What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'historical fiction')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: historical fiction, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,086
1. Review: A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove) by Tessa Dare. Avon. 2011. And sequels. Library copies.

The Plot: 1813, England. Victor Bramwell is a lieutenant colonel in the army, and he's been wounded, and all he cares about is getting back into the army. So he'll do anything to prove that he is fit to return.

The Plot: 1813, England. Victor Bramwell is a lieutenant colonel in the army, and he's been wounded, and all he cares about is getting back into the army. So he'll do anything to prove that he is fit to return to service.

Susanna Finch lives in Spindle Cove, along with her father. Spindle Cove has earned itself the nickname Spinster Cove, because it's so well known as a bit of a dumping ground for ladies who don't fit into society. It's full of spinsters, ha ha ha.

And Susanna wants to keep Spindle Cove that way. She doesn't want people to know the truth about Spindle Cove: it's not a last resort. It's the best resort; a place where women who don't fit into society, or have been excluded, find a home and acceptance.

Bram's mission to start a local militia is going to be tough -- even more difficult because, well, Spindle Cove is full of women. Not military service ready men. Will Susanna be able to get rid of Bram and his soldiers in time to save Spindle Cove?

The Good: Spindle Cove! The shy and the introverted, but also the outspoken. The brainy. They are welcome and embraced and accepted at Spindle Cove -- at least, for now. A Night to Surrender is the first in a series, each about a different woman of Spindle Cove. Each there for a different reason. And, because of these reasons, it means the heroines of the series are each pretty unique, and independent. And it means that the heroes are those who value the unique. Spindle Cove is about women learning to be themselves, to be confident, and finding men who prize that. It's a feminist series, set in a time that isn't very feminist. The combinations are also interesting, because what matters are who the people are not what they are. Examples: a beautiful young woman and the local blacksmith. A Duke and a serving girl from a pub.

Spindle Cove is also very funny. I confess, I didn't see it as much in A Night to Surrender, but the second, A Week to Be Wicked, had me laughing out loud. And after that, I saw a lot to laugh about.

Also: hot and spicy!

While Spindle Cove is about a safe place, it doesn't hide that the world itself can be harsh. There is a reason, after all, why a refuge like Spinster Cove is needed. The backstory in A Lady by Midnight shows what happens to a young woman without resources or family, who has no options, but who still has to live and to provide for her child.

I have really enjoyed this series; so far there are four books and two novellas, with another novella this December and a new book next year. One nice thing about my recent romance reading is finding series like these, in which there are plenty of books in the series so I can power read one right after another.

 Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove) as of 11/24/2015 4:18:00 AM
Add a Comment
2. The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus

Review by Krista (The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch #1) by Daniel Kraus Hardcover, 656 pages Published October 27th 2015 Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers  Goodreads | Amazon May 7, 1896. Dusk. A swaggering seventeen-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is gunned down on the shores of Lake Michigan. But after mere minutes in the void, he is mysteriously resurrected.His second life

0 Comments on The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus as of 11/20/2015 1:42:00 AM
Add a Comment
3. Classroom Connections: THE LAURA LINE by Crystal Allen

age range: 8-12
genre: contemporary fiction with historical flashbacks
Crystal Allen’s website

Please tell us about your book. 

THE LAURA LINE is about Laura Dyson, a thirteen year old, overweight girl who has dreams of being a model…or a major league baseball pitcher.  Because of her weight issues, students make fun of her to the point that Laura begins to believe that she is all of the ugly things her classmates say she is.  It’s not until Laura ventures into an old shack on her grandmother’s farm and finds a ledger filled with documents from the female ancestors in her history, (all of them named Laura)  that she begins to stand up for herself.  Now, Laura Dyson not only knows who she is, but has evidence of all the wonderful things she can become.

What inspired you to write this story?

My mother raised my oldest brother and sister in an extremely small, one-room, family-built house on my grandmother’s farm.  I missed my opportunities to tour this family landmark, but I knew it held valuable history, along with proof of the strength and determination of my mother.  I wanted to honor her, and the house, in some way.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

Talking with family members and memories of growing up on my grandmother’s farm in Indiana were the biggest tools I used when writing THE LAURA LINE.  However, while visiting Boston one summer, a replica of the Amistad was docked in the Naval shipyard, and people were encouraged to tour for free!  Since the Amistad was going to make a “cameo” appearance in THE LAURA LINE, I thought this was an excellent opportunity for some research, and the price was perfect!  With camera in hand and money for snacks, I took off to the shipyard, expecting a fun day in the sun.

But that’s not what happened.

Touring that schooner caused such an emotional stir in me, I was completely caught off guard by its affect from the moment I stepped onboard.  I had no personal ties to anyone aboard the Amistad, yet I wept right there at the shipyard as if I did.  To see pencil-drawn portraits of the captives, some as young as seven-years-old, took all of the fun out of my day. I knew the story of the Amistad, but standing downstairs, in the belly of that schooner, put the whole story in my face.  This was no longer a research project.  It was now personal.

Even though the THE LAURA LINE is based on fictional characters, I felt as if I met the first Laura that day. She was real, and she needed me to feel her pain, her fear, her frustration, her hunger, her tears, her anger. I rushed back to the place I was staying and began to empty out everything I had felt that day, whether it was in complete sentences or not.  I will never forget that experience.

What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?

Making sure each Laura was given a talent that existed in her era, and the materials, left by each Laura, were believable.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

THE LAURA LINE teaches its readers:

Love yourself.  Love your “Line.”  Live your dreams.

The post Classroom Connections: THE LAURA LINE by Crystal Allen appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

0 Comments on Classroom Connections: THE LAURA LINE by Crystal Allen as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. Australian YA: Sue Lawson and Freedom Ride

Meet Sue Lawson, author of Freedom Ride Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Sue. It’s a pleasure, Joy, thanks so much for asking me. Where are you based and how involved are you in the world of children’s and YA lit? We moved to Geelong two years ago from a smaller regional town. Though we […]

Add a Comment
5. Let the Hurricane Roar (1932)

Let the Hurricane Roar. Rose Wilder Lane. 1932. 118 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

After reading Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder earlier this year, I was curious to read Rose Wilder Lane's Let the Hurricane Roar. If memory serves me, Rose Wilder Lane borrowed freely from her mother in terms of character and plot. That is while she was reading and editing and preparing her mother's manuscript to be sent off for possible publication, she was beginning to write her own pioneer-inspired novels, one of which is Let the Hurricane Roar. It has been a good six months or so since I read Pioneer Girl, so I don't remember the details clearly. This mother-and-daughter team were definitely writing at the same time about the same things, though I suppose for different audiences. Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932, I believe, and Let the Hurricane Roar was published in 1933.

Let The Hurricane Roar is a historical fiction with a touch of romance. One could possibly say that it "celebrates" the pioneer spirit, but, it doesn't so much celebrate it and honor it as it does present it realistically. Life was hard, tough, at times seeming bleak and hopeless. The only thing abounding was often pride, stubbornness, gumption, if you will, and diligence. In short supply? Money and neighbors and life's luxuries.

Molly and David are the main characters of the novel. These two head out west, and it isn't long before Molly finds herself with child. Fearing to leave their new claim unsettled, she becomes enthusiastic about going with him to the claim and having the child all by herself. Who needs neighbors, friends, family, a midwife or a doctor? Molly proves to be just as proud and stubborn and spirited as her husband. (David DOES play the fiddle. And the two do endure several blizzards.)

To sum it all up, the book is more an account of horrible things happening to them within the first two or three years of settling their claim than anything else. That's not to say that the book lacks characterization. But it does lack characters, in some ways, since Molly and David are essentially on their own. Swedish neighbors, I believe, appear midway through and then depart again. And Molly does visit the nearest town in one or two chapters. But essentially it's just the three of them! (The baby doesn't do much if I'm honest.)

I liked it okay. It wasn't a great book that I simply loved and delighted in. But it was a solidly good read for anyone interested in pioneers.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Let the Hurricane Roar (1932) as of 11/11/2015 11:34:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Review: Of Monsters and Madness

Of Monsters & Madness by Jessica Verday. Egmont USA. 2014.

The Plot: It's 1824 and Annabel Lee, 17, has moved to her father's death following her mother's death. The world of Philadelphia, and her role of daughter of a doctor, is very different from a childhood spent in Siam. She lacks the freedom she had there.

There are secrets in her father's house -- including her father's two assistants, handsome Allan and cruel Edgar. Including her father's scientific experiments.

And there are the gruesome murders....

The Good: I'll be honest: I read Of Monsters and Madness about a year ago, when it first came out, enjoyed it, but just didn't get around to writing anything up.

Then I saw the movie Crimson Peak (review tomorrow) and began to wonder about possible read-a-likes for teens who may go see the movie and want a taste of Gothic horror and romance. And I remembered Of Monsters and Madness.

The setting, early nineteenth century Philadelphia, is wonderfully shown; Annabel is a strong young woman who has been raised away from her father and his family. She wants to connect with them and please them, but her desire for independence and to pursue studying is at odds with their perceptions of what a proper young lady is. Plus, Edgar Allen Poe as a hot young man!

And plus there are references / homages to works by Poe as well as other writers. So this can lead to wanting to read more Poe, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde.

Of Monsters and Madness was published by Egmont USA, which, sadly, no longer exists. So when I went to the author's website to write this post, I was very pleased to learn a few things: first, that it's available on Kindle; second, that for a limited time it is $1.99; and third, that Verday has included the sequel, Of Phantoms and Fury, in the Kindle edition so you are getting two books for one.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: Of Monsters and Madness as of 11/4/2015 4:27:00 AM
Add a Comment

Mid-autumn might seem like a weird time to start reading about baseball again, but since the World Series victories are still echoing in our ears, I think it's a fine time to start thinking about spring training again. One of the first books my... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: CHERRY BLOSSOM BASEBALL by Jennifer Maruno as of 11/3/2015 8:15:00 PM
Add a Comment
8. Review of the Day: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

GoneCrazyGone Crazy in Alabama
By Rita Williams-Garcia
Amistad (an imprint of Harper Collins)
ISBN: 978-0062215871
Ages 9-12
On shelves now.

I’m a conceited enough children’s librarian that I like it when a book wins me over. I don’t want them to make it easy for me. When I sit down to read something I want to know that the author on the other side of the manuscript is scrabbling to get the reader’s attention. Granted that reader is supposed to be a 10-year-old kid and not a 37-year-old woman, but to a certain extent audience is audience. Now I’ll say right off the bat that under normal circumstances I don’t tend to read sequels and I CERTAINLY don’t review them. There are too many books published in a current year to keep circling back to the same authors over and over again. There are, however, always exceptions to the rule. And who amongst us can say that Rita Williams-Garcia is anything but exceptional? The Gaither Sisters chronicles (you could also call them the One Crazy Summer Books and I think you’d be in the clear) have fast become modern day literary classics for kids. Funny, painful, chock full of a veritable cornucopia of historical incidents, and best of all they stick in your brain like honey to biscuits. Read one of these books and you can recall them for years at a time. Now the bitter sweetness of “Gone Crazy in Alabama” gives us more of what we want (Vonetta! Uncle Darnell! Big Ma!) in a final, epic, bow.

Going to visit relatives can be a chore. Going to visit warring relatives? Now THAT is fun! Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern have been to Oakland and Brooklyn but now they’ve turned South to Alabama to visit their grandmother Big Ma, their great-grandmother Ma Charles, and Ma Charles’s half sister Miss Trotter. Delphine, as usual, places herself in charge of her younger, rebellious, sisters, not that they ever appreciate it. As she learns more about her family’s history (and the reason the two half sisters loathe one another) she ignores her own immediate family’s needs until the moment when it almost becomes too late.

I’m an oldest sister. I have two younger siblings. Unlike Delphine I didn’t have the responsibility of watching over my siblings for any extended amount of time. As a result, I didn’t pay all that much attention to them growing up. But like Delphine, I would occasionally find myself trying, to my mind anyway, to keep them in line. Where Rita Williams-Garcia excels above all her peers, and I do mean all of them, is in the exchanges between these three girls. If I had an infinite revenue stream I would solicit someone to adapt their conversations into a very short play for kids to perform somewhere (actually, I’d just like to see ALL these books as plays for children, but that’s neither here nor there). The dialogue sucks you in and you find yourself getting emotionally involved. Because Delphine is our narrator you’re getting everything from her perspective and in this the author really makes you feel like she’s on the right side of every argument. It would be an excellent writing exercise to charge a class of sixth graders with the task of rewriting one of these sections from Vonetta or Fern’s point of view instead.

As I might have mentioned before, I wasn’t actually sold initially on this book. Truth be told, I liked the sequel to One Crazy Summer (called P.S. Be Eleven) but found the ending rushed and a tad unsatisfying. That’s just me, and my hopes with Gone Crazy were not initially helped by this book’s beginning. I liked the set-up of going South and all that, but once they arrived in Alabama I was almost immediately confused. We met Ma Charles and then very soon thereafter we met another woman very much like her who lived on the other side of a creek. No explanation was forthcoming about these two, save some cryptic descriptions of wedding photos, and I felt very much out to sea. My instinct is to say that a child reader would feel the same way, but kids have a way of taking confusing material at face value, so I suspect the confusion was of the adult variety more than anything else. Clearly Ms. Williams-Garcia was setting all this up for the big reveal of the half-sister’s relationship, and I appreciated that, but at the same time I thought it could have been introduced in a different way. Things were tepid for me for a while, but then the story really started picking up. By the time we got to the storm, I was sold.

And it was at this point in the book that I realized that I’d been coming at the book all wrong. Williams-Garcia was feeding me red herrings and I’m gulping them down like there’s no tomorrow. This book isn’t laser focusing its attention on great big epic themes of historical consequence. All this book is, all it ever has been, all the entire SERIES is about in its heart of hearts, is family. And that’s it. The central tension can be boiled down to something as simple and effective as whether or not Delphine and Vonetta can be friends. Folks are always talking about bullying and bully books. They tend to involve schoolmates, not siblings, but as Gone Crazy in Alabama shows, sometimes bullying is a lot closer to home than anyone (including the bully) is willing to acknowledge.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about needing more diverse books for kids, and it’s absolutely a valid concern. I have always been of the opinion, however, that we also need a lot more funny diverse books. When most reading lists’ sole hat tip to the African-American experience is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (no offense to Mildred D. Taylor, but you see what I’m getting at here) while the white kids star in books like Harriet the Spy and Frindle, something’s gotta change. We Need Diverse Books? We Need FUNNY Diverse Books too. Something someone’s going to enjoy reading and want to pick up again. That’s why Christopher Paul Curtis has been such a genius the last few years (because, seriously, who else would explore the ramifications of vomiting on Frederick Douglass?) and why the name Rita Williams-Garcia will be remembered long after you and I are tasty toasty worm food. Because this book IS funny while also balancing out pain and hurt and hope.

An interviewer once asked Ms. Williams-Garcia if she ever had younger sisters like the ones in this book or if she’d ever spent a lot of time in rural Alabama, like they do here. She replied good-naturedly that nope. It reminded me of that story they tell about Dustin Hoffman playing Richard III. He put stones in his shoes to get the limp right. Laurence Olivier caught wind of this and his response was along the lines of, “My dear boy, why don’t you try acting?” That’s Ms. Williams-Garcia for you. She does honest-to-goodness writing. Writing that can conjure up estranged siblings and acts of nature. Writing that will make you laugh and think and think again after that. Beautifully done, every last page. A trilogy winds down on just the right note.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:


5 Comments on Review of the Day: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia, last added: 11/3/2015
Display Comments Add a Comment
9. Review: Harlot

Harlotby Victoria Dahl. 2015. Reviewed from electronic ARC.

HarlotThe Plot: Caleb Hightower went to the California gold fields to earn his fortune; two years later, he's back, to marry the sweet girl he left behind.

And discovers that Jessica Willoughby, the beautiful innocent he left behind is now a notorious prostitute.

A whore.

The girl he barely dared kiss -- the girl who he wasn't good enough for, so he went to earn the right to court her --  is selling her body to others.

Caleb is hurt and furious and angry. And he'll get his revenge. He'll pay for what she's sold to other men. He'll make her sorry.

The Good: So it's Victoria Dahl, so of course it's hot, hot, hot. And hell the title is Harlot; Jessica has sold her body to pay her debts; so you know this, up front. You know what type of hot you're getting.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Harlot; but wowza, it was both what I expected and also not what I expected. And, also, it's a quick read, less than two hundred pages.

So if you're a fan of Dahl's writing, like I am, all you need to know is yes, it delivers.

And if you haven't read her work, this is a good introduction because it's a standalone, and as I said, it's short, so you can fall for Dahl in a couple of hours.

So now that that is out of the way, the observations that I'll add, the particular details that I adored.

Caleb has been gone for two years, but he hasn't really written to Jessica in that time because he's dyslexic. Oh, given the nineteenth century setting, he doesn't have a name for why it's so tough for him to read or write, but that is the issue. And let's just say that the people he is relying on to keep up his connection and correspondence with Jessica are less than trustworthy, for reasons. I think it's a great way to explain the lack of communication between the two, that led to Caleb riding into town not knowing about Jessica, and Jessica thinking Caleb had abandoned her.

Jessica did what people say. But, of course, there are reasons; there is a story. So part of what is explained is why Jessica did what she did. Which, long story short, if you create a society where you don't expect a woman to earn a living, if you have a world where a woman's options to earn a living are extremely narrow and limited, if society says that a woman without a man (no father or husband or brother) is vulnerable and a target -- well, when a woman has nothing and no one and few resources, she sells the one resource she has. Her body.

But Dahl takes this a step further, which is why she's Dahl, and fantastic. Because what Dahl does next is use this story of Caleb and Jessica to examine views toward sex and sexuality, lust and love, and the virgin/whore complex. Caleb isn't excused for his attitudes; Jessica has her own learning curve. And perhaps because her virtue is gone, Jessica -- who had been raised to think good girls don't like sex because of the time and her class --  is now open to the idea that sex can be pleasurable.

Anyway. Trust me. Read Harlot.

And then, if you're like me, get angry that now there is no new Dahl to read. And look at your bookshelf, at those handful of Dahl books that you deliberately aren't reading so that you still always have an unread Dahl book for when you really, really need it. It's like that piece of chocolate you don't eat, because one day, you'll have to have it.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: Harlot as of 11/2/2015 8:17:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. 8 Reasons Why WOLF BY WOLF Is One Of My Favorite Books This Year... PLUS An Audiobook Review!

From Becca.. (AND ANDYE!) WOLF BY WOLF by Ryan Graudin Series: Wolf by Wolf (Book One) Hardcover: 400 pages Publisher: Little Brown, Books for Young Readers (October 20, 2015) Audiobook Publisher: Hachette Audio Goodreads | Amazon | Audible Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the

0 Comments on 8 Reasons Why WOLF BY WOLF Is One Of My Favorite Books This Year... PLUS An Audiobook Review! as of 10/30/2015 12:17:00 AM
Add a Comment
11. An Intriguing Historical Mystery! }} THESE SHALLOW GRAVES by Jennifer Donnelly

Review by Leydy THESE SHALLOW GRAVESby Jennifer DonnellyAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Delacorte Press (October 27, 2015)Amazon | Goodreads Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming

0 Comments on An Intriguing Historical Mystery! }} THESE SHALLOW GRAVES by Jennifer Donnelly as of 10/27/2015 11:27:00 AM
Add a Comment
12. Review: These Shallow Graves

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. Delacorte Press. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

These Shallow Graves by The Plot: New York City, 1890. Josephine Montfort has the type of life that others dream about: her family is old and respected, their money is old and respected, and she has a life of privilege and ease, of being waited on, of going to balls and parties.

Jo has friends and family and her own dreams: a dream of being a writer, of being a reporter, like Nelly Bly. It's not something a proper young lady does, however.

And then her father dies. The official report is he accidently shot himself while cleaning his gun ... but Jo has her doubts.

Those doubts, and Jo's own desire for the truth, will lead her away from the proper homes of rich New York, to places dark and dangerous.

The Good: Jo is a great heroine: while These Shallow Graves begins with Jo working on a school paper, hoping for better stories than the proper way to brew tea, Jo is very much a product of her world, her class, her time. She is limited in ways she doesn't know; and one wonders how Jo's future would have gone, had her father not died.

But her father does die, and Jo grieves but she also has questions and the instincts of a reporter, and those two things drive Jo outside the safety of her home and those she knows. Questions get answers and more questions, and there are more bodies; as well as a mysterious past and tragedies.

ARGH. You can tell that because this is, at it's heart, a mystery, I don't want to get too into the details of the mystery itself. What I can say is that I appreciate the contradictions within Jo: she is smart and clever, yes, but she has been protected by her wealth and her privilege. For example, most readers will pick up earlier than Jo does when characters are talking about brothels and prostitutes. But that is purposeful, to illustrate that Jo's being "protected" work against her by creating a level of ignorance that puts her into danger. If the reader is sometimes a step or two ahead of Jo, it's because they haven't been kept isolated behind walls of wealth and sexism.

These Shallow Graves is also very much a feminist book, looking at the options, and lack of options, of women in the late nineteenth century. There are mothers who seem to be coldly calculating as they arrange and plot suitable marriages, until one steps back and sees what happens to those women who aren't protected by money and family connections. Or, rather, what these women fear will happen to their daughters. It becomes clear early on just how narrow Jo's world is, and how that narrowness comes from fear and how that is it's own "grave", burying her dreams and hopes and desires deep.

That women do have choices, even if those choices are tough ones, is shown: yes, there are pickpockets and prostitutes and homeless women; there are people whose poverty destroy them. But there's also a mention of Edith Wharton and a young woman going to medical school. Yet it's clear that freedom, for women, is not easy or simple.

There is a bit of a love triangle, between the suitable young man that everyone, including Jo, thinks of as her future husband because, well, everyone assumes it. Such a good match, such good families, and they are friends so why not? And then there is the driven reporter, who latches onto the story of Jo's father as his ticket to a better job. Can he be trusted? And can Jo trust her feelings about him? Yes, a triangle.... but the two young men also represent the two choices Jo has: do what is safe, or do what she wants. What will make her family happy, or what will make her happy.

One last bit: without getting spoilery, I liked that many people rose to the occasion when the situation warranted. While there are some expected and unexpected betrayals, there are also people who prove themselves worthy of Jo's trust and friendship. People aren't black and white, for or against Jo. They are not shallow; they have as much depth as Jo -- it's just they are sometimes in a world that doesn't allow that depth.

These Shallow Graves are the secrets of the past; the places bodies have been buried; and also the world of Jo and her friends and families, limited by society, sexism, and prejudice.

A Favorite Book of 2015, because of the complexity of Jo. And I both want a sequel -- this could easily be the start of historical mystery series -- and a companion book, because Fay, well. Fay. Once you've read this, I think you'll agree: FAY.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: These Shallow Graves as of 10/22/2015 4:45:00 AM
Add a Comment
13. Review of The Hired Girl

hiredgirl_210x300star2 The Hired Girl
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Middle School   Candlewick   392 pp.
9/15   978-0-7636-7818-0   $17.99
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7943-9   $17.99

In 1911, spirited fourteen-year-old Joan, the only girl in a family of three boys plus a verbally abusive father (her weak-of-constitution mother has died), musters her courage and leaves her rural Pennsylvania home for Baltimore, the final straw being her father’s burning of her few precious books. Once in the city, and with no real plan for survival, Joan is fortunate to be taken in by a kindly, well-to-do Jewish family, the Rosenbachs. She’s employed as their “hired girl,” acting as assistant to longtime (and grumpy) domestic Malka and serving as the observant family’s “Shabbos goy,” performing household tasks forbidden to Jews during the Sabbath. Over the course of the story, Joan, wide-eyed and open-hearted: meddles in the eldest Rosenbach son’s love affairs (luckily, it all works out); very ill-advisedly attempts to convert the family’s young grandson to Catholicism; makes something of an enemy of the lady of the house; and falls helplessly in love with the Rosenbachs’ younger son, an artist who persuades her to pose for him…as Joan of Arc. The book is framed as Joan’s diary, and her weaknesses, foibles, and naiveté come through as clearly — and as frequently — as her hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The pacing can be a little slow (she doesn’t even get to Baltimore, where the bulk of the story takes place, until almost eighty pages in), but by the end readers feel as if they’ve witnessed the real, authentic growth of a memorable young woman.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Hired Girl appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of The Hired Girl as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
14. A Night Divided

As a child, I remember the Olympics mainly as an opportunity to root against the Eastern Bloc countries.  That may seem petty, but my family has/had relatives in the former Czechoslovakia, and that's what we did.  In our family, a loss by an Eastern Bloc country was a win for democracy - as if beating East Germany in pole vaulting could somehow make things better.  In reality, for the people of the Eastern Bloc, losing likely made their miserable lives worse - if they even knew about it at all.

There are many historical fiction books about wartime Germany.  A Night Divided deposits the reader in post-WWII Germany — in Berlin, on the wrong side of the wall.

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
(Scholastic, 2015)

In A Night Divided, 12-year-old Gerta, narrates the dangerously oppressive lifestyle into which she was unwilling thrust,

It was Sunday, August 13, 1961, a day I would remember for the rest of my life.  When a prison had been built around us as we slept.

Erected without warning, the fence (and later, the wall) that separated East Germany from West Germany sprang up overnight - a night when Gerta's father and brother had been visiting the West.  Gerta is trapped in the East with her resigned mother, and her rebellious older brother, Fritz.  Rebellion in East Germany is costly, and the price can be your life.

     "We will never be able to leave," Mama said. "The sooner you both accept that, the happier you will be."
     I nodded back at her. But I new I could never again be happy here. And I refused to accept my life inside a prison."
This is a deeply affecting novel that does not gloss over the reality of living under the constant watchful eyes of the police, the Grentztruppen or border police, and the brutal secret police, the Stasi.  In 1960s, East Germany, even a casual comment to a neighbor can be life-threatening.

Each chapter is introduced with a quote or German proverb that sets up the rationale for Gerta's continued, secretive resistance. "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion. — Albert Camus, French novelist"

Gerta Lowe is a character that the reader will cheer and remember.  A Night Divided is a chilling and riveting book, balanced by the hope of one family's love and courage.

0 Comments on A Night Divided as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
15. Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Walk on Earth a Stranger (Gold Seer Trilogy) by Rae Carson. Greenwillow Books. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot: 1849 Georgia. Leah Westfall lives with her parents, and together they hide her secret: she can find gold. It calls to her. To the rest of the world, her father is lucky; a luckiness that the family has to hide.

Her world comes crashing down when her parents are murdered and Leah finds herself running for her life. But where to go, what to do?

She can find gold. So she decides to go where everyone who has gold fever is going in 1849: California.

The Good: Oh, so much to like about Walk on Earth a Stranger!

First is, girls getting stuff done. At the start of the book, Leah is 15. She is devastated by the murders of her beloved parents, especially when she realizes who is behind it and that she is not safe. As a minor, and a woman, she has few options so she runs away. Dressed as a boy, and calling herself Lee.

So yes, this becomes a girl dressed like a boy story! Love. Leah binds her breasts and pleads modesty to explain her needs for privacy. And yes, Walk on Earth a Stranger is the type of book that doesn't shy away from things like Lee having to figure out what to do when she gets her period.

Lee's journey across the country is quite the adventure, by horse, by boat, by wagon. Pretending to be a boy gives her a level of safety and independence in her travels, but it doesn't totally protect her. It's still, at times, a struggle, and there are things -- there are people -- to fear.

Lee meets a wide assortment of people during her travels. One friend from the start is a neighbor and quasi-romantic interest, Jefferson. What I like about Jefferson is that he doesn't save her, and Lee doesn't need saving; they are friends, who may become something more, but they are equals. At times there are secrets and misunderstandings between the two, but the friendship is constant.

At least half of the book is the journey to California. It's not easy; there are difficulties, based on the method of travel, the ignorance and naivety of some of the travelers, and problems with some of those they are traveling with. Lee sees firsthand the hatred and fear of those in their party towards Indians, ranging from malicious actions to making up stories. She also sees it in how Jefferson (whose mother was Cherokee) is treated and talked about.

The people traveling to California are an odd mixture, bound together mainly by need and timing. It includes families and young men; people hoping to make their fortune finding gold and people hoping to make their fortune off of the gold seekers.

The Joyner family is the one that Lee travels with the longest, and so perhaps that is why the Joyners, and Mrs. Joyner especially, fascinates me. The Joyners are a well off family, bringing their furniture with them, insisting on tablecloths and china at meals. They have prejudices and biases typical of their time. (The interactions, or lack of interactions, between families based on religion and background is another fascinating part of the story.) The trip itself takes the family physically out of their comfort zone, and as the story continues Mrs. Joyner is continuing pushed beyond her comfort zone. Her character trajectory, when she rises to the occasion, when she falls, makes me hope to see more of her in the second book. Once in California, will she fall back to who she was? Or continue to grow and adapt?

Finally, what I like is that Lee's gift is not an easy answer. "Finding gold" sounds wonderful but the reality, not so much. Her parents, for example, knew that they had to be careful about who knew how much they had found; and also to take a care of whose gold is found. I liked the way that Lee used her gift in ways other than prospecting.

Walk on Earth a Stranger ends with Lee in California, and I liked that resolution, that the book was all about Lee's journey and about her gathering around her a small group of people she can trust. I'm looking forward to the next book, not just to find out more about Lee and her friends, but also to see if some of the many questions raised in the first book get answered.

And yes, I adore Rae Carson and her writing, so of course this is a Favorite Book Read in 2015.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. Review of the Day: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

hiredgirlThe Hired Girl
By Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0763678180
Ages 12 and up

Bildungsroman. Definition: “A novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education.” A certain strain of English major quivers at the very term. Get enough Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man shoved down your gullet and you’d be quivering too. I don’t run across such books very often since I specialize primarily in books for children between the ages of 0-12. For them, the term doesn’t really apply. After all, books for kids are often about the formation of the self as it applies to other people. Harry finds his Hogwarts and Wilbur his spider. Books for teenagers are far better suited to the Bildungsroman format since they explore that transition from child to adult. Yet when you sit right down and think about it, the transition from childhood to teenagerhood is just as fraught. There is a beauty to that age, but it’s enormously hard to write. Only a few authors have ever attempted it and come out winners on the other side. Laura Amy Schlitz is one of the few. Writing a book that could only be written by her, published by the only publisher who would take a chance at it (Candlewick), Schlitz’s latest is pure pleasure on the page. A book for the child that comes up to you and says, “I’ve read Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. What’s new that’s like that?”

The last straw was the burning of her books. Probably. Even if Joan’s father hadn’t set her favorite stories to blazes, it’s possible that she would have run away eventually. What we do know is that after breaking her back working for a father who wouldn’t even let her attend school or speak to her old teacher, 14-year-old Joan Skraggs has had enough. She has the money her mother gave her before she died, hidden away, and a dream in mind. Perhaps if she runs away to Baltimore she might be able to find work as a hired girl. It wouldn’t be too different from what she’s done at home (and it could be considerably less filthy). Bad luck turns to good when Joan’s inability to find a boarding house lands her instead in the household of the Rosenbach family. They’re well-to-do Jewish members of the community and Joan has no experience with Jewish people. Nonetheless she is willing to learn, and learn she does! But when she takes her romantic nature a bit too far with the family, she’ll find her savior in the most unexpected of places.

I mentioned Anne of Green Gables in my opening paragraph, but I want to assure you that I don’t do so lightly. One does not bandy about Montgomery’s magnum opus. To explain precisely why I referenced it, however, I need to talk a little bit about a certain type of romantically inclined girl. She’s the kind that gets most of her knowledge of other people through books. She is by turns adorable and insufferable. Now, the insufferable part is easy to write. We are, by nature, inclined to dislike girls in their early teens that play a kind of mental dress-up that’s cute on kids and unnerving on adolescents. However, this character can be written and written well. Jo in Little Women comes through the age unscathed. Anne from Anne of Green Gables traipses awfully close to the awful side, but manages to charm the reader in the process (no mean feat). The “Girl” from the musical The Fantastiks would fit in this category as well. And finally, there is Joan in The Hired Girl. She vacillates wildly between successfully playing the part of a young woman and then going back to the younger side of adolescence. She pouts over not getting a kitten, for crying out loud. Adults reading this book will have a vastly different experience than kids and teens, then. To a grown-up (particularly a grown-up woman) Joan is almost painfully familiar. We remember the age of fourteen and what that felt like. That yearning for love and adventure. That yearning can be useful to you, but it can also make you bloody insufferable. As such, adults are going to be inclined to forgive Joan very easily. I can only hope that her personality allows younger readers to do the same.

My husband used to write and direct short historical films. They were labor intensive affairs where every car, house, and pot holder had to be accurate and of the period. It would have been vastly easier to just write and direct contemporary fare, but where’s the fun in that? I think of those days often when I read works of historical fiction. Labor intensive doesn’t even begin to explain what goes into an accurate look at history. Ms. Schlitz appears to be unaware of this, however, since not only has she written something set in the past, she throws the extra added difficulty of discussing religion into it as well. Working in a Jewish household at the turn of the century, Joan must come to grips with all kinds of concepts and ideas that she has hitherto been ignorant of. For this to work, the author tries something very tricky indeed. She makes certain that her heroine has grown up on a farm where her sole concept of Jewish people is from “Ivanhoe”, so that she is as innocent as a newborn babe. She isn’t refraining from anti-Semitism because she’s an apocryphal character. She’s just incapable of it due to her upbringing, and that’s a hard element to pull off. Had Ms. Schlitz pushed the early portion of this book any further, she would have possibly disinterested her potential readership right from the start. I have heard a reader say that the opening sequence with Joan’s family is too long, but I personally believe these sections where she wanders blindly in and out of various situations could not have worked if that section had been any shorter.

But as I say, historical fiction can be the devil to get right. Apocryphal elements have a way of seeping into the storyline. Your dialogue has to be believably from the time and yet not so stilted it turns off the reader. In this, Laura Amy Schlitz is master. This book feels very early 20th century. You wouldn’t blink an eye to learn it was fifty or one hundred years old (though its honest treatment of Jewish people is probably the giveaway that it’s contemporary). The language feels distinctive but it doesn’t push the young reader away. Indeed, you’re invited into Joan’s world right from the start. I also enjoyed very much her Catholicism. Characters that practice religion on a regular basis are so rare in contemporary books for kids these days.

As I mentioned, adults will read this book differently than the young readership for whom it is intended. I do think that if I were fourteen myself, this would be the kind of book I’d take to. By the same token, as an adult the theme that jumped out at me the most was that of motherhood. Joan’s mother died years before but she has a very palpable sense of her. Her memories are sharp and through her eyes we see the true tragedy of her mother’s life. How she wed a violent, hateful man because she felt she had no other choice. How she wasn’t cut out for the farm’s hard labor and essentially worked herself to death. How she saw her daughter’s future and found the means to save her (and by golly it works!). All the more reason to have your heart go out to Joan when she tries, time and again, to turn Mrs. Rosenbach into a substitute mother figure. It’s a role that Mrs. Rosenbach does NOT fit into in the least, but that doesn’t stop Joan from extended what is clearly teenaged rebellion onto a woman who isn’t her mother but her employer. Indeed, it’s Mrs. Rosenbach who later says, “I felt her wanting a mother.”

Is it a book for a certain kind of reader? Who am I to say? It’s a book I’d hand to a young me, so I don’t think I can necessarily judge who else would enjoy it. It’s beautiful and original and old and classic. It makes you feel good when you read it. It’s thick but it flies by. Because of the current state of publishing today books are either categorized as for children or for teens. The Hired Girl isn’t really for either. It’s for those kids poised between the two ages, desperate to be older but with bits of pieces of themselves stuck fast to their younger selves. A middle school novel of a time before there were middle schools. Beautifully written, wholly original, one-of-a-kind. Unlike anything you’ve read that’s been published in the last fifty years at least, and that is the highest kind of praise I can give.

On shelves now.

Professional Reviews:

Interviews: Laura speaks with SLJ about the book.


More discussions of the book and where it came from!


10 Comments on Review of the Day: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, last added: 10/9/2015
Display Comments Add a Comment

I review this book with mixed emotions. It touches on an important piece of history, using fictional characters to give eyewitness accounts to a fictional and nonfictional events. In many ways, it is successful; its Kirkus and Booklist stars attest... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: NIGHT ON FIRE, by RONALD KIDD as of 10/2/2015 12:18:00 PM
Add a Comment
18. Enchantress

Maggie Anton visits Congregation B'nai Israel

I interviewed author  Maggie Anton about Apprentice, the first book in her Rav Hisda's Daughter series, back in October 2013 - you can listen to that podcast here. Here is my follow-up interview with her about the second book in the series, Enchantress, which continues Hisdadukh's story.


Or click Mp3 File(22:00)


Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel 
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries  
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band  
Facebook: facebook.com/bookoflifepodcast  
Twitter: @bookoflifepod 
Support The Book of Life by becoming a patron at Patreon.com/bookoflife!
Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to bookoflifepodcast@gmail.com or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.

0 Comments on Enchantress as of 10/1/2015 11:52:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. WWW: Dear Protagonist/Dear Antagonist

How appropriate that while we TeachingAuthors share epistles to our Teen Selves these two weeks, invited Guest Author Angela Cerrito’s WWW focuses on letter writing!

Angela is my treasured SCBWI kin. We first met in 2004 at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York; she’d (deservedly) won the Kimberly Colen Memorial Grant which funded research in Warsaw, Poland that led to her recently published middle grade novel THE SAFEST LIE (Holiday House). That research included interviews with the novel’s inspiration, Irena Sendler, the Catholic social worker and spy who rescued more than twenty-five hundred children from the Warsaw ghetto, as well as readings of testimonies from many of those children held in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute.

This powerful historical novel tells the story of nine-year-old Anna Bauman who in 1940 is smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto and struggles to both hide and hold onto her Jewish identity.  Her journey brings to the page the sacrifices endured, the dangers faced and the heroism shown by the children rescued, their parents and their saviors. It illuminates yet another tragedy of the Holocaust: rescued children who lost not only their loved ones, but their very identities and Jewish heritage.

Anna is a truly unforgettable character. Her first person narrative falters not once. This novel’s craft is noteworthy.  Just enough reader-appropriate concrete details and dialogue allow the young reader to live inside this long-ago ugly world, yet like Anna, miraculously take heart and hope.  Anna's attempts to retain her identity will make for meaningful connections and reflective discussions.

The Kirkus reviewer wrote that “Cerrito effectively evokes the fears, struggles, and sheer terror these children faced through her protagonist's first-person account, which allows readers into her private thoughts. Anna's three years in hiding encompass much of what these saved children experienced... and readers are left to ponder what the future might hold for this brave girl. Balancing honesty and age-appropriateness, Cerrito crafts an authentic, moving portrait.”

The School Library Journal  reviewer commented that “Anna's present-tense narrative voice is vivid, and readers will connect with her from the start. From the moment she recommends her friends for scarce vaccinations to her inquiries about a baby she helped rescue years ago, she demonstrates her loyalty. Fans of Lois Lowry's NUMBER THE STARS or Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE are likely to enjoy reading this book next. VERDICT: a suspenseful and informative choice for historical fiction fans.”

You can read an excerpt here
An Educator’s Guide is also available. 

Angela currently serves as SCBWI’S Assistant International Adviser and is co-organizer of SCBWI’s Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

She’s also the author of the compellingly told THE END OF THE LINE(Holiday House).

Thank you, Angela, for sharing your writer’s expertise today. I am beyond delighted to introduce you to our readers.


Esther Hershenhorn

                                           * * * * * * * * * 

Dear Protagonist/Dear Antagonist

In THE SAFEST LIE, the main character reflects on three letters sent by her grandmother from the Łodz ghetto.
Letters are a powerful way to record history and convey ideas. A particular advantage is that the letter writer can record his or her thoughts without interruption.
Below is a two-part writing exercise that can be used with students from the moment they have identified a protagonist and antagonist or at any time during the writing and revising process.

Have your protagonist write a letter to the antagonist.
IMPORTANT! This is a letter that will never be delivered. Allow the protagonist to get all of his or her feelings into the letter-  every grievance, every gripe, and be sure to include as much detail as possible. [Don’t reveal Step 2 until students have completed Step 1]

Discussion points after Step 1:
How did it feel to write that letter?
Did you learn anything new about your protagonist? About the antagonist?
How would your protagonist feel if the letter were actually delivered?
How would the antagonist react?

We are about to find out….

Very unexpectedly, the letter was delivered to the antagonist who read it, reacted and wrote back.
Now, write the letter your antagonist would write to the protagonist after reading the letter in Step 1.

Discussion points:
How did if feel writing from the antagonist’s point of view?
Did you learn anything new about the antagonist? About the protagonist?
What did you learn about their conflict?
Will this change anything in your plot as you revise the story?


Use the premise above to:
(1) write emails between the protagonist / antagonist
(2) create audio recordings / video recordings of messages acting as the protagonist / antagonist.

Note: Is the story set in the future? If so, use the message system the characters would use (i.e. brain chip messages, laser portals, inter-space pod transmissions, optic output devices) or whatever fits your story.

Additionally, rather than use your own story, use these protagonist/antagonist writing exercises with a recent book you’ve read.

0 Comments on WWW: Dear Protagonist/Dear Antagonist as of 9/16/2015 9:30:00 AM
Add a Comment
20. My Writing and Reading Life: Eric Pierpoint

Eric Pierpoint is a veteran Hollywood character actor who’s begun a writing career with several screenplays in development. His ancestors came west on the Oregon Trail in the mid 1800s, so Eric and his dog, Joey, followed in their wagon wheel tracks and traveled cross-country researching The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole.

Add a Comment
21. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick: mystery unfolding through art and text (ages 10-14)

"Either you see it or you don't."
As you open the heavy novel The Marvels and read this epigraph, you wonder--just what am I supposed to see? What pieces fit of the story together? What details in his multilayered drawings does Brian Selznick intend as hints for plot twists to come? What imagery from his rich descriptions stand out?

Please join me as I ruminate over the wonder of Brian Selznick's masterful story The Marvels. And definitely add your name below for a chance to win a giveaway of this beautiful novel.
The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Scholastic, 2015
Your local library
ages 10-14
As in Wonderstruck, Selznick tells two entirely different stories, one in pictures and the other in text. Instead of intertwining the two narratives, The Marvels begins with nearly 400 pages of continuous pictures, telling the story of Billy Marvel and his family of actors, who flourish in London from the 17th to 19th centuries. The text then jumps nearly a century later, to Joseph Jervis, a boy who runs away from home, seeking refuge with his uncle in London. Joseph's eccentric uncle lives in the Marvel house, and young Joseph is intrigued by its portraits and ghostly presences.

The book trailer for The Marvels is wonderful -- giving you a taste for the story, Billy's shipwreck and the sense of drama created by the theater setting.

I'm sure our Emerson book club will be talking about this as we go through our Mock Newbery discussions. Honestly, I haven't been able to fully digest this story. What parts of a story do we pay attention to? Can we see more when we look again? How does the text develop the characters and setting? The Marvels, like Selznick's other masterpieces, is definitely a story that demands multiple readings.

Brian Selznick is setting out on a multi-city tour to celebrate the release of The Marvels! Find out where to meet Brian Selznick on his tour for #THEMARVELS here.

Please complete the rafflecopter below to enter for a chance at winning your own copy of The Marvels plus a Marvels jigsaw puzzle.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Scholastic.

Here are some snippets from other reviews:

  • "Art is seen to illuminate life and life to constantly spark art — a point further reinforced in the afterword when Selznick reveals his inspiration. Rich with “miracles and sadness,” a bookmaking tour de force, this novel is as full of marvels as its title suggests." -- The Washington Post review
  • "Upon completing The Marvels, I sat still, feeling as I did after a remarkable theatrical experience, say a dramatic opera, a visually stunning film, or a striking play, in awe of what I’d just experienced. Hours later it lingers with me, a gorgeous work of art." -- Monica Edinger, Educating Alice
  • "As a mentor text, this book is an excellent anchor piece for looking at character development and characterization. We see especially how Joseph develops as a character and how he changes throughout the book. It's simple and subtle but remarkable at the same time." -- Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on The Marvels, by Brian Selznick: mystery unfolding through art and text (ages 10-14) as of 9/21/2015 2:55:00 AM
Add a Comment
22. Classroom Connections: THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED by Sandy Carlson

age range: 8-12
genre: historical fiction
setting: 1871, Michigan
teacher’s guide
Sandy Carlson’s website

Please tell us about your book.

Just how many homes and friends does a kid have to lose in twelve years?

Driven from his neighborhood during the Chicago fire of 1871, Adrian and his parents move to the Michigan wilderness where his father lands a job at the sawmill. The town is called Singapore – as if a name could make a tiny spit of a town into a great seaport.

Back in Chicago, it was easy to keep his hobby a secret, even from his father. But in this small town, will people discover who the true knitter of the family is? Only his best friend, big R.T., keeps him level.

Adrian’s attempts to protect his new – and first – girlfriend, Elizabeth, from the school bully seem to backfire, especially when he hears Jake’s big brother, Otto the Monster, is heading to town.

Then, just as Adrian starts to feel that Singapore is his home, he discovers the moving sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore are slowly burying his town. He tries to stop it, but how can he fight both man and nature?

What inspired you to write this story?

An elderly friend from church grew up in Saugatuck, Michigan. She remembers running down the sand dunes as a child and diving into the Kalamazoo River. Some days there would be a roof exposed from Singapore, an 1800’s buried town. Other days there might be a different roof. And still other days there was nothing but sand and the river. I couldn’t stop thinking about what it would have been like to have lived through that time – when my town was threatened to be buried by active sand dunes.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

First of all, I need to walk the land where the story takes place, even if it’s 150 years after the time of the story. Each time I return and wander the streets or dune hills or beaches, I feel rather ghostly – imagining what it was like back then. The unceasing waves coming in would be the same. The wind blowing dry sand around the dune grass would be the same. The crying sea gulls would be the same, as well as the quiet stillness in the woods or just a little farther up river from the Lake.

My limit for doing library research (done in various Michigan towns) is about three hours. After that I find myself rereading a line several times. When I start rereading, I scoop up all my notes, pile the books and magazines and news clippings, put everything away, and wait for another day to do more research with a cleared mind.

I especially love staring at old photos of the area in which my book is set…imagining what it would be like to be there, and then I compartmentalize and focus on the photo, ignoring people around me; for I’m sure they think I’m crazy, on drugs, or have fallen asleep.

Sometimes research falls right into my lap. I went to a jeweler to re-clasp a necklace. I noticed a box of watch “guts” on the counter and asked about them. He was a watch man. I told him of my grandfather’s pocket watch. He informed me that real pocket watches weren’t very common because they cost as much as a buggy (or today’s SUV). (A nice historical fact which shoots down all the westerns I’ve ever seen.)

What are some special challenges associated with writing MG historical fiction?

How to get my book into the hands of kids. Actually, I know a lot of my readers are adults, because they are interested in local history.

If a kid is a reader, they’re likely to read anything, especially if they can relate to the characters or are interested in an area or a specific time. Libraries and booksellers often prefer the hottest and latest and most popular books. As long as I continue developing the craft of writing to make my characters, plot, and language golden, well, then, I’m golden, too.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

The book begins with a new kid moving to town. Nearly every kid today has either moved, or been in a classroom which received a new student. (Relevant.)

There are several true local stories in the book, as well as description of jobs kids would do, like chopping wood, working in the family store, or knitting. (History.)

There’s a bully in town, but there may or may not be a resolution. You’ll have to read it to find out. (Resolutions.)

Adrian is ahead of his time, trying to find a way to stop the dunes from burying his town. (Environmental Studies.)

The post Classroom Connections: THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED by Sandy Carlson appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

0 Comments on Classroom Connections: THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED by Sandy Carlson as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

Review by Elisa WALK ON EARTH A STRANGERby Rae CarsonSeries: Gold Seer Trilogy (Book 1)Hardcover: 448 pagesPublisher: Greenwillow Books (September 22, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon The first book in a new trilogy from acclaimed New York Times-bestselling author Rae Carson. A young woman with the magical ability to sense the presence of gold must flee her home, taking her on a

0 Comments on WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER by Rae Carson as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. Top 5 stories with a spark of science, especially for girls (ages 4-14)

Only two generations ago, our grandmothers faced serious limitations on the careers they could pursue. Today, our girls can do anything they put their minds to, but far fewer women pursue scientific careers than men. Here are two picture books and three novels that share the exciting spark that fuels so much passion in young scientists.

The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
Kids Can, 2014
Your local library
ages 4-7
This picture book celebrates the trials and tribulations that come with making things. As the young artist & engineer pulls a wagon full of odds and ends, she starts designing her magnificent creation. But science is hard work, filled with disappointments, before a triumphant ending.
Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Abrams, 2013
Your local library
ages 5-8
This rhyming picture book tells the story of shy Rosie who likes to build things hidden away in her attic room. Her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit, helping young Rosie see her way through her current contraption’s failure: for now she can try again. Rosie the Riveter would be proud, indeed.
Chasing Secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 9-12
Turn-of-the-century San Francisco comes to life for young readers as 13-year-old Lizzie Kennedy accompanies her father on medical house calls, forms a friendship with the son of Jing, her family’s beloved cook, and grapples with the injustices that exist with gender, class and race. Local author Choldenko creates a tender and gripping story of friendship, mystery and persistence.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Holt, 2009
Your local library
ages 9-14
A natural-born scientist, 11-year-old Calpurnia would like spend time examining insects, getting to know her scientist grandfather or reading Darwin’s controversial The Origin of Species. But in 1899 Texas, all around her expect young girls to learn to sew, run a household and attract a future husband. Readers adore this witty heroine, and will be thrilled to read the sequel just published this year.
The Fourteenth Goldfish 
by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House, 2014
Your local library
ages 9-12 
When a vaguely familiar teenage boy shows up at Ellie’s house, she is confused until she realizes that her grandfather has discovered a way to regenerate himself. But now he needs Ellie’s help regaining access to his laboratory. Young readers love the relationship between Ellie and her grandfather, but they also feel her growing excitement for scientific discoveries.

This article was originally published in Parents Press, September 2015. Many thanks for all of their support. On Wednesday, I'll share 5 nonfiction books that highlight the accomplishments of women scientists.

The review copies came from our school library, public library and home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Top 5 stories with a spark of science, especially for girls (ages 4-14) as of 9/29/2015 1:36:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. The Marvels by Brian Selznick, 672 pp. RL 4

Books like The Marvels by Brian Selznick are why I read and books like The Marvels what keep me reading, in the hopes of recreating the magical experience of being completely immersed in another world, another time. If you have read The Invention of Hugo Cabret then you know the special gift and pleasure you are in for when you hold this gorgeous 672 page tome in your hands and prepare

0 Comments on The Marvels by Brian Selznick, 672 pp. RL 4 as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts