charlie, one of Wonderland’s white students, has earned the nickname “Rules Boy” and is curious about the tough-talking Armstrong. Charlie lives with his parents, who are grieving the death of Charlie’s older brother. Armstrong lives with his parents and a house full of older sisters. The boys find that their many differences can be bridged and that friendship is possible, if not easy. For Armstrong, Charlie, and their classmates, this memorable school year is a time of discovery and disappointment, fistfights, and first kisses. Period details from the ’70s and hilarious dialogue will draw readers in from the very first pages. Inspired by the author’s own sixth-grade experience, the story perfectly captures the full spectrum of budding adolescence; Armstrong and Charlie are as sensitive as they are daring as they figure out who they want to be in the changing world around them. Unforgettable, well-drawn titular characters are the heart of this deeply moving and laugh-out-loud funny story about family, friendship, integrity, and navigating differences. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Steven Frank is the author of The Pen Commandments (Pantheon/Anchor Books), a guide to writing that Booklist called “funny, inspiring, personal, moving, and often hilarious.” His middle grade short fiction and plays have appeared Weekly Reader’s Writing and Read Magazines. He is also a beloved middle school teacher at Le Lycee Francais of Los Angeles, where his students often intentionally misbehave because he punishes them with fun writing assignments.

His website is www.stevenbfrank.com.

Teacher Resources

Armstrong & Charlie Playlist on Spotify

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Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan. April 25, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763690342.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life and the promise of love emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage drinking; One instance of strong language; Characters offered marijuana and they declined

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 7-12. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley has a rich and contented life. Tiny Bayou Perdu, a shrimping and fishing town in Louisiana, offers all she needs: best friends, family, salt air, gumbo, and pure peace when she’s on the water. During a local festival, she meets Tru, a Vietnamese boy she can’t get out of her mind; but shortly thereafter, Hurricane Katrina forces evacuation. Chaos and destruction push them away, as the Rileys seek refuge with an aunt in Atlanta. There Evangeline feels lost and restless, craving home and the familiar, while her family struggles to rebuild their lives. When she and Tru discover they attend the same high school with other Katrina “refugees,” they forge an unbreakable bond. However, life remains unstable for them both, and when Evangeline’s family is given a FEMA trailer back home, not everyone in the Riley family wants to return. O’Sullivan’s debut novel excels in its expressive language and the use of place: a colorful home, a city that contrasts with the one Evangeline lost, and the aftermath of the storm that destroyed almost everything she holds dear. Told in a strong, purposeful voice filled with controlled emotion and hope, the impact of Katrina on families is as compelling as Evangeline’s drive to regain her sense of self and belonging.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Heartache and deracination wrapped in the lyrical sigh of an epic poem unfold into one girl’s story of struggle, devastation, and survival. O’Sullivan’s soulful debut follows the Beauchamp clan of Bayou Perdu from the days before Hurricane Katrina scattered the shores of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast to the aftermath that turned natives into refugees and temporary shelters into homes. Evangeline, a “white, mostly” Cajun girl, loves the tiny speck of paradise she and her family inhabit 66 miles from New Orleans. What separates Evangeline’s story from the myriad others that have come and gone in the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters is O’Sullivan’s deft lyricism. One minute, Evangeline is just a girl managing her crush on Vietnamese-American shrimper and musician Tru, a girl who loves where she lives and doesn’t yearn for much else. Then the swirling white blur on the weather forecast stirs up sediment and trees and lives and hopes and tomorrows. Evangeline and her family go from lifetime residents of a close-knit fishing community to refugees in landlocked Atlanta. Displaced, confused, and resentful, the Beauchamps are adrift. O’Sullivan pairs the ache of her Evangeline with the anguish felt by the Acadian protagonists of the famous Longfellow poem. O’Sullivan’s light touch and restraint will allow readers to follow Evangeline as she stands howling into the wind that howled into her. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Joanne O’Sullivan is a journalist for the Asheville Citizen-Times. She lived in New Orleans for several years and returns to southern Louisiana frequently. Between Two Skies is her debut novel. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children.

Her website is www.joanneosullivan.com.

Around the Web

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The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams. March 14, 2017. Groundwood Books, 241 p. ISBN: 9781554989416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

The Guy decides to have a house party while his parents are out of town. The Girl is adjusting to life in a new country. The Artist has discovered that forgery is a lucrative business. And his Ex, mother of his baby, is just trying to make ends meet.

As Guy, a feckless high-school senior, plans the party of the year, Rafi worries about her mother, who is still grieving over the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother back in Bolivia and haunted by the specter of La Llorona, the weeping ghost who steals children.

Meanwhile, Rafi’s uncle is an art dealer involved in a scheme to steal one of the most famous paintings in the world, but he needs the forgery skills of Luke, a talented artist who has just split up with his girlfriend, Penny, who wants nothing more than to get him back to be a proper father to Joshie, the baby Rafi babysits.

Engaging, provocative, darkly humorous and fast-paced, with a shocking and near-tragic ending, when Rafi’s mother’s grief tips over into mental illness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Attempted infanticide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. The titular guy is a teenage guy named, well, Guy. The girl is Rafi, who lives with her single-parent mother, who has never recovered from the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother. The mother blames La Llorona, the weeping woman of Latin legend, for the death. The artist is Luke—and a successful artist, too. And the ex is Penny, the erstwhile partner of the artist and mother of their baby son. These characters are fleshed out through flashbacks, and then connections are established as the narrative moves from one to the next. Finally they all become involved in one way or another with the theft of an invaluable Picasso painting called—what else?—The Weeping Woman. Then what had started almost as a lark turns serious, even potentially tragic, and readers will find themselves in sudden suspense. Williams does an excellent job of making that transition and subsequently ginning up page-turning excitement. A sophisticated entertainment, this book has intrinsic appeal to adult readers as well as its primary teen target.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The lives of four young people intersect in unexpected ways as the result of a spectacular art heist in Melbourne. In August 1986, a valuable Picasso painting is stolen off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held for ransom. In alternating third-person chapters, readers learn that Luke, the talented young Artist with his star on the rise, is involved in a plot to steal the painting and return a forgery in its place. He also happens to be the Bastard Ex of Penny, a white 23-year-old trying to raise their baby, Joshie, on her own. Penny lives next door to Rafi, the Girl, a 17-year-old dealing with the eccentricities of her grieving mother, who never got over the drowning death of Rafi’s younger brother in their home country of Bolivia. And who is the Guy (his name as well as his role)? Guy is a white high school senior who unwittingly throws the biggest party of the year, which sets into motion a series of events that gets him mixed up with the lives of the Girl, the Artist, and the Ex. This fully realized cast of characters is rounded out by a supporting cast of sympathetic friends and family, all flawed in their own ways. Williams’ prose is wise, knowing, and sympathetic, her tag-team story moving along at a steady clip toward a heart-thumping climax and a satisfying denouement. A winning, offbeat romp for all ages. (Fiction. 15 & up)

About the Author

Gabrielle Williams has worked in advertising, recording studios and television. Her first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and was named a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth.

Her website is www.bookbookblogblog.com.

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The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Amazon

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Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose. February 7, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399168116.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 750.

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who’s long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.

In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
News that gold’s been discovered in northern Canada has just arrived in 1897 Seattle; learning that his brother, Mel, has joined the stampede of amateur prospectors, Jasper, 11, follows him north.With their mother dead and their father alcoholic and unemployed, Mel, 16, was the family breadwinner. Feeling hurt and abandoned, afraid Mel might send him home, Jasper sneaks onto the ship that will take them to Skagway, Alaska. Jasper’s brought along their father’s gold pocket watch and mother’s washboard; resourceful and determined, he trades his laundry services for a place to sleep and money for food, avoiding capture as a stowaway. The prospectors embarking on this long, dangerous journey to the Klondike as winter approaches are rough, dishonest, and highly credulous (even Jasper questions whether Yukon gold litters the ground or grows on trees). But like them, Jasper’s spellbound by the story of One-Eyed Riley, an unhinged prospector who abandoned his valuable claim but left clues to its whereabouts. Untold riches await the miner who solves the riddles. Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Rose milks the setting for all it’s worth. Jasper and Mel are both white. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it’s the brothers’ struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem -Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels in verse May B. and Blue Birds. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.carolinestarrrose.com.

Around the Web

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine on Amazon

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. May 2, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 368 p. ISBN: 9780399171635.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor’s favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family’s standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace.

Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she’s quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

Part of Series: Flame in the Mist (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Alcohol; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Publishers Weekly (March 13, 2017)
Ahdieh delivers an elaborate fantasy set in feudal Japan, where a resilient young woman defies class conventions and gender roles in a quest for vengeance and autonomy. At 17, Mariko, the perceptive and intellectual daughter of a notable samurai, has been promised to the son of the emperor’s favorite consort. While en route to meet her betrothed, she narrowly survives an assassination attempt, which fuels her determination to unmask those responsible. Disguised as a boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan, soon recognizing that its reclusive members are much more than thieves and murderers. Occasional chapters are told from the perspective of Mariko’s twin brother, Kenshin, a samurai known as the Dragon of Kai, adding complexity to Mariko’s actions and revelations. Ahdieh (The Wrath & the Dawn) is immensely skilled at crafting vibrant settings inhabited by sympathetic characters with rich pasts, and she also treats readers to a slow-burning romance that does not impede Mariko’s independence or goals, illustrating the power of a well-matched pairing. While the final pages provide some closure, readers will enthusiastically anticipate the next installment. Ages 12-up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary. (May)

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog.

Her website is www.reneeahdieh.com.

Around the Web

Flame in the Mist on Amazon

Flame in the Mist on Goodreads

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Flame in the Mist Publisher Page

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. January 3, 2017. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 352 p. ISBN: 978375931994.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 550.

Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s excercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Murder; Suicide; Shoplifting

 

Author Talk

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. Most people would hate to call the Hancock County Prison home, but 12-year-old tomboy Cammie O’Reilly wouldn’t have it any other way. As the warden’s daughter, she lives in an apartment above the prison entrance with her father and has a commanding presence that’s earned her the nickname Little Warden. Set in 1959, just before Cammie turns 13 and enters junior high, this is a story about facing hard truths and growing up. In the background swirl issues of race, treatment of prisoners, and the arrival of a high-profile murderer, but Cammie’s mounting anger over her mother’s tragic death takes center stage. Spinelli’s latest gives readers an interesting, often heartbreaking glimpse into the 1950s and the timeless need for a parent’s love. Narrated by Cammie as an adult, the carefully constructed story seems a little too neat and purposeful at times, but readers will love the details of having a prison compound for a home and adore the many secondary characters who help keep Cammie’s head above water during her desperate search for happiness.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
It’s 1959, and Camille, a lively, determined, self-described tomboy, is twelve. She lives in a suite inside a prison where her father is the warden. Spinelli makes the most of this distinctive setting as Camille becomes a kind of mascot or pet for the female inmates, has access to historical criminal records, and gains status at school when it is presumed she has inside information on crime and criminals. The driver of the story is Camille’s hunger for a mother to substitute for her own, who died in an accident when Camille was just a baby. It’s a busy, multi-strand plot, including a mystery from the past, Cammie’s growing friendship with a family from the wrong side of the tracks, a framing story involving Cassie as a grandmother looking back (“But now, more than half a century laterâ禔), a friend who gets to appear on Bandstand, and a re-spin of the plot in diary form from the housekeeper/mother-substitute’s point of view. Spinelli’s gift for humorous chaos and his trademark magic realism touches are showcased here, and it is exhilarating to read about kids with so much freedom, but Cammie and her female friends don’t always ring true. For example, discussing Cammie’s flat chest, they come up with three solutions: stuffing her sweater with a pair of socks, holding her breath to make her breasts pop out, and refraining from going to the bathroom for the same effect. This is a good joke, but it sounds more like one a boy might make. Without a convincing main character, the complicated narrative structure doesn’t cohere. sarah ellis

About the Author

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania.

Her website is www.jerryspinelli.com.

Teacher Resources

The Warden’s Daughter Teaching Guide

Around the Web

The Warden’s Daughter on Amazon

The Warden’s Daughter on Goodreads

The Warden’s Daughter on JLG

The Warden’s Daughter Publisher Page

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpugo. January 17, 2017. Feiwel & Friends, 144 p. ISBN: 9781250105158.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

England, 1940. Barney’s home has been destroyed by bombing, and he and his mother are traveling to the countryside when German planes attack. Their train is forced to take shelter in a tunnel and there, in the darkness, a stranger― a fellow passenger―begins to tell them a story about two young soldiers who came face to face in the previous war. One British, one German. Both lived, but the British soldier was haunted by the encounter once he realized who the German was: the young Adolf Hitler.

The British soldier made a moral decision. Was it the right one? Readers can ponder that difficult question for themselves with Michael Morpurgo’s latest middle-grade novel An Eagle in the Snow.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Xenophobic epithets

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 5-8. Morpurgo’s gentle WWII tale is loosely based on a real British soldier who may or may not have spared Adolf Hitler’s life during WWI. Barney and his mother are traveling to Cornwall by train after their home in Coventry is bombed. Another passenger joins them in their compartment, and when the train takes refuge from German fighter planes in a tunnel, to pass the time, the man tells them about his friend Billy Byron, who, during WWI, let a German soldier go instead of shooting him. Later, he learns that the soldier was Adolf Hitler, and he missed his chance at preventing WWII. The narrative is deceptively simple, and while Barney is the narrator, most of the narrative consists of the man telling Billy Byron’s story. The casual tone of the story the stranger tells is in compellingly sharp contrast to the powerful questions it raises about duty and honor. A couple of light twists at the end are not entirely unexpected. Morpurgo concludes the book with information about Henry Tandey, the real Billy Byron.

Publishers Weekly (November 14, 2016)
What if a British soldier had a chance to shoot Hitler on a WWI battlefield but opted to let him go instead? Morpurgo’s incisive historical novel draws inspiration from the life of Henry Tandey, the war’s most decorated British private, who allegedly had just such an encounter. Naming his protagonist Billy Byron, Morpurgo tells the story in flashbacks, as a boy named Barney and his mother flee Coventry on a London-bound train in 1940. Another passenger, who introduces himself as one of Billy’s lifelong friends, describes Billy’s self-doubt, guilt, and dismay when lingering battle wounds prevented him from serving in WWII, since “as far as Billy was concerned, this whole war is his fault.” The stranger’s descriptions of Billy’s compassion and emotional turmoil are gripping in their own right, but Morpurgo will catch some readers off guard with supernaturally tinged twists he drops in the final chapters and epilogue. Originally published in the U.K. in 2015, this is an intricately crafted contemplation of the wrenching consequences of good intentions gone awry. Ages 10-14. (Jan.)

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films. He also writes his own screenplays and libretti for opera. Born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, in 1943, he was evacuated to Cumberland during the last years of the war, then returned to London, moving later to Essex. After a brief and unsuccessful spell in the army, he took up teaching and started to write. He left teaching after ten years in order to set up ‘Farms for City Children’ with his wife. They have three farms in Devon, Wales and Gloucestershire, open to inner city school children who come to stay and work with the animals. In 1999 this work was publicly recognized when he and his wife were awarded an MBE for services to youth. He is also a father and grandfather, so children have always played a large part in his life. Every year he and his family spend time in the Scilly Isles, the setting for three of his books.

Her website is www.michaelmorpurgo.com.

Teacher Resources

An Eagle in the Snow Teacher Resource Kit

Around the Web

An Eagle in the Snow on Amazon

An Eagle in the Snow on Goodreads

An Eagle in the Snow on JLG

An Eagle in the Snow Publisher Page

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston. February 14, 2017. Razorbill, 384 p. ISBN: 97804484893787.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 8-12. Fallon, a 17-year-old Prydainian princess, runs away from home, only to be snatched by slavers who take her to Rome, where she is sold into service as one of Julius Caesar’s gladiatrices (female arena fighters). If she can earn enough fight money, she can purchase her freedom and seek vengeance on Caesar for his role in destroying her family during his conquest of Britain. It’s a great plan, but the Morrigan (Celtic goddess) has other ideas, and Fallon ends up fighting for more than just herself. Livingston has written an exciting and absorbing tale that is deftly paced and deliciously detailed without being overwhelming; the presence of a strong female character and light romance will extend its appeal. The book is tethered to history—there really were female gladiators, though the author’s note doesn’t point to any sources. Link this to Kate O’Hearn’s Valkyrie series or Julia Golding’s The Silver Sea (2010), but don’t limit recommendations to fans of historical fiction and mythology; try it with fans of the American Ninja Warrior television show, as well.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
A Celtic princess is abducted, enslaved, and sent to a gladiatrix school in Julius Caesar’s Rome.  Fallon wishes to follow in the footsteps of her warrior older sister, Sorcha, who was lost leading a war band to recover their father, the king, after he was taken prisoner during a Roman incursion into Prydain. But, unwilling to risk losing another daughter, he has other plans—plans that spiral into devastating, unintended consequences, culminating in Fallon’s abduction by slavers bound for Rome. While she doesn’t make it easy for them, they do get her to Rome, where she is sold at auction to a school that trains women to fight in the arenas. She grapples with her sense of honor while dealing with rivals, romance, a big surprise, and a bigger, hidden threat. Fallon’s warrior development follows a familiar trajectory in which her potential is annealed through hard work; the amount of rescuing she needs early on may frustrate. The forbidden romance isn’t as convincing as the lush setting, which includes a complicated depiction of Roman slavery in which even slaves have mixed opinions on the institution. The ending resolves the immediate crisis while leaving plenty of threads up in the air for sequels. An author’s note credits the 2001 discovery of evidence of real-life woman gladiators as the jumping-off point for this work of fiction. A familiar-feeling historical adventure elevated by use of setting. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Lesley Livingston is a writer and actress living in Toronto. She has a master’s degree in English from the University of Toronto, where she specialized in Arthurian Literature and Shakespeare. She frequently performs with the Tempest Theatre Group, of which she is a co-founder. She is also the author of Wondrous Strange and Darklight.

Her website is www.lesleylivingston.com.

Around the Web

The Valiant on Amazon

The Valiant on Goodreads

The Valiant on JLG

The Valiant Publisher Page