Tag Archives: historical fiction

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey. April 17, 2018. Swoon Reads, 330 p. ISBN: 9781250145659.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 7-10. Gentle and shy Imogene Chively is awaiting the arrival of the Steeple brothers at her family’s home in England, the older of whom, Ernest, she expects to propose to her. Imogene is anxious, however, about accepting the proposal until she gets to know him better. After the brothers’ arrival, Imogene finds herself attracted to the charming younger brother, Ben. As the two become closer, a series of “accidents” occur with Ben as the obvious target, which makes Imogene wonder if someone is trying to harm him. Anstey is back with her third novel set in the Regency period. Engaging details abound as Anstey vividly describes the landscape of the English countryside, the period fashion, and eighteenth-century society. Mystery and romance are delightfully intertwined as Imogene tries to both investigate the incidents and examine her own heart. Taking inspiration from Jane Austen novels, Anstey’s latest is a lighthearted and romantic read.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 8 Up-Imogene Chively is being courted by Ernest Steeple, the eldest son of a wealthy family-but when Ernest and his younger brother Benjamin come to stay at the Chively estate, it is Ben who captures Imogene’s interest. Ben and Imogene have artistic endeavors in common; Ben wants to be an architect, but lacks artistic skill. Imogene is a talented artist but as a woman in the 1800s, has no clear career path available to her. She agrees to help teach Ben, and it is during those lessons that the two begin to fall for each other. In addition, a series of accidents plague Ben until it becomes obvious that someone is trying to purposefully harm him. This attempt at a Regency romance with a dash of mystery fails to be either romantic or very mysterious. The relationship between Imogene and Ben lacks heat, and the mystery doesn’t start until well into the middle of the book. This cliché-filled narrative about the privileged world of landed gentry doesn’t offer anything new to the genre. VERDICT Not recommended.-Laura -Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, MA

About the Author

Cindy Anstey, author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception, spends her days painting with words, flowers, threads, and watercolors. Whenever not sitting at the computer, she can be found―or rather, not found―traveling near and far. After many years living as an expat in Singapore, Memphis, and Belgium, Cindy now resides with her husband and their energetic chocolate labrador, Chester, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Her website is www.cindyanstey.com

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Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko. May 8, 2018. Wendy Lamb Books, 240 p. ISBN: 9781101938140.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.2; Lexile: 540.

Return to Al Capone’s Alcatraz with Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko in this charming addition to the beloved series about the son of a prison guard.

Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the United States in the 1930s. It’s the summer before he starts high school, and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister, Natalie–and then the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper.

In the cell house there are rumors that the cons will a strike, and that Moose’s father might step up to a new job. Moose is worried: What will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who’s had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.

Sequel to: Al Capone Does My Homework

Part of Series: Tales from Alcatraz (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 13))
Grades 5-8. Choldenko may throw readers for a curve by adding a fourth volume to her acclaimed A Tale from Alcatraz trilogy, but its quality is as reliable as ever. Now 13, Moose Flanagan is gearing up to start high school, and he and Scout desperately want to make the baseball team; but as freshmen, their odds are slim to none. When Scout scores them a spot on a summer pickup game with some high-schoolers, their chance of being officially added to the team improves but hinges on Moose being able to prove that he knows Al Capone—a next-to-impossible task. Further complicating Moose’s summer is his assignment to keep an eye on Piper, the warden’s cute, trouble-making daughter—not to mention watching over Natalie. Choldenko ramps up the drama when rumors that Mr. Flanagan could become the new warden put Nat and Moose in serious danger. This story is really Nat’s, who, as a young woman on the autism spectrum, has more obstacles than the average teen to surmount when it comes to spreading her wings. Yet, it’s her family that truly struggles to accept that she’s capable of more than they believed, and they must learn to let her go. This worthy “second ending” finishes on a hopeful note that series fans will embrace.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2018)
Most people’s lives (and the best books) have more than one plotline. As in Choldenko’s first three books set on Alcatraz Island during the mid-1930s, (Al Capone Does My Shirts, 2004, etc.), Moose, 13, has plenty of issues to handle. Among them are: his 17-year-old autistic sister Natalie’s growing awareness of her own sexuality; warden’s daughter and perennial thorn-in-his-side Piper’s predilection for causing trouble in spite of his best efforts; his passionate hunger to make the high school baseball team; and a prison strike that could spell the death sentence for Fastball, a good-natured prisoner who’s up for parole. These conflicts and more threaten to crush Moose under their combined weight as they’re deftly recounted in his attractive and always believable first-person narrative. When a guard’s ambitious wife lures far-too-trusting Natalie into the prison, the tale goes from suspenseful to desperate as Moose struggles to rescue her. Although the Al Capone books were intended as a trilogy, this welcome fourth volume gives Moose the opportunity to help launch Nat into a hopeful future. Even secondary characters are full of life, inspiring empathy, and the never-demeaning depiction of Natalie’s emerging maturity is particularly notable. The primary cast is a white one. It’s earnest Moose, always striving to do the right thing, who elevates this tale, like a hard-hit baseball, into the stratosphere. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Gennifer Choldenko was the youngest in a family of four kids, where her nickname was “Snot-Nose.” Her quirky sense of humor made its debut at the dinner table when Gennifer was a very little kid. She is the author of seven children’s books, including Notes from a Liar and Her Dog, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period; and Al Capone Shines My Shoes.

Her website is www.gennifercholdenko.com

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Al Capone Throws Me a Curve on Amazon

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Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Rebound by Kwame Alexander. April 2, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 416 p. ISBN: .  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 780.

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshipping, basketball star his sons look up to.

Prequel to: The Crossover

Part of Series: Crossover (Book 0.5)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 6-9. It’s the end of the school year in 1988, and Charlie Bell is flattened by the death of his father. Charlie tries to hide in the pages of his comic book collection, much to his mother’s despair. Finally she ships him off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. At first it’s just a fresh form of misery, as Charlie’s acidic grandfather goads him into physical activity in the stifling heat. Then his cousin Roxie coaxes him onto the basketball court. It’s the combination of family, friends, and mad new skills that finally help Charlie begin to rebound from his father’s death. Charlie Bell is the father of twins Jordan and Josh Bell, stars of Alexander’s Newbery Medal–winning novel Crossover (2014). Fans of Crossover will remember that Chuck “Da Man” Bell played professional basketball, and they’ll be intrigued by his initial resistance to learning the game. But this is an Alexander production, so the plot, as rich and satisfying as it is, is outdazzled by the brilliance of wordplay and syntax. There is a rhythm to each page, whether it’s the snappy give-and-take of dialogue, the throbbing of Charlie’s bottomless melancholy, or the rushing excitement of a basketball game. In addition, comics-style illustrations by Emmy-­winning artist Anyabwile bring Charlie’s fantasies of basketball glory to life. Librarians who delighted at Crossover’s popularity will be thrilled with this pitch-perfect follow-up. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Alexander is unstoppable, and his fans will be too. Have extra copies at the ready.

School Library Journal (April 1, 2018)
Gr 6 Up-In this prequel/companion to the acclaimed The Crossover, readers meet a young Charlie Bell, father of the twins from the first book. It’s 1988, and Charlie just lost his dad to a heart attack. Suppressing his grief and alienating himself from his concerned mother, Charlie gets in trouble, which results in him spending the summer with his paternal grandparents. Granddaddy is a no-nonsense, jazz-loving man, who quickly puts “Chuck” in his place and demands that the sullen teenager help out around the house and spend time with his cousin Roxie shooting hoops. Not a natural baller, Chuck gets schooled by Roxie and slowly improves his game. With firm but loving support from his family and friends, he learns to refocus and get in touch with his emotions. In a high-stakes tournament, Roxie and Chuck learn that “it’s okay/to be down/and upset/as long as/you’re not down/and out.” As in his previous novels in verse, Alexander shows off his expert command of the format, employing staccato breaks with smooth rhymes that mimic the bounce and flow of the sport. Interspersed are several comic panels illustrated by Anyabwile, which serve as fantastical imaginings-Chuck Bell dominating on the court like a superhero from his favorite comic books. As Chuck works his way through deep grief and deals with the consequences of some bad decisions, his voice is always fresh and compelling; Alexander’s poetry is buoyant and optimistic. VERDICT Fans of The Crossover will delight in learning the origin tale of Josh and JB’s dad, while new readers can comfortably jump right into the game.-Kiera Parrott, School Library Journa

About the Author

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include Surf’s Up, a picture book; Booked, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

His website is www.kwamealexander.com.

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Rebound on Amazon

Rebound on Goodreads

Rebound Publisher Page

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk

La Fosa del Lobo (Wolf Hollow) by Lauren Wolk. May 1, 2018. Loqueleo, 280 p. ISBN: 9786070134272.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Spanish translation of: Wolf Hollow

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying with the intent to do physical harm, Cruelty to animals, Anti-German sentiments during World War II, Frank descriptions of the harsh realities of war, Frank description of an injury, Death

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. Eleven-year-old Annabelle is living a relatively idyllic life on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, until its normalcy is interrupted by Betty Glengarry, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Betty’s sullen presence quickly upsets the one-room school’s traditional pecking order, and Annabelle and her younger brothers are Betty’s favorite targets—until Annabelle stands up to her. Not to be outdone, Betty shifts her attention to Toby, a strange WWI veteran already saddled with a dubious reputation within the community. Wolk conjures an aura of unease and dread from the first chapter, even as her pastoral setting and Annabelle’s sunny family life seem to suggest that a happy ending is possible. The spare but hauntingly beautiful language paints every early morning walk to school, household chore, emotion, and rational and irrational thought in exquisite detail, while remaining true to Annabelle’s early-adolescent voice. Her craft notwithstanding, Wolk is relentless in her message: lies and secrets, even for the most noble of reasons, have unintended consequences, as Annabelle’s poignant dilemma reminds us long after the last page is turned. Perfectly pitched to be used in classrooms in conjunction with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2016)
Evil comes to rural Pennsylvania in an unlikely guise in this novel of the American homefront during World War II. Twelve-year-old Annabelle’s coming-of-age begins when newcomer Betty Glengarry, newly arrived from the city to stay with her grandparents “because she was incorrigible,” shakes her down for spare change in Wolf Hollow on the way to school. Betty’s crimes quickly escalate into shocking violence, but the adults won’t believe the sweet-looking blonde girl could be responsible and settle their suspicions on Toby, an unkempt World War I veteran who stalks the hills carrying not one, but three guns. Annabelle’s strategies for managing a situation she can’t fully understand are thoroughly, believably childlike, as is her single-minded faith in Betty’s guilt and Toby’s innocence. But her childlike faith implicates her in a dark and dangerous mystery that propels her into the adult world of moral gray spaces. Wolk builds her story deliberately through Annabelle’s past-tense narration in language that makes no compromises but is yet perfectly simple: “Back then, I didn’t know a word to describe Betty properly or what to call the thing that set her apart from the other children in that school.” She realizes her setting with gorgeous immediacy, introducing the culture of this all-white world of hollows, hills, and neighbors with confidence and cleareyed affection. Trusting its readers implicitly with its moral complexity, Wolk’s novel stuns. (Historical fiction. 9-13)

About the Author

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and author of the bestselling Newbery Honor–winning Wolf Hollow, described by the New York Times Book Review as “full of grace and stark, brutal beauty.” She was born in Baltimore and has since lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada, and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod.
Her website is www.laurenwolk.com

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La Fosa del Lobo on Amazon

La Fosa del Lobo on Goodreads

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Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood

Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood. March 27, 2018. Flux, 284 p. ISBN: 9781635830163.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 750.

Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Underage drinking, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 7-10. For 18-year-old Grace, there’s nothing better than walking an airplane’s wings while it soars through the sky. As part of her uncle Warren’s barnstorming team, the Soaring Eagles, she spends her time devising risky new tricks to do in the air, because while her life may be thrilling, it’s far from glamorous. With increasing competition, she and her team work hard to draw a crowd, and often they don’t take in enough money to get a hotel when they’re on the road. Still, Grace has her sights set on competing in the 1922 World Aviation Expo in Chicago, where a win would mean a Hollywood contract and financial stability. Independent and headstrong, Grace is thrown for a loop when Henry Patton, a handsome war vet, becomes the Soaring Eagles’ new mechanic and sets her heart aflutter. Romance, however, takes a backseat to the competition and sabotage attempts by a rival team. Trueblood’s debut is an exhilarating historical novel with a strong feminist core that will appeal to a broad range of readers.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
It’s 1922—an exciting time in aviation. During the previous decade, the world saw planes used in war for the first time. Many returning American war pilots now fly decommissioned training planes in barnstorming teams. These flying circuses are showing up across the country, and competition is fierce. The action takes off with white 18-year-old Grace Lafferty, the only female member of the Soaring Eagles, climbing out of a roadster going 50 miles an hour to grab hold of a ladder attached to a soaring plane. Money is tight, and Grace’s team—her family—is in danger of closing up shop and going their separate ways, so she’s entered them in the World Aviation Expo. This opportunity will be more than a performance; their future depends on winning the grand prize: a Hollywood contract with a steady paycheck. Bessie Coleman, the first black woman to receive a professional pilot’s license, is Grace’s hero and the book’s only character of color. Coleman gives Grace advice about being a woman in a field dominated by men. Action scenes play out with a cinematically breathtaking intensity; however, by comparison, scenes on the ground are slow, though intriguing. Accented with such details as jazz, speak-easies, and period slang, it’s a gas. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Amy Trueblood grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling. As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.

Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing.  Her website is www.amytruebloodauthor.com

Around the Web

Nothing But Sky on Amazon

Nothing But Sky on Goodreads

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Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy. February 6, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9780544785076.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.4; Lexile: 560.

At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.   Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 4-7. “In my lifetime, we have barely had any peace,” says 11-year-old Ali Fadhil as he braces for the impact of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, the second war he’s weathered in his short life. Ali loves the West and it’s many offerings: comic books, TV shows, and video games. He doesn’t love Saddam, Saddam’s war, or having to put life on hold while coalition forces strike Basra, Ali’s beloved, ancient hometown. Of course, Ali knows better than to criticize the dictator publicly or risk his family’s harm. Armed with a brisk first-person narrative, Roy (Yellow Star, 2006) captures Fadhil’s real-life recollections of the Gulf War. What strikes are the mundane aspects of the brief war: going out to play and explore a familiar but ruined neighborhood, the boredom and fear of awaiting scheduled airstrikes, living with uncertainty about loved ones returning home. Still, there’s room for optimism and humor despite Fadhil’s harrowing experience. Roy ends with Fadhil’s third war, and his role in bringing Saddam to justice is the poetic finale of a personal fight.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
Ali’s hometown of Basra, Iraq, is near the border with Kuwait, which makes it a dangerous place to live in 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.Eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil is a fan of American television and Superman comic books. He loves English class and playing football (soccer) with his friends. His Christian, Kurdish family’s affluent lifestyle is interrupted when a coalition of countries initiates military action to stop Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Because of the war, Ali’s father is away, bombs fall daily, and Ali sleeps in “the safe room” with his mother and siblings. The food supply is cut off, so the family depends on government rations once their own stores run out. When his older brother, Shirzad, is appointed head of the family in his father’s absence and his mother begins burning his precious comic collection for heat, Ali has nearly all he can handle. Based on co-author Fadhil’s own childhood, the novel reads somewhat like a journal, detailing scenes in the neighborhood and changes to daily life, but as is often the case with real life, it lacks a solid climax and resolution. While Ali’s voice and emotional life lack the vitality that would draw readers in to the story, the snapshot of his society at war is strong, and there are very few children’s books in English with Kurdish protagonists. A well-researched piece of historical fiction, just a bit flat as a novel. (Historical fiction. 8-13)

About the Author

Jennifer Roy is the author of the highly acclaimed Yellow Star, which won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, was an ALA Notable Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, and a NYPL Top Book. She is also the author of Cordially Uninvited and Mindblind and the coauthor of the Trading Faces series.

Her website is www.jenniferroy.com.

Teacher Resources

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein Teacher’s Guide

Around the Web

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein on Amazon

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein on Goodreads

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein Publisher Page

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst. March 13, 2018. Knopf Publishing, 419 p. ISBN: 9781101874561.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

From the winner of the Man Booker Prize, a masterly novel that spans seven transformative decades as it plumbs the complex relationships of a remarkable family.

In 1940, David Sparsholt arrives at Oxford to study engineering, though his sights are set on joining the Royal Air Force. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, he is unaware of his powerful effect on others—especially on Evert Dax, the lonely and romantic son of a celebrated novelist who is destined to become a writer himself. With the world at war, and the Blitz raging in London, Oxford exists at a strange remove: a place of fleeting beauty, of secret liaisons under the cover of blackouts. A friendship develops between David and Evert that will influence their lives for decades to come.

Alan Hollinghurst’s sweeping new novel evokes across three generations the intimate relationships of a group of friends brought together by art, literature, and love.  We witness shifts in taste and morality through a series of vividly rendered episodes: a Sparsholt holiday in Cornwall; eccentric gatherings at the Dax family home; the adventures of David’s son Johnny, a painter in 1970s London. Richly observed, emotionally charged, this dazzling novel of fathers and sons, of family and legacy, explores the social and sexual revolutions of the past century, even as it takes us straight to the heart of our current age.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Drugs, Alcohol, Brief but explicit description of pornography

 

Author Interview

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
It begins in the early years of WWII at Oxford, where a quartet of friends are spending their last days as students before joining the conflict. They are Freddie Green, a budding memoirist; Peter Coyle, a would-be artist; Evert Dax, whose father is a famous author; and beautiful David Sparsholt. The novel, notable for its sophistication, then follows the lives of the four over the course of decades, concluding in the near present. Freddie will become a writer, as will—like his father—Evert; Peter will die early in the war, while David will found a wildly successful engineering and manufacturing firm. A very public indiscretion will become known as the Sparsholt Affair and give the novel its title. In the meantime, David and his wife have a son, Johnny, who will grow up to become a successful portraitist and the protagonist of the later parts of the novel. Their brilliantly realized milieu is the world of art and literature and, for Evert and Johnny, who are gay, the evolving world of gay society and culture in Britain. Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction; characterization, style, mood, tone, setting—all are equally distinguished. Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
A man’s inability to be honest about his sexuality has scandalous, and brutally public, consequences for several generations. At the outset of this novel, in 1940, all the gay men and at least one straight woman in a literary club at Oxford are infatuated with beautiful David Sparsholt, a first-year engineering student who initially seems oblivious to the attention. One student, Evert Dax, the son of famous, inexplicably bestselling novelist A.V. Dax, is determined to bed Sparsholt. (Ostensibly straight Freddie Green, whose memoir about his years at Oxford makes up the first section of the novel, claims Sparsholt has a “dull square face.”) Sparsholt’s straight bona fides (he has a girlfriend) soon come into thrilling question. The students watch warily at night for German bombs in the World War II–era opening of the novel, which soon transitions to 1966, when Sparsholt’s 14-year-old son, Johnny, lusts after Bastien, a French exchange student who’s living with his family. Johnny is the heart of the story, and in the ensuing sections taking place over many decades he gives Hollinghurst the opportunity to track the vast, transformative changes in gay life since David Sparsholt attended Oxford. Johnny is a fascinating character: a painter who is sensitive, proudly bohemian, sometimes rejected in love, and still eager for love at an advanced age, but always calmly aware of who he is and the dangers of trying to be someone else. It’s a lesson he learned from his father’s arrogant belief that he could skirt the restrictive, heterosexual mores of pre–sexual liberation England. If this plot sounds like it couldn’t possibly have been the work of a Man Booker Prize–winning author, part of Hollinghurt’s (The Stranger’s Child, 2011, etc.) bold talent in this novel, as in his previous work, is to make it evident that lust, sex, and who does what with whom in the bedroom (and even how) are fitting, and insightful, subjects of literary fiction. A novel full of life and perception; you end the book not minding that the actual Sparsholt affair gets just the barest of outlines.

About the Author

Alan Hollinghurst is an English novelist, and winner of the 2004 Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty.

He read English at Magdalen College, Oxford graduating in 1975; and subsequently took the further degree of Master of Literature (1979). While at Oxford he shared a house with Andrew Motion, and was awarded the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1974, the year before Motion.

In the late 1970s he became a lecturer at Magdalen, and then at Somerville College and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1981 he moved on to lecture at University College London. In 1997, he went on an Asia book tour in Singapore.

In 1981 he joined The Times Literary Supplement and was the paper’s deputy editor from 1982 to 1995.

He lives in London.

Teacher Resources

The Sparsholt Affair Reading Guide

Around the Web

The Sparsholt Affair on Amazon

The Sparsholt Affair on Goodreads

The Sparsholt Affair Publisher Page

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus. March 6, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 315 p. ISBN: 9781250165343.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

It is 1962, and Elisa Esposito—mute her whole life, orphaned as a child—is struggling with her humdrum existence as a janitor working the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. Were it not for Zelda, a protective coworker, and Giles, her loving neighbor, she doesn’t know how she’d make it through the day.

Then, one fateful night, she sees something she was never meant to see, the Center’s most sensitive asset ever: an amphibious man, captured in the Amazon, to be studied for Cold War advancements. The creature is terrifying but also magnificent, capable of language and of understanding emotions…and Elisa can’t keep away. Using sign language, the two learn to communicate. Soon, affection turns into love, and the creature becomes Elisa’s sole reason to live.

But outside forces are pressing in. Richard Strickland, the obsessed soldier who tracked the asset through the Amazon, wants nothing more than to dissect it before the Russians get a chance to steal it. Elisa has no choice but to risk everything to save her beloved. With the help of Zelda and Giles, Elisa hatches a plan to break out the creature. But Strickland is on to them. And the Russians are, indeed, coming.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Misogyny, Racism, Anti-gay attitudes and epithets

 

 

About the Authors

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director mostly known for his acclaimed films Pan’s LabyrinthThe Devils BackboneCrimson Peak and the Hellboy film franchise. His films draw heavily on sources as diverse as weird fiction, fantasy, horror, and war. In 2009, Del Toro released his debut novel, The Strain, co-authored with Chuck Hogan, as the first part of The Strain Trilogy, an apocalyptic horror series featuring vampires. The series continued with The Fall in 2010 and concluded with The Night Eternal in 2011.

Daniel Kraus has landed on Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2015 (The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch), won two Odyssey Awards (for both Rotters and Scowler), and has been a Library Guild selection, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Parent’s Choice Gold Award winner, Bram Stoker finalist, and more.

He co-authored Trollhunters with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and his work has been translated into over 15 languages. His feature films include Musician (2007 New York Times Critics’ Pick) and Sheriff (2006 season premiere of PBS’s Independent Lens).

His website is danielkraus.com

Around the Web

The Shape of Water on Amazon

The Shape of Water on Goodreads

The Shape of Water Publisher Page

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. February 13, 20187. First Second, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250159854.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 360.

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Transphobia

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 7-12. Frances, a seamstress living in Paris at the turn of the century, causes quite a stir when she designs a daring, avant-garde ballgown for a count’s daughter, who blithely asks to be dressed “like the devil’s wench.” Though the countess is displeased, her daughter is enchanted, and so is the crown prince, Sebastian, who immediately hires Frances with an unusual request: he wants her to make him a wardrobe of bold, glamorous gowns. Secrecy, of course, is paramount, but Frances loves having the freedom to design the dresses of her dreams, which are making quite a name for the prince’s au courant alter ego, Lady Crystallia. Wang’s buoyant, richly colored artwork beautifully envisions Frances’ designs against an already captivating background. It’s not that the de rigueur fashions are ugly or boring—rather, everything is beautiful—but Frances’ ensembles stand out stunningly. As Lady Crystallia gains notoriety, and Frances gets closer to meeting her idol, a designer of ballet costumes, elements of Frances’ designs trickle subtly into the wider fashion world. But fame brings attention, and Seb’s worries about being exposed surpass his loyalty to his friend. Though the conclusion is perhaps too rosy given the suggested time period, that’s an easy quibble to forgive, thanks to the gorgeously dense artwork, lively sense of movement, effervescent fashions, sweet romance, and heartwarming denouement.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
Once upon a time, there was a prince who felt fabulous only in exquisite gowns. Prince Sebastian’s parents, like fleets of fairy-tale progenitors before, are myopically focused on getting their kid hitched. Rendezvous with potential brides rattle Sebastian, and not just because he’s only 16 and averse to icky matrimony. It’s because he dresses in couture gowns and is petrified of facing what a reveal would mean to his parents and potential wife. Weary of donning his mother’s duds, he hires Frances, a seamstress with an avant-garde flair. Their friendship quickly evolves as she harnesses her talent and he becomes empowered to make public appearances as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. When Lady Crystallia becomes a fashion plate du jour—and secrecy verges on revelation—Sebastian and Frances are at a crossroads: can they remain true to themselves, each other, and the world? Wang’s linework has as much movement and play as Crystallia’s frocks, and her palette seamlessly wanders from petit-four brights to the moody darks of an ombre swatch. This is preindustrial Paris, so the cast is white, with the only otherness being class differentiation. Sebastian’s story shouldn’t be taken as a testament to how easy it is for one to reveal one’s true self to one’s parents, particularly if one is LGBTQIAP: Sebastian meets acceptance far too easily, particularly for such a public figure in such a conservative age. Sebastian’s summation of Frances’ aesthetic underscores the ultimate blueprint: fantasy and drama. A biblio bias-cut whose shimmer is welcome despite its optimistic shortsightedness. (Historical graphic fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Los Angeles. She is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling graphic novel IN Real Life (First Second) with Cory Doctorow, Koko Be Good (First Second), and The Prince and the Dressmaker (First Second/February 2018). Her work has also appearred in Los Angeles Magazine, Hazlitt, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Portland Mercury. She is the co-founder and organizer of the annual festival Comic Arts Los Angeles. Her website is www.jenwang.net

Around the Web

The Prince and the Dressmaker on Amazon

The Prince and the Dressmaker on Goodreads

The Prince and the Dressmaker Publisher Page

The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom

The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom. March 27, 2018. Fiewel and Friends, 320 p. ISBN: 9781250132796.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

She’s not the girl everyone expects her to be.

Harriet Winter is the eldest daughter in a farming family in New Hampshire, 1807. She is expected to help with her younger sisters. To pitch in with the cooking and cleaning. And to marry her neighbor, the farmer Daniel Long. Harriet’s mother sees Daniel as a good match, but Harriet doesn’t want someone else to choose her path―in love or in life.

When Harriet’s brother decides to strike out for the Genesee Valley in Western New York, Harriet decides to go with him―disguised as a boy. Their journey includes sickness, uninvited strangers, and difficult emotional terrain as Harriet sees more of the world, realizes what she wants, and accepts who she’s loved all along.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Discussion of rape and physical abuse

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. In early nineteenth-century New England, oldest daughter Harriet chafes against the expectations placed on her, particularly when it comes to the handsome, eligible, land-owning neighbor, Daniel, whom her mother wants her to marry. Despite a slow-burning affection between Daniel and Harriet, the headstrong girl decides to join her brother Gideon when he leaves home to settle a parcel in the Genesee Valley. Determined not to let her gender get in the way, Harriet disguises herself as a boy and ultimately finds more challenges in the frontier than just hard labor. Ostrom infuses her lyrically written novel with plenty of period details about homesteading in western New York and cultivates a dynamic sense of atmosphere: the dense trees, mucky roads, and back-breaking labor under the sweltering summer sun are all vividly rendered. Harriet’s fiercely independent spirit is accepted by just about everyone, which doesn’t seem true to the time period, but despite the overly rosy depiction of the time, the warm romance and witty banter between the well-wrought characters should please plenty of teen readers nonetheless.

Publishers Weekly Annex (March 12, 2018)
Harriet Submit Winter has no intention of living up to her name and marrying her boring neighbor Daniel Long to meet expectations of gender norms set up in pioneer times. Instead, she disguises herself as Freddy, a boy, and leaves the family farm in New Hampshire with her brother Gideon to forge a new life in the wilderness of western New York. Ostrom effectively contextualizes the discussion of societal limitations imposed upon women within the story’s well-drawn historical setting. For Harriet, her male alter ego provides her with a protective armor and a sense of limitless potential, while it also starkly highlights gender inequity. A complicated courtship in the wilderness plays out like Pride and Prejudice with a western backdrop, but the ending bucks tradition to set up a refreshingly level-headed ever-after that is steeped in reality and feels true to the journey. Ages 13-up

About the Author

Melissa Ostrom teaches English literature at Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The Beloved Wild is her YA debut.

She lives in Batavia, New York, with her family. Her website is www.melissaostrom.com

Around the Web

The Beloved Wild on Amazon

The Beloved Wild on Goodreads

The Beloved Wild Publisher Page