Oct 27, 2020

Gimme All the Historical Fiction!

We have a young patron that's a reader. No, really, she voraciously consumes historical fiction like it's the best milkshake on the planet. I think she's read the vast majority of our World War II chapter books, and I'm gently encouraging her to delve into the Great Depression or the postwar era. I can't blame her passion one bit. In fact, I secretly hope that her love of stories will continue to draw her to history and libraries in the way I was as a kid and continue to be as an adult. When I was in fourth grade, I discovered the Dear America series and read I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly over and over until the Library kindly sent me a letter in the mail asking me to please return the book so other children could enjoy it (See, librarians have overdue books too. This actually happened twice to me. The other book I received a letter for was Anne of Windy Poplars. If you're looking for a fun debate, ask Miss Katie and I to share our feelings about Anne of Windy Poplars). There is something incredibly heartfelt, humbling, and reassuring about reading stories that talk about real places or real time periods. The list below isn't comprehensive, but it is a starting point for the historical fiction books in our collection. I'm hopeful some of these titles will give the same feelings I get and our voracious reader get when reading about different experiences in history. Some of these titles are also brand new, and will be featured in our upcoming First Chapter Friday program. If you're interested in hearing the first chapter of a few new titles each week in November, check us out every Friday at 5 pm on Facebook. The book descriptions below are courtesy of Goodreads and Amazon. 

Native Americans:
Peacemaker by Joseph Bruchac: 12-year-old Okwaho's life has suddenly changed. While out hunting, his friend is kidnapped by a neighboring tribe. Okwaho barely escapes back to his village where everyone lives in fear of raids and killings; The five tribes of the Iroquois have been at war with each other for far too long. Okwaho seeks revenge, but before he can retaliate a visitor with a message of peace comes to him in the woods. The Peacemaker tells Okwaho that he can convince even the most warlike leaders of the wisdom of peace. 

The American Revolution and Early America:
Sophia's War by Avi: In 1776, Sophia Calderwood witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City. Sophia is horrified by the event and resolves to do all she can to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America. Through her work she becomes aware that someone in the American army might be switching sides, and she uncovers a plot that will greatly damage the American side if it succeeds. The identity of the traitor is so shocking that no one believes Sophia, and she decides that she must stop the plot herself. 

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: As the Revolutionary War begins, Isabel wages her own fight for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, Isabel and her sister become the property of a malicious couple, the Locktons, in a cruel twist of fate. The Locktons have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Isabel and her sister. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first but when the unthinkable happens to her sister, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. 

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte: Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha's Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over 100 years later, many people there - including Mary - are deaf and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. But new events are shattering Mary's world. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people, and a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island's prevalent deafness. 

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown: The journey west by wagon train promises to be long and arduous for 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves and her parents and 8 siblings. She is hopeful about their new life in California, but when winter comes early to the Sierra Nevada and their group gets a late start, the Graves family, traveling alongside the Donner and Reed parties, must endure one of the most harrowing and storied journeys in American history. 

The Civil War:
Like a River by Cannon Wiechmann: Leander and Polly are two Union soldiers who carry deep, dangerous secrets. Leander is underage when he enlists and Polly follows her father into war disguised as his son. The war proves life changing for both as they survive incredible odds. Leander struggles to be accepted as a man and loses his arm as a consequence. Polly mourns the death of her father, endures Andersonville Prison, and narrowly escapes the Sultana steamboat disaster. As the lives of these brave soldiers intersect, both find a wealth of courage and learn about the importance of loyalty, family, and love. 

The Russian Empire: 
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell: Feo's life is extraordinary. Her mother trains domesticated wolves to be able to fend for themselves in the snowy wilderness of Russia, and Feo is following in her footsteps to become a wolf wilder. Not everyone is enamored with the wolves, however, or the fact that Feo and her mother are turning them wild. When her mother is taken captive, Feo must travel through the cold, harsh woods to save her and learn from the wolves how to survive. 

Turn of the Century, 1918 Influenza Epidemic, World War I:
Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay: Clarry longs for a life of her own. She wants to dive off cliffs and go swimming with her brother Peter and cousin Rupert. More than anything though, she wants an education. She helps Peter with his homework all the time, so why can't she manage it by herself? When war breaks out, Clarry is shocked to find that Rupert enlisted. When he is declared missing, Clarry is devastated and must finally take her own steps into the world. 

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn: During the influenza epidemic of 1918, new girl Annie is claimed as best friend by Elsie, a classmate who is a tattletale, liar, and thief. Soon Annie makes other friends and finds herself joining them in teasing and tormenting Elsie. When Elsie dies from influenza, she return to reclaim Annie's friendship and her revenge.

The Button War by Avi: Patryk knows little of the world beyond his tiny Polish village; The Russians have occupied the land for as long as anyone can remember, but life is otherwise unremarkable. Patryk and his friends entertain themselves by coming up with dares until Germans drop a bomb on the schoolhouse and the Great War comes crashing in. As control of the village falls from one nation to another, the Patryk and his friends devise the best dare yet: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king. Soon the lines between the button war and the real war blur.  

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly: Calpurnia Virginia Tate is 11-years-old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones. With a little help from her notoriously grumpy grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any bigger. As Callie explore the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century. 

World War II: 
All He Knew by Helen Frost: Henry has been deaf from an early age. He is intelligent and aware of language, but by age 6 he has decided it's not safe to speak to strangers and is labeled "unteachable" by those around him. Henry is sent to Riverview, a bleak institution where he is misunderstood, underestimated, and harshly treated. Victor, a conscientious objector to World War II, is part of a Civilian Public Service program offered as an alternative to the draft. When he arrives at Riverview in 1942 to serve as an attendant, he quickly sees that Henry is far from unteachable.  

Catherine's War by Julia Billet: At the Sevres Children's Home outside of Paris, Rachel has discovered her passion: photography. Although she hasn't heard from her parents in months, she loves the people at her school, adores capturing what she sees in pictures, and tries not to worry too much about Hitler's war. But as France buckles under the Nazi regime, danger closes in and Rachel must change her name and go into hiding. 

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. 

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong USA by Brenda Woods: On Gabriel's 12th birthday, he is so excited over his new bike that he accidently rides it right into the path of a car. Fortunately, a black man named Meriwether pushes him out of the way just in time, and fixes his damaged bike. As a thank you, Gabriel gets him a job at his dad's auto shop. Gabriel and Meriwether become friends, and Gabriel learns that Meriwether drove a tank in the army's all-black 761st Tank Battalion in World War II. Meriwether is proud of his service, but has to keep it a secret because talking about it could be dangerous. Danger finds Meriwether anyways, and Gabriel doesn't know if the police in his southern town will help Meriwether, or if Meriwether will take the law into his own hands. 

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain by John Boyne: When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time. It's 1935 and the Second World War is quickly approaching. This is also no ordinary house: It's the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler. 

Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus: In a French village during World War II, a group of teenagers save thousands of Jews by standing up for what is right. Among the group is a young Jewish boy who learns to forge documents, a girl who overcomes her fears to carry messages for the Resistance, and a boy who smuggles people into Switzerland. The threat of being caught is always present, however, and eventually the Gestapo arrives, armed with guns and a list of names. The young group must race against time to bring all their friends to safety. Village of Scoundrels is based on a true story. 

The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero: Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. When a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past. The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina's courageous and compassionate manner change his life in positive ways. Their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them.

Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian: The gruff Mr. Thomas Oakley is less than pleased when he is given a scrawny young boy as a guest, but it is mandatory that each villager take an evacuee from the war. It becomes obvious to Mr. Tom that the young boy is hiding something, but the boy's confidence soon grows and the pair begin to form an unlikely bond. When the boy has to return to war-torn London to face his mother, will he retreat into his shy and awkward ways once more? 

Code Word Courage by Kirby Larson: Billie has lived with her great-aunt ever since her mom passed away and her dad left. Billie's big brother is about to leave too, for the warfront. But first, she gets one more weekend with him at the ranch. Billie is surprised when her brother brings home a fellow Marine from boot camp, Denny, and his gorgeous, but injured stray dog. As Billie cares for the dog, they grow deeply attached to each other. Soon enough, it's time for the Marines to ship out. Billie does her part for the war effort, but she worries whether her brother and Denny will make it home, whether she'll find new friends, and if her father will ever come back. 

On Snowden Mountain by Jeri Hanel Watts: Ellen's mother has struggled with depression before, but not like this. With her father away fighting in World War II and her mother unable to care for her, Ellen's only option is to reach out to her Aunt Pearl. Soon enough, Ellen and her mother are shepherded off to the countryside to Aunt Pearl's home, a tidy white cottage at the base of Snowden Mountain. Adjusting to life in a small town is no easy thing: the school has one room, one of her classmates smells of skunks, and members of the community seem to whisper about Ellen's family. But even as she worries that depression is a family curse to which she'll inevitably succumb, Ellen slowly begins to carve out a space for herself and her mother on Snowden Mountain. 

Blue Skies by Anne Bustard: Glory Bea Bennett knows that miracles happen in Gladiola, Texas, population 3,421. After all, her grandmother, the best matchmaker in the whole county, is responsible for 39 of them. Glory Bea needs a miracle of her own. The war ended 3 years ago, but Glory Bea's father never returned home from the front in France. Glory Bea understands what Mama and Grams say, that her Daddy died a hero on Omaha Beach, yet deep down in her heart, she believes that her Daddy is still out there. 

The Great Depression: 
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk: Ellie and her family lose everything in the financial crash, and have to start over in the unforgiving terrain of Echo Mountain. Though her sister resents everything about the mountain, Ellie has found more freedom, strength, and love than ever before. When Ellie's father falls into a coma, an accident Ellie is blamed for, she is determined to make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as "the hag." But the mountain has many stories, and Ellie finds herself among a complex constellation of strong women spanning generations.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm: It's 1935, and jobs, money, and sometimes even dreams are scarce. When Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye and heads off to Key West, Florida to live with relatives she's never met. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

Life in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, segregation, and Civil Rights:
Paperboy by Vince Vawter: 11-year-old Victor throws the meanest fastball in Memphis, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering. When he takes over his best friend's paper route for the month of July 1959, he knows he'll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. The paper route poses challenges, but it's a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and a thief, that really stirs up trouble and puts Victor's life in danger. 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper: Stella lives in the segregated South, in Bumblebee, North Carolina to be exact. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out. After all, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one night, Stella and her brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come - unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia: In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to spend a month with the mother they barely know, Delphine and her sisters arrive to a cold welcome. They discover that their mother, a poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion and that she wants them to attend a nearby Blank Panther summer camp. 

Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee: Lenny has a younger brother Davey who won't stop growing. At age 7 he is as tall as a man. Raised by their single mother, Lenny and Davey have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else. The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell's Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia. Through the encyclopedia, Lenny and Davey experience all the wonders of the world and dream about a life of freedom and adventure. But as Davey's health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth: Davey will never make it to the places they dream about.

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown: On a winter night, Iris and her best friend Daniel sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the show. Iris carefully makes a snow angel only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her. Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project, and discover that Avery's grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten black cemetery, dating back to a time when white and black people were kept separate in life and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town's past, they become determined to restore Avery's grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there. 

The Korean War:
Brother's Keeper by Julie Lee: North Korea. December 1950. Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit; No criticism of the government; No absences from Communist meetings; Wear red; Hang pictures of the Great Leader; Don't trust your neighbors; Don't speak your mind; You are being watched. War is coming, however; war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos, but war is also the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers. Can they survive 300 miles of warzone in winter? 

The Vietnam War: 
Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai: Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, and the strength of her family.

Wishes, Dares, and How to Stand Up to a Bully by Darlene Beck-Jacobson: Jack is worried about his father, a soldier missing in action in Vietnam, and immerses himself in the diary he left behind. Jack's family, new best friend, and a bully unexpectedly help him find the courage to do the right thing, not the easy thing. 

The AIDS Epidemic: 
Trowbridge Road by Marcella Pixley: It's the summer of 1983 and June Bug Jordan is hungry. Months after her father's death from complications from AIDS, her mother has stopped cooking and refuses to leave the house, instead locking herself away to scour at the germs she believes are everywhere. June Bug threatens this existence by going out into the neighborhood and befriending Ziggy, an imaginative boy who is living with Nana Jean after experiencing troubles of his own. As June Bug's connection to the world grows stronger, her mother grows more distant, even dangerous, pushing June Bug to choose between truth and healing or the only home she has ever known. 

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster:
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly: The Nelson-Thomas siblings exist in their own orbits, circling a tense, crowded, and unpredictable household: Cash loves basketball, Dr. J, and a girl named Penny - he's also in danger of failing 7th grade for a second time; Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn't understand; and Bird dreams of being NASA's first female shuttle commander, but feels like she's disappearing. The siblings have little in common except for an enthusiastic science teacher, Ms. Salonga, a failed applicant to the Teacher in Space program who encourages her students to live vicariously through the launch. Cash and Fitch have only a mild interest in the launch, but Bird builds her dreams around it.  

Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos: Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. It's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event live on TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together, but Bridget has disappeared and Nova is in a new foster home. Nova's new foster family and teachers finally begin to see her potential, that she's not just autistic and nonverbal, but she keeps counting down to the launch and the moment when she'll see Bridget again. 

Iran-Iraq War:
Lost Boys by Darcey Rosenblatt: It's 1982 and 12-year-old Reza has no interest in joining Iran's war effort. In the wake of a tragedy and his mother's urging, however, he decides to enlist and is assured by the authorities that he will achieve paradise should he die in service to his country. War does not bring the glory that was promised though and Reza finds himself held in a prisoner of war camp in Iraq. Will Reza make it out alive? And if he does, will he even have a home to return to?