Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Historical Fiction

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

ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan

Cover image for Echo : a novelA midwife prophecy sets the stage for a quest that spans over four historical settings. Each of the stories introduces the reader to new characters facing challenges and a mysterious harmonica that allows us to share in their love for the beauty of music.  After all the stories have ended, they will continue to ECHO in your mind and heart.

Book reviewed by Marsha D., Youth Services Assistant

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Cover image for Bud, not BuddyThings have not been going well for ten-year-old Bud.  First, Todd, his foster brother, sticks a pencil up his nose while he’s sleeping.  Then when he defends himself, Todd beats him up and Bud is the one who is punished by being locked overnight in the shed.  There he sees a huge vampire bat, which he attacks with a rake.  Only it turns out the bat is really a hornet’s nest with about 6000 hornets heading straight for him.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death, and A Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

syndetics-lcWant to read an action-packed historical fiction novel that is set in the 1850s? Then look no further! Follow Eel, a boy who spends his days searching for small treasures in the disgusting muck of the river Thames. As if his luck isn’t bad enough, bad guy Fisheye Bill Taylor is after him AND his neighbors are beginning to get sick and die of cholera, a horrible disease. Read this riveting book to discover if Eel can keep out of Fisheye’s way while he tries to help his friends and keep his secrets safe.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Programming Assistant