Tag Archives: historical fiction

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr

Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr. March 26, 2019. Calkins Creek Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781684371785.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 650.

Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this middle-grade historical novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops.

In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Anti-Polish sentiment

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 13))
Grades 4-7. His whole life, 12-year-old Jimmy Frank has been able to see into Philadelphia’s beloved Shibe Park from his bedroom window. But when the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics fears sales on the rooftop bleachers atop homes like Jimmy’s are cutting into profits, they plan to erect a wall. The Great Depression has already tightened Jimmy’s family’s finances and the so-called “spite wall” is sure to further jeopardize their well-being. Jimmy is willing to do just about anything to stop the Athletics from building the wall, but is his partner in crime, his neighbor and BFF Lola, just as willing? Or is the spite wall also erecting a wall in their friendship? This appealing historical middle-grade novel is perfect for fans of beloved baseball-centered novels like Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score (2008). Barr knows her baseball history and brings rich detail to mid-1930s Philadelphia. While the plot may follow a predictable arc, sports fanatics will eat up the appended material. A sweet debut about friendship and the love of the game.

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2019)
Twelve-year-olds Jimmie and Lola will always be best friends forever. That’s Rule No. 12. Shibe Park’s very short right-field fence is across the street from the flat-roofed houses where they live, allowing them to see all the home games of their beloved Philadelphia Athletics from a unique perspective. Homeowners set up bleachers on the roofs (Rule No. 11), charging a small fee for fans who can’t afford stadium tickets, which provides essential income for the families struggling in the Great Depression. Now Mr. Shibe wants to build a high spite fence to block their view, which will endanger their economic survival. Influenced by his other rules involving responsibility and commitment, Jimmie comes up with several harebrained schemes to stop Mr. Shibe while staying constantly watchful of the Polinski brothers, frightening neighborhood bullies (Rule No. 19). Lola abets him in his schemes, but when the dangers seem to outweigh any benefits, their friendship is nearly destroyed. Barr carefully constructs a well-paced adventure, involving some real events in a very specific time and place, while making Jimmie’s worries about negotiating that world completely accessible to modern readers. All the characters, assumed white, are well-developed, even the real Connie Mack and Jimmie Foxx. Quotes from the 1934 Sporting News that head many chapters further illuminate the actual events. The wall gets built, but friendship endures. Life lessons, baseball, and good friends; it’s all here. (author’s note, photographs, resources) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Jennifer Robin Barr is the author of two how-to books for adults. Goodbye, Mr. Spalding is her debut middle-grade novel. She is drawn to writing about little-known nuggets of history. She lives in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Her website is jenniferrobinbarr.com.

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Isla de Leones (Lion Island) by Margarita Engle

Isla de Leones (Lion Island) by Margarita Engle. February 26, 2019. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 176 p. ISBN: 9781534446472.  Int Lvl: 5-8.

The Spanish translation of this “beautifully written, thought provoking” (School Library Journal, starred review) novel in verse by Young People’s Poet Laureate Margarita Engle, which tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who becomes a champion for civil rights.

Asia, Africa, Europe—Antonio Chuffat’s ancestors clashed and blended on the beautiful island of Cuba. The country is fighting for freedom from Spain. Enslaved Africans and near-enslaved Chinese indentured servants are forced to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields.

So Antonio feels lucky to have found a good job as a messenger, where his richly blended cultural background is an asset. Through his work he meets Wing, a young Chinese fruit seller who barely escaped the anti-Asian riots in San Francisco, and his sister Fan, a talented singer. With injustice all around them, the three friends are determined to prove that violence is not the only way to gain liberty.

Asia, África, Europa: los ancestros de Antonio chocaron y se mezclaron en la hermosa isla de Cuba. El país lucha por independizarse de España. Los esclavos africanos y los chinos bajo servidumbre por endeudamiento son forzados a trabajar largas horas, rompiéndose el lomo en los campos de cultivo.

Por eso Antonio se siente afortunado de haber conseguido trabajo como mensajero, haciendo que su rica mezcla cultural sea una ventaja. A traves de su trabajo conoce a Wing, un joven chino vendedor de frutas que escapó a duras penas de las revueltas contra los asiáticos en California, y su hermana Fan, una talentosa cantante. Con la injusticia rodeándolos por todas partes, los tres amigos han decidido que en estos tiempos de rebelión violenta y esclavitud, las armas no han de ser el único modo de ganar la libertad.

Perturbadora, a la vez que hermosa, esta es la historia de un muchacho que se convirtió en campeón de los derechos civiles de quienes no podían hablar por sí mismos.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Violence

 

About the Author

Margarita Engle is the national Young People’s Poet Laureate, and the first Latino to receive that honor. She is the Cuban-American author of many verse novels, including The Surrender Tree, a Newbery Honor winner, and The Lightning Dreamer, a PEN Literary Award for Young Adult Literature winner. Her verse memoir, Enchanted Air, received the Pura Belpré Award, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, and was a finalist for the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among others. Her picture book Drum Dream Girl received the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Margarita was born in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during childhood summers with relatives. She continues to visit Cuba as often as she can.

Her website is www.margaritaengle.com/

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I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 by Lauren Tarshis. January 29, 2019. Scholastic Paperbacks, 144 p. ISBN: 9781338317398.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 630.

This installment in the New York Times bestselling I Survived series from Lauren Tarshis shines a spotlight on the Normandy landings, just in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day!

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Lauren Tarshis shines a spotlight on the story of the Normandy landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history and foundation for the Allied victory in World War II.

Part of Series: I Survived (Book #18)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Lauren Tarshis often wonders how she came to spend most of her waking moments thinking about disasters, as the author of the children’s historical fiction series “I Survived.” Each book takes readers into the heart of history’s most thrilling and terrifying events, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Shark Attacks of 1916, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the San Francisco earthquake, 9/11, the Battle of Gettysburg and many more.

Lauren conducts extensive research to bring her topics to life. She has traveled to most of the locations where her books are set. Her goal is to open readers’ eyes to new chapters in history and to inspire them with stories of hope and resilience.

Her website is www.laurentarshis.com

Teaching Resources

I Survived Teaching Resources

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Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Stolen Girl by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch. February 26, 2019. Scholastic Press, 208 p. ISBN: 9781338233049.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.9; Lexile:.

Nadia is haunted by World War II. Her memories of the war are messy, coming back to her in pieces and flashes she can’t control. Though her adoptive mother says they are safe now, Nadia’s flashbacks keep coming.

Sometimes she remembers running, hunger, and isolation. But other times she remembers living with a German family, and attending big rallies where she was praised for her light hair and blue eyes. The puzzle pieces don’t quite fit together, and Nadia is scared by what might be true. Could she have been raised by Nazis? Were they her real family? What part did she play in the war?

What Nadia finally discovers about her own history will shock her. But only when she understands the past can she truly face her future.

Inspired by startling true events, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch delivers a gripping and poignant story of one girl’s determination to uncover her truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Harsh realities of war, Antisemitism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. After the conclusion of WWII in Europe, Nadia and her adoptive parents arrive in Canada for a new life. Despite being in a new country, Nadia is haunted by memories that reveal glimpses of her life before the war. She remembers being hungry and running to escape something, yet she also remembers living with a German family and being praised for her Aryan complexion. Confused by these memories, Nadia fears the truths that they may hold as she tries to adapt to a world where she can live without fear. Skrypuch’s latest novel is a companion to Making Bombs for Hitler (2017). Filled with historical detail, it highlights a forgotten and horrifying aspect of WWII where children were stolen from various parts of Europe by the Nazis in order to build a master race. Because of the flashbacks, readers are provided with glimpses into the horrors of Nadia’s past but can perceive themes of discovery and healing. A fascinating, compelling read.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
A 12-year-old Ukrainian girl arrives in Canada after World War II and struggles to make sense of her jumbled memories of battle-scarred Germany. After five years in a displaced persons camp, Nadia Kravchuk arrives in Brantford, Ontario, accompanied by her adoptive mother, Marusia. When Nadia’s fellow classmates are convinced by her blonde hair and blue eyes that she is a Nazi, Marusia repeatedly assures Nadia that’s not the case. Eventually, Nadia safely relives her trauma in order to solve the puzzle of who she really is—not Nadia Kravchuk nor Gretchen Himmel, the German identity she assumed to survive, but someone else entirely…Larissa, the younger sister of Lida, the protagonist of Skrypuch’s Making Bombs for Hitler (2016). The author once again deftly sheds light on lesser-known aspects of the Ukrainian experience during WWII. Via flashbacks and nightmares, she gradually fleshes out Nadia’s painful history of abduction from her original family and subsequent placement in a German household. As further explained in the author’s note, this was part of the Lebensborn program, an effort to identify and mark blond and blue-eyed Ukrainian children as Aryans and force them to live with Nazi families in order to augment the building of a master race. A gripping exploration of war-induced trauma, identity, and transformation. (author’s note)(Historical fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is the acclaimed author of 20+ books for young people including her popular WWII Making Bombs for Hitler novel trilogy and her non-fiction like Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival.

Marsha is dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until she was 9. The first book that she read and understood was Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and reading that book over the course of a year when she was in grade 4 for the second time was a life-transforming experience. It taught her that reading wasn’t just a subject in school, but an immersive pleasure. By grade 8 she had read all of the big fat novels in the children’s department of the Brantford Public Library whose authors’ last names started with either A, B, C or D. By grade 9 she had figured out better ways to choose books.

Marsha now considers dyslexia to be a gift that helps her write the kinds of books that she does — about people plunged in war whose stories haven’t been told before and from perspectives rarely seen in children’s literature. Marsha has deep respect for the intelligence and compassion of her young readers and she writes the books she wishes she could have found to read when she was a kid.

Marsha loves speaking with students of all ages, especially those who are struggling academically or who feel “different”.

Her website is www.calla.com

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The Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin

The Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin. February 12, 2019. Henry Holt & Company, 352 p. ISBN: 9781250120816.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.5.

An illustrated middle grade novel set in the 1950s in which 12-year-old Jake gets caught in Red Scare paranoia when his mother takes in a peculiar lodger who may or may not be a Russian spy.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 4-7. There aren’t many noir thrillers out there for middle-graders, but Newbery Honor Book winner Yelchin (Breaking Stalin’s Nose, 2011) has turned out a humdinger. It’s 1953, the Cold War’s in full swing, and kids are being inculcated with anti-Communist sentiments on the news, at school, and even in their comic books. Like his classmates, 12-year-old Jake McCauley is dedicated to American values, but he also has a secret mission: to find his father, who went MIA during WWII. Jake’s two causes become bewilderingly intertwined when his mom rents their spare room to a Russian man named Shubin. Convinced Shubin is a Communist spy, Jake decides to expose the man for what he is. Yelchin builds tension into every chapter as Jake dodges suspicious characters, discovers top-secret documents, tangles with danger, and starts questioning what he’s been taught. Grainy black-and-white photos, as might be taken with a spy camera, pepper the text, further enhancing the story’s mysterious atmosphere. The action never stops, and readers will be gripped as the narrative thunders to a satisfying conclusion.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2019)
It’s 1953, and Jake just knows that the new boarder is a Communist spy. The 12-year-old fan of Commie-fighting comics hero Spy Runner has no trouble finding plausible evidence, either, from the unkempt stranger’s comment that his parents were Russian to mysterious phone calls in the night and a scary interview with a pair of heavies who claim to be FBI agents. But suspicion proves (then, as now) contagious, and suddenly Jake’s own best friend is shunning him, he’s ostracized at school, and a black car is following him around Tucson. On top of all that comes the emotionally shattering discovery that his mom, solitary since his dad was declared MIA in World War II, has let the stranger into her room. At this point, having set readers up for a salutary but hardly unique tale about prejudice, misplaced suspicion, and the McCarthy era, Yelchin briskly proceeds to pull the rug out from under them by pitching his confused, impulsive protagonist into an escalating whirl of chases, crashes, threats, assaults, abductions, blazing gunplay, spies, and counterspies—along with revelations that hardly anyone, even Jake’s mom, is what they seem. The author includes a number of his own blurred, processed, black-and-white photos that effectively underscore both the time’s fearful climate and the vertiginous quality of Jake’s experience. The book assumes a white default. An imagined adventure turned nightmarishly real leads to exciting, life-changing results. (Historical adventure. 10-13)

About the Author

Eugene Yelchin is the author and illustrator of The Haunting of Falcon House, Arcady’s Goal, and the Newbery Honor Book Breaking Stalin’s Nose. He has also illustrated several books for children, including CrybabyWho Ate All the Cookie Dough?, and Won Ton. He lives in California with his wife and children.

His website is eugeneyelchinbooks.com/

 

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Lovely War by Julie Berry

Lovely War by Julie Berry. March 5, 2019. Viking Books for Young Readers, 480 p. ISBN: 9780451469939.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Read the novel New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network Kate Quinn called “easily one of the best novels I have read all year!” A sweeping, multi-layered romance set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II, where gods hold the fates–and the hearts–of four mortals in their hands.

They are Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. A classical pianist from London, a British would-be architect-turned-soldier, a Harlem-born ragtime genius in the U.S. Army, and a Belgian orphan with a gorgeous voice and a devastating past. Their story, as told by goddess Aphrodite, who must spin the tale or face judgment on Mount Olympus, is filled with hope and heartbreak, prejudice and passion, and reveals that, though War is a formidable force, it’s no match for the transcendent power of Love.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Sexual assault, Violence, Racial slurs

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2019)
Love’s enduring power faces off against the horrors of war in this sumptuous Greek mythology–inspired romantic page-turner. In a Manhattan hotel on the eve of World War II, Hephaestus catches his wife, Aphrodite, in a compromising position with his brother Ares. To exonerate herself of the crime of adultery, she weaves an intricate tale of mortal love during wartime that demonstrates the endurance of the human spirit. Vacillating between the present and the past, the goddess’s narrative centers on Aubrey, an African-American musician; Colette, a Belgian singer; Hazel, a wide-eyed British pianist; and her paramour, James, an aspiring architect (the latter three are white), who are all brought together by happenstance during the First World War. The resulting interweaving story is an epic of Shakespearean emotional depth and arresting visual imagery that nonetheless demonstrates the racism and sexism of the period. Scheherazade has nothing on Berry (The Emperor’s Ostrich, 2017, etc.), whose acute eye for detail renders the glittering lights of Paris as dreamlike in their beauty as the soul-sucking trenches on the French front are nightmarishly real. The mortal characters are all vibrant, original, and authentic, but none is more captivating than the goddess of love herself, who teaches her husband that love is an art form worthy of respect and admiration. An unforgettable romance so Olympian in scope, human at its core, and lyrical in its prose that it must be divinely inspired. (Fiction. 13-adult)

Publishers Weekly (December 24, 2018)
Berry (The Passion of Dolssa) brings to life wartime horrors and passions with commentary from Olympian gods in this love story filled with vivid historical detail. To show her husband, Hephaestus, the real meaning of love and its connection to war and art, Aphrodite (with the help of Apollo, Hades, and Ares) tells the emotion packed WWI saga of two besotted couples drawn together by music and war: British pianist Hazel and soldier James; African American jazz musician Aubrey and Colette, a Belgian war orphan with a remarkable singing voice. After James reports to duty, Hazel follows, taking a wartime volunteer position in France. There, she meets Colette, who is still reeling from her wartime losses, and introduces her to Aubrey, who quickly steals Colette’s heart. James and Aubrey witness horrors on and off the battlefield, and Hazel and Colette cling to each other during the best of times, such as when Hazel has the opportunity for a brief reunion with James, and the worst, as when Aubrey goes missing. Berry’s evocative novel starts slow but gains steam as the stories flesh out. Along the way, it suggests that while war and its devastation cycles through history, the forces of art and love remain steady, eternal, and life sustaining. Ages 12&up.

About the Author

Julie Berry is the author of the 2017 Printz Honor and Los Angeles Times Book Prize shortlisted novel The Passion of Dolssa, the Carnegie and Edgar shortlisted All the Truth That’s in Me, and many other acclaimed middle grade novels and picture books. She holds a BS from Rensselaer in communication and an MFA from Vermont College. She lives in Southern California with her family.

Her website iswww.julieberrybooks.com

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Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin

Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin. January 22, 2019. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670014965.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

From the author of Blind, a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story set during World War II in Shanghai, one of the only places Jews without visas could find refuge.

Warsaw, Poland. The year is 1940 and Lillia is fifteen when her mother, Alenka, disappears and her father flees with Lillia and her younger sister, Naomi, to Shanghai, one of the few places that will accept Jews without visas. There they struggle to make a life; they have no money, there is little work, no decent place to live, a culture that doesn’t understand them. And always the worry about Alenka. How will she find them? Is she still alive?

Meanwhile Lillia is growing up, trying to care for Naomi, whose development is frighteningly slow, in part from malnourishment. Lillia finds an outlet for her artistic talent by making puppets, remembering the happy days in Warsaw when her family was circus performers. She attends school sporadically, makes friends with Wei, a Chinese boy, and finds work as a performer at a “gentlemen’s club” without her father’s knowledge.

But meanwhile the conflict grows more intense as the Americans declare war and the Japanese force the Americans in Shanghai into camps. More bombing, more death. Can they survive, caught in the crossfire?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Sexual assault, Suicide, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. During WWII, teenage Lillia and her circus acrobat family flee Poland for Shanghai, joining a large Jewish refugee community from both Europe and America. DeWoskin, who has lived in China, has done meticulous research, but what stands out is her lyrical, sensitive portrayal of families struggling to survive during wartime, and the heartbreaking uncertainty that comes from families being separated. Although Lillia’s father gets Lillia and her developmentally disabled baby sister, Naomi, out of Poland before they end up in concentration camps, father and daughters are separated from mother Alenka. Once safely in Shanghai, they find that nothing is easy: food, jobs, housing, medical treatment, and childcare are scarce or nonexistent, and Jewish refugees find themselves crowded into the ghetto of Hongkou. Eventually Lillia takes a job (without her father’s knowledge or permission) as a hostess-dancer at a gentleman’s club, bringing in money for food and medicine—she also develops a romantic relationship with a Chinese boy. All the while, the family aches for Alenka, not knowing if they will ever see her again. Lillia uses her art (dance and puppetry) to keep herself and her family going in the face of constant challenges. Offering an unusual portrait of what war does to families in general and children in particular, DeWoskin is never didactic as she affirms the human need for art and beauty in hard times.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
During World War II, Lillia and her Polish family struggle to make a new home in Shanghai. DeWoskin (Blind, 2014, etc.) explores a rarely depicted topic: the struggles of the Shanghai Jewish refugees. Lillia’s parents, Stanislav Circus acrobats, are performing their last show when the event is raided. Her mother is lost in the confusion, and Lillia, her father, and her developmentally disabled baby sister flee Warsaw, traveling by land and sea to China. Part of Lillia rejects what is going on around her, in innocent disbelief at what people are capable of doing to one another, while another part revels in small freedoms, wandering the streets of Shanghai unmonitored, amazed at discovering a Jewish community in this foreign land. There, in a place where she begins to hate the hope she harbors that her mother will find them, Lillia both discovers new strength and plunges into new depths of desperation, driven to do things that would surprise and appall her old self. Though the instances of Chinese romanized text are missing all tonal marks that denote pronunciation and meaning, English translations are given. The vivid characters are flawed and evolve, sometimes according to or despite their circumstances. Particularly fascinating is the juxtaposition of the plight of Jewish refugees with that of the Chinese living in a Japanese-occupied Shanghai. A beautifully nuanced exploration of culture and people. (author’s note, sources, map) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

About the Author

Rachel DeWoskin spent her twenties in China as the unlikely star of a nighttime soap opera that inspired her memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing. She is the author of Repeat After Me and Big Girl Small, which received the American Library Association’s Alex Award for an adult book with special appeal to teen readers; Rachel’s conversations with young readers inspired her to write her first YA novel, Blind. Rachel is on the faculty of the University of Chicago, where she teaches creative writing.

She lives in Chicago with her husband, playwright Zayd Dohrn, and their two daughters.
Rachel and her family spent six summers in Shanghai while she researched Someday We Will Fly.

Her website is www.tinaconnolly.com.

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Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury YA, 272 p. ISBN: 9781681198071.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In a searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden illuminates post-Reconstruction America in an intimate portrait of a determined young woman who dares to seize the opportunity of a lifetime.

As a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Essie’s dreams are very much at odds with her reality. Ashamed of her beginnings, but unwilling to accept the path currently available to her, Essie is trapped between the life she has and the life she wants.

Until she meets a lady named Dorcas Vashon, the richest and most cultured black woman she’s ever encountered. When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. In her follow-up to Crossing Ebenezer Creek​ (2017), Bolden explores what happened to those who survived that journey, through the character of Essie, a young black woman in 1880s Savannah, Georgia. When presented with the chance to start over, Essie becomes Victoria and moves to Baltimore to learn how to become a society lady, eventually ending up living the good life in Washington, D.C. Though she vows to say goodbye to her past, Victoria finds it’s easier said than done. The novel’s short introductory chapters give background to her story and invite readers into Victoria’s life, but their nonlinear arrangement can be hard to follow. Only after several flashbacks and flash-forwards does the book finally settle in real-time narration. The story, as described in Bolden’s author’s note, seeks to illuminate “an often-neglected aspect of black history: the black middle class and black aristocracy of the past.” The rich descriptions of people and life in early America will fascinate readers as the book introduces them to this widely overlooked population in history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2018)
In 1880s Savannah, an African-American girl seizes the opportunity to enter a different life. Essie has many questions about the life she’s lived with her mother, her “aunties,” and the white men who visit, feeling closer to their cleaner, Ma Clara—but tough as life is, she knows it’s better than the times of slavery. It is Ma Clara who urges Essie’s Mamma to send her to school. When she leaves home for a housekeeping job, her mother furiously accuses Essie of snobbery, revealing that Essie’s father was a white Union soldier. At the boardinghouse, Essie does her tasks and delights in reading books from the parlor. A guest, Dorcas Vashon, takes an interest in Essie, offering her the chance to start a new life in Baltimore. The lessons that will turn Victoria, Essie’s new chosen name, into a member of the emerging African-American elite are demanding. She meets noteworthy figures such as Frederick Douglass, falls in love, and wonders if she can marry without revealing her past. This unique work seamlessly weaves aspects of black history into the detailed narrative. Essie’s desire for a life she can be proud of is palpable; as Victoria, she emerges as a fully realized character, a product of all her experiences. The depiction of Washington, D.C.’s African-American elite is rich and complex, never shying away from negatives such as colorism and social climbing. A compelling and significant novel. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

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

Teacher Resources

Inventing Victoria on Common Sense Media

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All Is Fair by Dee Garretson

All Is Fair by Dee Garretson. January 22, 2019. Swoon Reads, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250168696.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Lady Mina Tretheway knows she’s destined for greater things than her fancy boarding school, where she’s being taught to be a proper English lady. It’s 1918, and war is raging across Europe. Unlike her father and brother, who are able to assist in the war effort, Mina is stuck sorting out which fork should be used with which dinner course.

When Mina receives a telegram that’s written in code, she finally has her chance to do something big. She returns to her childhood home of Hallington Manor, joined by a family friend, Lord Andrew Graham, and a dashing and mysterious young American, Lucas. The three of them must band together to work on a dangerous project that could turn the tide of the war.

Thrilled that she gets to contribute to the war effort at least, Mina jumps headfirst into the world of cryptic messages, spycraft, and international intrigue. She, Lucas, and Andrew have to work quickly, because if they don’t succeed, more soldiers will disappear into the darkness of war.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of war, Mild sexual themes, Violence, Mentions of smoking

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-10. In the harrowing days of WWI, aristocratic young Lady Thomasina Thretheway, known as Mina, longs for a useful role in the war effort. Will her high-ranking father trust her experience with codes well enough to give her an authentic task helping the Allied effort? When she manages to take the place of an injured operative and close family friend on a daring mission behind enemy lines, the story morphs into a full-fledged war adventure. Amid spy intrigue, coded messages, fairly improbable escapes, a budding romance, and bold derring-do, our quick-thinking, thoroughly engaging protagonist triumphs and the plot never slows. Garretson reaches beyond adventure, too, providing a haunting nuance to the horrors of war through her heroine’s eyes. As Mina and cohorts advance toward troop encampments at the front at one point, she notes the scenario “looked like something out of a nightmare, so bleak and desolate that it was as if all hope had disappeared from the Earth.” An action-packed, yet sobering journey into the war to end all wars.

About the Author

Dee Garretson writes for a wide range of ages, from chapter books to middle grade to young adult and adult fiction. She has a degree in International Relations from Tufts University, and also studied and taught Landscape Horticulture at Cincinnati State, giving her a chance to indulge in her love of both history and of plants.

When she is not at home in Cincinnati writing, reading, and watching old movies, she takes every opportunity to travel, storing up new locations for future stories.

Her website is deegarretson.com

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Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac

Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac. October 23, 2018. Dial Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780735228863.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.9.

A boy discovers his Native American heritage in this Depression-era tale of identity and friendship by the author of Code Talker

It’s 1932, and twelve-year-old Cal Black and his Pop have been riding the rails for years after losing their farm in the Great Depression. Cal likes being a “knight of the road” with Pop, even if they’re broke. But then Pop has to go to Washington, DC–some of his fellow veterans are marching for their government checks, and Pop wants to make sure he gets his due–and Cal can’t go with him. So Pop tells Cal something he never knew before: Pop is actually a Creek Indian, which means Cal is too. And Pop has decided to send Cal to a government boarding school for Native Americans in Oklahoma called the Challagi School.

At school, the other Creek boys quickly take Cal under their wings. Even in the harsh, miserable conditions of the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school, he begins to learn about his people’s history and heritage. He learns their language and customs. And most of all, he learns how to find strength in a group of friends who have nothing beyond each other.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 5-8. Multiple compelling Depression-era histories converge in Bruchac’s latest, about a boy attending a government boarding school for Native Americans in 1932. Cal enjoys being a hobo with Pop, riding the rails and doing honest work. But then Pop gives Cal two pieces of life-changing news. The first is that Pop, who Cal always thought was white, is a Creek Indian. Second, Pop is going to D.C. to protest with other WWI veterans for their bonus payments. While Pop is gone, Cal will attend the Challagi Indian Boarding School, where Pop went as a boy. Challagi is a bleak and often brutal place, but, while there, Cal befriends other Native boys from various tribes for the first time. Pop’s recollections of the abuses he witnessed at Challagi are so harsh that readers might initially wonder why he sends his son there—a question Bruchac also thoughtfully addresses in the afterword. But the students’ utter subversion of Challagi’s mission to sever their ties with Indian culture soon becomes apparent, as does Cal’s powerful, growing understanding of his identity.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
Twelve-year-old Cal Blackbird trades the freedom of hobo living with his father, a World War I vet, for the regimented world of Challagi Indian Boarding School. Set in spring and summer of 1932 Depression-era America, Bruchac’s (Abenaki) historical novel sees narrator Cal and his father riding the rails, eking out a meager and honest life as inseparable “knights of the road.” But when Pop reads news about fellow veterans gathering in Washington, D.C., to demand payment of promised bonuses, he decides to “join [his] brother soldiers.” To keep Cal safe while away, Pop tells him about their Creek heritage and enrolls him at Challagi. Even though he’s only “half Creek” and has been raised white, Cal easily makes friends there with a gang of Creek boys and learns more about his language and culture in the process. Though the book is largely educational, Creek readers may notice the language discrepancy when their word for “African-American” is twice used to label a light-skinned Creek boy. Additionally, Cal’s articulation of whiteness sounds more like a 21st-century adult’s then a Depression-era boy’s. More broadly, readers accustomed to encountering characters who struggle along their journeys may find many of the story’s conflicts resolved without significant tension and absent the resonant moments that the subject matter rightly deserves. A lesser-known aspect of Native American history that promises the excitement of riding the rails yet delivers a handcar version of the boarding school experience. (list of characters, afterword) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Joseph Bruchac is a highly acclaimed children’s book author, poet, novelist, and storyteller, as well as a scholar of Native American culture. He is the coauthor of the bestselling Keepers of the Earth series with Michael Caduto. Bruchac’s poems, articles, and stories have appeared in hundreds of publications from Akwesasne Notes and American Poetry Review to National Geographic and Parabola. He has authored many books for adults and children including Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War TwoSkeleton Man, and The Heart of a Chief.

His website is www.josephbruchac.com

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