Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Historical Fiction

River Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury

Cover image for River runs deep : a novelFollow Elias, who at the ripe young age of twelve contracts consumption and is sent to a doctor who specializes in experimental treatment of the disease. What is the catch? The doctor only treats people deep inside a cave! Once Elias is in his tiny hut underground, he struggles to adjust to the darkness and his quirky fellow patients. He thinks he is hearing voices and that the slaves who assist the doctor may be hiding something. What could they be hiding? This historical fiction tale is especially fascinating since it takes place within Kentucky’s world-famous Mammoth Cave and several of the characters are based on real people.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Cover image for Beyond the bright seaThe Newbery honor author of Wolf Hollow has come out with another stunningly poignant novel with a unique historical setting. In Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk, 12-year-old Crow was a baby when she washed up on an island off the New England coast. It was Osh who found her and he has cared for her ever since. But Crow does not look like everyone else on the tiny island, and has always wondered where she came from. In her search for answers, she triggers a dangerous chain of events that brings conflict to the island and to her home with Osh. This beautifully written book explores themes of identity and belonging and what it means to be a family.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Cover image for Wolf Hollow : a novelAnnabelle has lived on her family’s farm in rural Pennsylvania her whole life. She lives in a nice house that has been in the family for a long time and she helps around their farm when needed. She is also friendly with her neighbors including Toby, a World War I veteran who lives in a shack and is always around to help when needed. He doesn’t speak much, but the whole small town knows that he is a nice guy. Then Betty Glengarry comes to live with her grandparents due to the current war, which we know as World War II. Betty is not nice. In fact, she is a bully and her main target is Annabelle. Betty’s grandparents and the town people all think Betty is a nice girl, so Annabelle thinks she has no one to talk to. One day, Annabelle attempts to be strong and stand up for herself and Betty does stop bullying her. However, Betty changes her target to Toby and soon the town is wondering if Toby is as nice as they thought.

Book reviewed by Laura B., Youth Technology Librarian

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Cover image for A night dividedImagine that someone builds a wall in the middle of the night separating your town into different sides. You have to stay on the side you are on and never get to visit the other side. That is exactly what happened when the Berlin Wall was built to separate the West from the East. Gerta, her brother Fritz, and her mom are on the east side while her father and her brother Dominic are on the west side. The people on the east side are watched very closely, and the people on the west side have better living conditions. Gerta is inspired to get her family to the west side, but can she do it without being discovered by the guards? Read this story to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan

Cover image for A voyage in the clouds : the (mostly) true story of the first international flight by balloon in 1785This picture book for older readers is based on the day in 1785 when Dr. John Jeffries (an Englishman) and Jean-Pierre Blanchard (a Frenchman) set out to cross the English Channel in a hot air balloon. The two men did not always agree with each other, and the ride did not go entirely smoothly. In the middle of the flight, for example, the balloon began to fall! This book is hilarious and would make a fantastic classroom read aloud. I was laughing out loud before it even got to the part where they started urinating overboard to lighten their load!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Cover image for Nine, ten : a September 11 storyIt is September 9, 2001. A day like any other day. Children in school, parents working, families settling down to their dinners – nothing out of the ordinary in any way. Our story begins here, introducing us to four children and their families, one each in Chicago, Illinois; Shanksville, Pennsylvania; Brooklyn, New York; and Columbus, Ohio. All of them will soon feel the impact of the events of September 11, 2001, each in their own special way. The tragedy of 9.11 is gently brought home through the stories of these ordinary children. The history of the day becomes more personal as we see it unfold through their eyes. If you like historical fiction, and would like to understand 9.11 in a new way, this is the book for you.

Book reviewed by Loreen S., Youth Services Assistant

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Cover image for Echo : a novelThink of a piece of music.  In this song, there are three harmonies that come together to make the melody.  Each of these three children’s stories is one of those harmonies.

Friedrich lives in Nazi Germany.  All he wants is to be left alone to play music, but first he needs to rescue his father who has been arrested.  He must smuggle some money into the work camp to buy his father’s freedom.  On his way there, he is captured by Nazis.  Will he make it?

Mike and Frankie are brothers who live in an orphanage in Pennsylvannia during the Great Depression.  They think their luck has improved when they are adopted by a former concert pianist and taken to live in her mansion.  However, it turns out that Mrs. Sturbridge is only adopting them in order to get her inheritance.  When they try to run away, Mike falls as he is climbing out the bedroom window.   Will he make it?

Ivy’s parents manage a farm in South California.  The farm is owned by the Yamamotos, a Japanese family imprisoned in an internment camp.  Their neighbor Mr. Ward thinks the Yamamotos were spies.  He spray paints hateful words on the house and tears up the garden.  He even insists on being shown the contents of the Yamamoto’s house.  Instead of spy equipment, it turns out that the family is hiding musical instruments.  None of this matters, however, when Ivy’s family receives a telegram about her brother, a soldier in World War II.  Will her brother be okay?

All the children face challenges, but pulled by an invisible thread, their stories come together in an unexpected way.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko

Cover image for Chasing secretsIn Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko, Lizzie’s father is a doctor and one of her favorite things to do is visit patients with him, even though that’s not something girls really do in 1900. She discovers a hidden dark side of the city of San Francisco where she lives, including rumors that the plague is there. Then the family’s Chinese cook goes missing just when Chinatown is quarantined, and Lizzie is determined to find him—he is part of her family after all. Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people she loves. This book brought to life a time and place in America’s history that children may not know much about.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

Cover image for The war that saved my lifeThe War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley is the profoundly moving story of how one girl’s life is forever altered by events surrounding World War II. Ada has never left the tiny apartment she shares with her mother and younger brother Jamie; her mother won’t let her because she is ashamed of Ada for being born with a clubfoot. Lacking any support, Ada has never even really learned to walk. But when word spreads that London may soon be bombed, families begin shipping children out of the city, and Ada does not want to be left behind. She secretly teaches herself to walk and sneaks out with Jamie to board a train to the countryside. In the care of Susan Smith, Ada’s world expands beyond what she ever imagined. She teaches herself to ride a pony, watches for German spies, and even learns to read. At the same time, she is struggling with learning how to trust Susan and to believe in herself. The War That Saved My Life is an inspiring story of triumph against all odds. Ada’s journey will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix

Cover image for Shooting at the stars : the Christmas truce of 1914During the First World War, enemy soldiers were often camped out in trenches, with only a hundred feet of “No Man’s Land” between them. A virtual miracle occurred one Christmas Eve, when soldiers on both sides came out of their trenches singing “Silent Night” and shaking each other’s hands. The strangers ceased fighting while they exchanged personal items and even struck up a game of football with an old biscuit tin. History comes to life in this amazing story, told through vivid illustrations and a letter from a young soldier to his mother back home. Shooting at the Stars and other Picture Books for Older Readers are not only useful for the classroom, but they are just plain fun and fascinating to read.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator