Tag Archives: historical fiction

A Friday Surprise…on Wednesday

27 Apr

One of the arcs I picked up at ALA Midwinter in January was this


My Name is Not Friday by Jon Walter, is the tale of a Samuel, born in freedom, but, by a twist of fate is kidnapped and sold into slavery, just as the Civil War is ending.

Goodreads Summary: ‘This boy has bought me. This white boy who don’t even look as old as I am. He owns me body and soul and my worth has been set at six hundred dollars.’

Samuel’s an educated boy. Been taught by a priest. He was never supposed to be a slave.
He’s a good boy too, thoughtful and kind. The type of boy who’d take the blame for something he didn’t do if it meant he saved his brother. So now they don’t call him Samuel. Not anymore. And the sound of guns is getting ever closer…

An extraordinary tale of endurance and hope, Jon Walter’s second novel is a beautiful and moving story about the power of belief and the strength of the human spirit, set against the terrifying backdrop of the American Civil War.

This is great read for middle grade kids for a number of reasons. First, it tackles slavery and, though it doesn’t show the worst aspects, it shows many horrible aspects of it. It shows the power of reading and the power of  faith without being preachy. I will say that the opening, which begins with a blind-folded Samuel being carried off to be sold into slavery, is a little confusing. Walter opens with a classic “start in the middle” strategy that might turn off a reader. Once they are in through, readers will find Samuel a reliable narrator and a good friend.

Some Canadian Book Award finalists announced

4 Sep

2014 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Literature Awards: Finalists announced

Today, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre the nationally-renowned authority on all things related to youngCanLit, announced the finalists for the 2014 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards.
The seven major children’s book awards, which will be awarded at two invitation-only galas in October and November, include:
  1. TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award ($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  2. Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse ($30,000) Sponsored by TD Bank Group;
  3. Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award ($20,000) Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie;
  4. Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction ($10,000) Sponsored by the Fleck Family Foundation;
  5. Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People ($5,000) Sponsored by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Bilson Endowment Fund;
  6. John Spray Mystery Award ($5,000) Sponsored by John Spray; and
  7. Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy ($5,000)  Sponsored by HarperCollins Canada.
Here are the short lists for each award category, as announced by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre today:
1. TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Branded by the Pink Triangle
by Ken Setterington
Second Story Press

In the Tree House
by Andrew Larsen
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Kids Can Press

The Man with the Violin
by Kathy Stinson
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Annick Press

Once Upon a Northern Night
by Jean E. Pendziwol
Illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Groundwood Books

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
by Teresa Toten
Doubleday Canada

 2.  Prix TD de littérature canadienne pour l’enfance et la jeunesse 

Destins croisés
par Élizabeth Turgeon
Les Éditions du Boréal

Le lion et l’oiseau
par Marianne Dubuc
Les Éditions de la Pastèque

Ma petite boule d’amour
par Jasmine Dubé
Illustré par Jean-Luc Trudel
Les Éditions de la Bagnole

Le Noël de Marguerite
par India Desjardins
Illustraté par Pascal Blanchet
Les Éditions de la Pastèque

La plus grosse poutine du monde
par Andrée Poulin
Bayard Canada

3. Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

Fox and Squirrel
by Ruth Ohi

North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada

How To
by Julie Morstad
Simply Read Books

The Man with the Violin
by Kathy Stinson
Illustrated by Dušan Petričić
Annick Press

My Name Is Blessing
by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Books

Where Do You Look?
by Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn
Tundra Books

4. Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

Branded by the Pink Triangle
by Ken Setterington
Second Story Press

A History of Just About Everything: 180 Events, People and Inventions That Changed the World
by Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Kids Can Press

The Last Train: A Holocaust Story
by Rona Arato
Owlkids Books

Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids
by Deborah Ellis
Groundwood Books

My Name Is Blessing
by Eric Walters
Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Tundra Books

5. Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People
Brothers at War
by Don Cummer
Scholastic Canada

Graffiti Knight
by Karen Bass
Pajama Press
Little Red Lies
by Julie Johnston

The Manager
by Caroline Stellings
Cape Breton University Press
Me & Mr. Bell
by Philip Roy
Cape Breton University Press
6. John Spray Mystery Award

The Further Adventures of Jack Lime
by James Leck
Kids Can Press

The Metro Dogs of Moscow
by Rachelle Delaney
Puffin Canada

The Spotted Dog Last Seen
by Jessica Scott Kerrin
Groundwood Books

Whatever Doesn’t Kill You
by Elizabeth Wennick
Orca Book Publishers

Who I’m Not
by Ted Staunton
Orca Book Publishers

6. Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

Curse of the Dream Witch
by Allan Stratton
Scholastic Canada

Rush (The Game, Book 1)
by Eve Silver
Katherine Teegen/HarperCollins

Sorrow’s Knot
by Erin Bow
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic

The Stowaways
by Meghan Marentette
Illustrated by Dean Griffiths
Pajama Press

Slated (Slated Trilogy, Book1)
by Teri Terry
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group

Hosted by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and TD Bank Group, the Children’s Literature Awards will celebrate great Canadian children’s books and present the winners of the awards on the evenings of October 28 and November 6, 2014 in Montreal and Toronto, respectively.  

Home from Holidays part 1

7 Aug


I’m home from my trip to Canada. My book tally was low: one book finished one purchased and one started.

On the way to Canada, I read Dangerous by Shannon Hale.


Well written and faced paced,  Dangerous has a smart female heroine. I took this one on the plane to Canada and finished it before we landed in Toronto. I sort of tough my sister, who loves Shannon Hale’s previous books, might want to read it.  Once I was into the book, I knew my sister wouldn’t like it. The book has Hale’s good writing, but it is the setting that would turn her off. If this book didn’t have Hale’s name on the from, I probably wouldn’t have read it either.

While in Ottawa, the world marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1. We toured the Canadian War Museum, which is amazing. I cried more than once. I’ll write more on this later. The only book I bought was  The War that Ended Peace  by Margaret MacMillan.


I read her previous book, Paris 1919, which death with the Paris Peace conference that followed World War 1, which was eminently readable. I am really looking forward to this one.

On the plane ride home, I started  The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. This was a Christmas gift from my sister and I am finally getting to it. I am about a quarter in and it is not what I expected from the cover, but I am hooked.

I got home late last night, so I haven;t picked up the girls yet. I am very excited to see them. I hope they forgive me.

Madness & Wickedness

21 Jul

As much as I love historical fiction, I am glad I didn’t live when girls had few options. I was reminded of this fact while reading A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller .


It is the first decade of the 20th century and all Victoria Darling wants to be is an artist. But London society of 1909 is no place for a young woman who wants to do something other than follow the proscribed path for a girl of her socio-economic status. She is expected to marry well. When it is discovered that Vicky posed nude while secretly studying art, she is given an ultimatum: marry a young man of her parents’ choosing or be banished to live with an ancient aunt.

Thinking the marriage will be a means for her to apply to the Royal College of Art, Vicky agrees to the marriage. As he plan progresses, we watch Vicky bloom from a naive girl into an independent young woman. Some of her decisions along the way seem foolish and self-centered, but which of us didn’t make some poor decisions growing up? In her quest for independence, Vicky encounters the world of women’s suffrage and realizes her quest for the  freedom to make decisions on her own behalf is part of a larger quest for women’s rights.

I really enjoyed this book, and was especially pleased that Sharon Biggs Waller managed to include so much infer nation about the women;s suffrage movement in such a compelling way. It is an excellent example of “show not tell”.

Fans of historical fiction will love this book!

Summer Reading Goal #1

10 Jun

Only 3 more days of school. I can hardly wait. It has been a really good year bit I am ready for a little down time and Lots of reading & knitting. I have stacks of books and piles of yarn just waiting for summer holidays to begin. This week, my goal is to share some of my summer reading plans. Here is my first goal: The Jacky Faber series by L. A. Meyer.

I read my first Jacky Faber book, Viva Jacquelina! as part of this year’s HUB Reading challenge. It was book 10 in the series and I listened to the audio version, read by Katherine Kellgren, who is fantastic. This Spring I listened to the first two books and I am about to listen to the third.

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 8.32.12 AM

Jacky is a 12-year-old girl when she joins the Dolphin as a ship’s boy. The adventures roll in, one after another,  like the waves on the seashore. She is a sort of 19th century Forest Gump, meeting famous people and getting into situations most people couldn’t even imagine. As the second book ended, Jacky had signed on to the Pequod,  and you know what that means. She is as impulsive as a puppy and as good a friend as anyone has ever written. The books are light and funny and just a rollicking good time.

I highly recommend this series, either in print or audio. I think you will enjoy them as much as I do.


Move over Eleanor and Park

15 May

My sister likes to walk into bookstores and ask the clerk in the children’s/YA section for the titles of the best books he or she has read lately. A title recommended to her recently was Going Over by Beth Kephart.


It is a story told in two voices. Ada lives in squatters’ slum in West Berlin. Her story is narrated in the first person. Stefan lives in Communist East Berlin. His story is told in the second person. An unusual choice, and yet, it works.  really though, the whole books works because Beth Kephart is such fantastic writer.

“There is a line between us, a wall. It is wide as a river; it has teeth. It is barbed and trenched and lit and piped and mesed and bricked–155 kilometers of wrong. There are dogs, there are watchtowers, there are men, there are guns, there are blares, but this is West Berlin, the Kreuzberg Kiez, Post Office Sudost 3, and we’re free.”

The book is set in 1980’s Berlin, before the wall came down in 1989. Ada Is a graffiti artist who sends messages of hope and escape to Stefan, with whom she is in love. I remember when the wall cam down, but had forgotten about the graffiti.


Stefan dreams of going over to West Berlin. Their grandmothers are best friends and so they meet as children. Eventually, they fall in love and the  dream of Stefan’s escape to the West begins.

I highly recommend this book. This is one you really should read.

YALSA Morris/Nonfiction Challenge Check-in #1

21 Dec

I’m supposed to be cleaning the house in anticipation of the company coming tonight. Instead, here I sit reading and writing before I take Fiona for her 8:45 acupuncture appointment. I am telling myself I will clean as soon as we get home.

So far, I have read 2 of the nonfiction titles. I finished Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, which I wrote about HERE.

This week, I read Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press.


Having seen the miniseries Band of Brothers,  I was expecting something similar. What I found was a very different story where “Soldiers were fighting the world’s worst racist, Adolph Hitler, in the world’s most segregated army.” Expecting to learn about their missions overseas, I learned that they were the first black paratroopers in the United States military, formed and trained in the heart of the second world war, and then sent to the west coast, where they were pioneers in the field of smokejumping.

I love they way Tanya Lee Stone personalizes the story with details about the men’s lives. The book is full of photos which make the text come alive. Well researched, the back matter includes “The Story Behind the Story”  (Stone’s research process), a timeline of “Desegregation and the Triple Nickles”, source notes, and an index.

Peaceful Pilgrims?

18 Dec

I love books that shift my thinking. They can be books that add to my knowledge, give me a new perspective on a topic or simply make me think about something I’ve never considered before. Susan Cooper has done all of these things in Ghost Hawk. 


Let me first say that I know there are some historical inaccuracies in this book. That’s why it is listed as fantasy or historical fiction, not non-fiction, people. I defy you to find a work of historical fiction that gets everything right. What I think is important historically is that this book shows readers that the Plymouth colony was not just the  Thanksgiving love-fest we tell kids it is every November.

The book intertwines the stories of Little Hawk, a  Wampanoag boy living in what is now Massachusetts, and John Wakely, a young settler in Plymouth. This is literary fiction, so the audience of kids who might pick this up is not huge, but I think it would be a great novel to use to support a unit on the  early colonization of the United States, or to recommend to kids who love historical fiction.

I listened to this in my car. At first, I wondered about the choice of Jim Dale as the reader, but quickly grew to like his warmth.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

17 Nov

Cover art and titles are meant to draw us in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If I hadn’t heard about


Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, I don’t think I would have picked it up. Once you’ve read the book the title makes total sense, and is, in fact the perfect title. But it didn’t work for me at first.

Did you know there were kids on the Amistad? I didn’t and neither did Edinger. When she found out, she had to write about it. She tried to write it as a non-fiction book, but so much was unknown she opted for historical fiction.

The book is inspired by the true story of one of the children on the Amistad, Magulu who became known as Sarah Margru Kinson. What I found most fascinating was not the trial, but her life. She was enslaved at age 9 and taken to Cuba, then put aboard the Amistad. Once in America and awaiting resolution of their case (which took several years) Magalu/Sara was converted to Christianity, educated and trained to be a teacher and missionary in Africa. Her actual letters still exist and helped shape the narrative.

The beautiful  ink and watercolor illustrations, by Robert Byrd, are all done in colors, shades and tones that reflect the greens and blues of Africa, the colorful images of Cuba, the darkness of the Amistad, and pastels of dreams and poems, enhancing and extending the story being told.


Although a picture book, the text is for older readers.

Ravensbruck: fiction/non-fiction pairing

14 Oct


I read Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein this weekend. It is a wonderful companion  to Code Name Verity. 

Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.

This got me thinking about a book I read in the summer: A Train in Winter : An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorhead.


Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 women active in the French Resistance and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews and deep archival research to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

Both books shed light on the particular experiences of women in concentration camps. Both were  horrific, but shed light on a particular aspect of women’s history. This would be a great pairing for high school history teachers, looking for a way to give their students a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, or for kids who like me, love history. Both are very readable and I highly recommend them.

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