Tag Archives: historical fiction

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden

Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden. May 30, 2017. Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 241 p. ISBN: 9781599903194.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

She wanted to stay awake, wanted to see what freedom looked like, felt like at midnight, then at the cusp of dawn.

Freedom. Mariah has barely dared to dream of it her entire life. When General Sherman’s march through Georgia during the Civil War passes the plantation where she is enslaved, her life changes instantly. Joining the march for protection, Mariah heads into the unknown, wondering if she can ever feel safe, if she will ever be able to put the brutalities of slavery behind her.

On the march Mariah meets a young man named Caleb, and a new dream takes root—one of a future with a home of her own and a true love by her side. But hope often comes at a cost. As the treacherous march continues toward the churning waters of Ebenezer Creek, Mariah sees that the harsh realities of her and her peoples’ lives will always haunt them.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Implied sexual assault, Mutilation

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-11. Award-winning Bolden’s latest takes readers back to 1864, the waning days of the Civil War. In rural Georgia, recently emancipated Mariah hides in the root cellar when Sherman’s troops sweep into town. Joining the march, she meets Caleb, a young black man whose manner of dress and comfort with the white Union soldiers raises an eyebrow among Mariah and other formerly enslaved people. As they march toward Ebenezer Creek, Caleb develops feelings for Mariah, while she struggles to believe in her newfound freedom and plan for a future for herself and her younger brother, Zeke. Caleb and Mariah both harbor secrets and pasts that shape their worldviews, but they’re starting to warm to each other when the unthinkable happens. Chapters alternating between Mariah’s and Caleb’s points-of-view lay bare the differences between the experiences of a free black man and those of an enslaved woman. Caleb’s journal entries, for instance, signal a desire to publish or own a newspaper, while enraged Mariah laments, “colored lives don’t matter.” With keen insight, Bolden mines a lesser-known historical event and brings the human cost vividly to life. In particular, the moment when the freed men and women are abandoned by the creek as Confederate forces descend will surprise and horrify many readers. Bolden’s trenchant, powerful novel is a strong testament to the many lost lives that certainly did—and still do—matter.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
In late fall of 1864, Sherman’s March to the Sea is underway, and while the Union army wreaks havoc throughout the South and stamps out Confederate defenses to win the war, thousands of enslaved black people find themselves suddenly, disorientingly, freed by the army as well. Mariah, a young black woman in Georgia, can scarcely believe that her dream has come true when she is liberated along with her little brother Zeke and joins the march as it heads toward Savannah. She wants nothing more than an acre of her own ground, with the memories of death and cruelty behind her—nothing more, that is, until she meets the kind but inscrutable Caleb, who helps her and her friends adjust to life amidst the army. Caleb returns Mariah’s feelings and relishes planning a bright future with her and Zeke, but he is also wary, aware that tensions are rising as the march continues, as the previously enslaved confront despised black slave drivers, and as Union soldiers begin to see the black civilians as a burden. Mariah and Caleb’s relationship develops a little quickly for two such cautious and responsibility-laden young adults, but their shared trauma and fragile hopes are breathtaking in their authenticity as tragedy inevitably engulfs them. Alternating between Mariah and Caleb’s perspectives, Bolden fleshes out a small, harrowing historical betrayal, weaving an unforgettable story and capturing both the frailty and resilience of hope. An author’s note tells more about the December 1864 drownings and massacre at Ebenezer Creek; a list of sources is also appended. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Finding Family which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award. Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

Her website is www.tonyaboldenbooks.com

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Crossing Ebenezer Creek on Amazon

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Crossing Ebenezer Creek Publisher Page

Beck by Mel Peet

Beck by Mal Peet. April 11, 2017. Candlewick Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763678425.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From Carnegie Medal-winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.

Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Racial epithets, Sexual abuse by a religious figure, Rape, Physical abuse

 

Book Trailer

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 10-12. After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet’s posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: “Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk.” At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck’s sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
In the early twentieth century, Beck, son of a white sometimes-prostitute and a black sailor just passing through, is raised in a Liverpool orphanage and sent at age fourteen to Canada as free farm labor. First stop, though: the Christian Brothers’ institution, where initially he thrives; but when the priests make sexual advances and he resists, one of them rapes him. The rest of the novel follows Beck on a hardship-filled journey from the Ontario prairie (after he escapes his assigned farm couple’s racist abuse) down to Windsor (where he finds a home, temporarily, with kindhearted African Canadian bootleggers) and finally to Medicine Hat, Alberta. There he hires on as a farmhand for half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace McCallister–a beautiful, strong, “troublesome woman from a long line of troublesome women”–whose story merges with Beck’s. The novel is excruciatingly painful to read at times, but that makes Beck’s eventual and hard-won chance at happiness all the sweeter. From the very first pages it’s clear we are in the hands of a master storyteller (or two; as explained in an appended note, Rosoff finished the novel after Peet’s death). The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling; the spot-on dialogue adds to the immediacy; secondary characters are vividly portrayed. There are no wasted words, no too-lengthy descriptive passages; yet somehow we see, smell, experience everything. Aboard a ship for the first time, “Beck felt confused and astonished by the huge discrepancy between the solidity beneath his feet and the vast liquidity of everything else.” In the Ontario countryside, a cow “gazed at the passing buggy, lifted its tail, and hosed shit like a comment.” martha v. parravano

About the Author

Mal Peet grew up in North Norfolk, and studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. Later he moved to southwest England and worked at a variety of jobs before turning full-time to writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. With his wife, Elspeth Graham, he had written and illustrated many educational picture books for young children, and his cartoons have appeared in a number of magazines.  Mal Peet passed away in 2015.

Teaching Resources

Beck Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Beck on Amazon

Beck  on Goodreads

Beck  on JLG

Beck  Publisher Page

Orphan Train Girl by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Trial Girl: Young Reader’s Edition by Christina Baker Kline. May 2, 2017. HarperCollins, 228 p. ISBN: 9780062445940.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.6.

This young readers’ edition of Christina Baker Kline’s #1 New York Times bestselling novel Orphan Train follows a young foster girl who forms an unlikely bond with a ninety-one-year-old woman. Adapted and condensed for a young audience, Orphan Train Girl includes an author’s note and archival photos from the orphan train era.

Molly Ayer has been in foster care since she was eight years old. Most of the time, Molly knows it’s her attitude that’s the problem, but after being shipped from one family to another, she’s had her fair share of adults treating her like an inconvenience. So when Molly’s forced to help an elderly woman clean out her attic for community service, Molly is wary. Just another adult to treat her like a troublemaker.

But from the very moment they meet, Molly realizes that Vivian, a well-off ninety-one-year-old, isn’t like any of the adults she’s encountered before. Vivian asks Molly questions about her life and actually listens when Molly responds. Molly soon sees they have more in common than she thought. Vivian was once an orphan, too—an Irish immigrant to New York City who was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children—and she can understand, better than anyone else, the emotional binds that have been making Molly’s life so hard. Together, they not only clear boxes of past mementos from Vivian’s attic, but forge a path of friendship, forgiveness, and new beginnings for their future.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism and racist language, Child neglect and abuse

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. In this middle-grade adaptation of Kline’s best-selling adult novel, half Penobscot Molly, a modern foster child in rural Maine, finds a kindred spirit in the wealthy nonagenarian Vivian. Caught stealing The Secret Garden from the public library, Molly is forced to help Vivian clean out her attic. Though she’s wary of the elderly lady, she learns the two have something in common. Vivian herself is an orphan, having come to the U.S. from Ireland during the potato famine. When a fire destroys Vivian’s NYC tenement, killing the rest of her family, she’s sent off to Minnesota on an “orphan train.” Third-person passages alternating between Molly and 10-year-old Vivian, born Niamh and renamed by each of the families that takes her in, further flesh out common threads to their experiences. Though the book doesn’t quite pack the powerful emotional punch readers may expect, the muted emotions are situated in the context of the many hardships faced during the Great Depression. Back matter provides further historical context, useful for classroom instruction and enhancing the reading experience. Quietly moving.

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
In a young readers’ version of Kline’s Orphan Train (2013), sixth-grader Molly, a foster child on the coast of Maine, helps an elderly woman, Vivian, sort through boxes of keepsakes in her attic.Molly, quietly introspective, is performing community service, assigned (surprisingly) for trying to steal a battered paperback from the public library. In Vivian, she discovers a kindred spirit. The elderly white woman is an orphan too and traveled west in 1929 on an orphan train. In the attic, Molly unwraps objects from Vivian’s childhood, each providing the vehicle for a transition to Vivian’s arduous experiences, first in New York, then on the orphan train, and finally in Minnesota, where she’s shunted from one desperate foster home to another. By comparison, Molly’s experiences under the care of her emotionally abusive foster mother, Dina, seem almost mild. The tale is painted with a broad brush, lacking the gentle nuance of the adult version. Molly, half Penobscot Indian and half white, prefers goth dress and is a vegetarian, but it’s never quite clear why angry, white, unnuanced Dina so dislikes her. Vivian’s more richly evoked story of immigration, poverty, and occasional kindness is more compelling but also simplistic, partly because her character is only about 10 or 11, even at the end of her story. Although interesting, this effort may leave readers wishing to explore unplumbed depths. (Fiction. 10-12)

About the Author

Christina Baker Kline is the author of New York Times instant bestseller A Piece of the World (2017), about the relationship between the artist Andrew Wyeth and the subject of his best-known painting, Christina’s World. Kline has written six other novels — Orphan Train, Orphan Train Girl, The Way Life Should Be, Sweet Water, Bird in Hand, and Desire Lines— and written or edited five works of nonfiction. Her 2013 novel Orphan Train spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, including five weeks at # 1, and was published in 40 countries. More than 100 communities and colleges have chosen it as a “One Book, One Read” selection. Her adaptation of Orphan Train for young readers is Orphan Train Girl (2017). She lives near New York City and on the coast of Maine.

Her website is www.christinabakerkline.com.

Teacher Resources

Orphan Train Discussion Questions

Orphan Trail Reading Guide

Around the Web

Orphan Train Girl on Amazon

Orphan Train Girl on Goodreads

Orphan Train Girl on JLG

Orphan Train Girl Publisher Page

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley

Ashes to Ashville by Sarah Dooley. April 4, 2017. G.P. Putnam & Sons, 243 p. ISBN: 9780399165047.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.7; Lexile: 800.

Two sisters take off on a wild road trip in this poignant tale for fans of Counting by 7s and Fish in a Tree

After Mama Lacy’s death, Fella was forced to move in with her grandmother, Mrs. Madison. The move brought Fella all sorts of comforts she wasn’t used to at home, but it also meant saying goodbye to her sister Zoey (a.k.a. Zany) and her other mother, Mama Shannon. Though Mama Shannon fought hard to keep Fella, it was no use. The marriage act is still a few years away and the courts thought Fella would be better off with a blood relation. Already heartbroken, Fella soon finds herself alone in Mrs. Madison’s house, grieving both the death of her mother and the loss of her entire family.

Then one night, Zany shows up at Mrs. Madison’s house determined to fulfill Mama Lacy’s dying wish: to have her ashes spread over the lawn of the last place they were all happy as a family. Of course, this means stealing Mama Lacy’s ashes and driving hundreds of miles in the middle of night to Asheville, North Carolina. Their adventure takes one disastrous turn after another, but their impulsive journey helps them rediscover the bonds that truly make them sisters.

A heartrending story of family torn apart and put back together again, Ashes to Asheville is an important, timely tale.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Smoking; Car theft

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Five years have elapsed since 12-year-old Fella and her teenage sister, Zany, left Asheville, and now they’re headed back, sneaking out late at night with Mama Lacy’s ashes and racing to get there in time for what would have been her fortieth birthday. They left Asheville for West Virginia to be near family as Mama Lacy battled pancreatic cancer, but after Lacy’s death, Fella’s biological grandmother fought for her in court and won, separating her from Zany and Mama Shannon. Now the two girls are essentially on the lam. A chance meet-up with a stranger who steals Lacy’s ashes turns into an unexpected friendship with Adam, whose own father is on his deathbed—dying of cancer, too. There’s so much unspoken between the two sisters, but particularly painful for Zany is the financial ease that Fella lives in with Mrs. Madison, while she and Mama Shannon struggle to get by. Dooley’s portrait of two sisters still struggling with grief and huge life changes makes for a powerful, absorbing read. As their road trip turns treacherous, readers will anxiously turn the pages, hoping for a happy ending. The court battle for Fella’s custody shows the extent to which state battles over same-sex marriage create fissures in families and have an enduring and tragic impact on the lives of young people. A tender, touching, and timely read.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
Two sisters make an unauthorized expedition to their former hometown and in the process bring together the two parts of their divided family.Dooley packs plenty of emotion into this eventful road trip, which takes place over the course of less than 24 hours. Twelve-year-old Ophelia, nicknamed Fella, and her 16-year-old sister, Zoey Grace, aka Zany, are the daughters of a lesbian couple, Shannon and Lacy, who could not legally marry. The two white girls squabble and share memories as they travel from West Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, where Zany is determined to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in accordance with her wishes. The year is 2004, before the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, and the girls have been separated by hostile, antediluvian custodial laws. Fella’s present-tense narration paints pictures not just of the difficulties they face on the trip (a snowstorm, car trouble, and an unlikely thief among them), but also of their lives before Mama Lacy’s illness and of the ways that things have changed since then. Breathless and engaging, Fella’s distinctive voice is convincingly childlike. The conversations she has with her sister, as well as her insights about their relationship, likewise ring true. While the girls face serious issues, amusing details and the caring adults in their lives keep the tone relatively light. Some readers may feel that the resolution comes a mite too easily, but most will enjoy the journey and be pleased when Fella’s family figures out how to come together in a new way. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Sarah Dooley is the critically acclaimed author of Free Verse. She has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two additional novels for middle-grade readers, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lived Here. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

Her website is www.dooleynotedbooks.com.

Around the Web

Ashes to Asheville on Amazon

Ashes to Asheville on Goodreads

Ashes to Asheville on JLG

Ashes to Asheville Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Amazon

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on Goodreads

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 on JLG

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954 Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

Girl With a Camera on Amazon

Girl With a Camera on Goodreads

Girl With a Camera on JLG

Girl With a Camera Publisher Page

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.

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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.

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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

 

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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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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.

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