Posts tagged ‘children and young adult historical fiction’

STEPPING UP – John Bloom and the Victory Garden Book Blitz

John Bloom and the Victory Garden

Written by Leigh Shearin

Art & Design by Katie Shearin

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I used to live in a house that still had remnants of a World War I victory garden popping up between the flowers so I was immediately drawn to this book. So glad that I picked it up this historical fiction tale.

Shearin does an amazing job of capturing the spirit of the three main characters and best friends, ten year olds, John, Joe, and Chewie. The story opens in Appleside, NJ, a small town on December 6, 1941. These three boys and their families will suddenly find their lives turned upside down when Pearl Harbor is attacked and their country enters World War II. The author makes the setting authentic by mentioning things like sitting around the old radio and Fireside Chats of FDR, Life magazine, the 5 & 10 Cent store, and popular games like horseshoes and marbles. These boys spring to life with antics like chewing on their collar, secret door knock signals, and pranks like filling grumpy, Mr. Hutchins’ outhouse with snow. Some things never change; there are the typical classroom hijinks and even incidents of bullying.

When the war breaks out, the boys decide to form a club in an effort to help the war effort. They call it the ABC Club. Recognizing the injustice of rounding up Japanese, German and Italian nationals, they fear the loss of friends in their community. A grumpy neighbor morphs into a new friend when their kindness toward him leads to an unexpected change of circumstances and a new avenue of patriotism.

Middle grade students will empathize with these boys and the difficulties they encounter in adjusting to frightening circumstances. Recommended for children ages nine and older. This is a well-written book with developed characters and plot and is a compelling read for adults as well. Next year’s sequel will continue the story as the course of the war unfolds.

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TRUE SPIRIT OF MOTHERHOOD

The Bridge

Written by Kay Bratt

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It’s Mother’s Day here in the United States. Whether you celebrate the holiday today or on another day on the calendar, this book expresses the true nature of motherhood.

The book is a short story of approximately seventy pages that will grip you on many levels. Ms. Bratt has spent five years in China and bases her writing experiences on the time she spent there and the love she acquired for the country’s people. She quickly and deftly paints the scene in Suzhou, China, 2010, portraying the old woman named Jing who is now dependent on the generosity of her son for her own survival. Jing is grateful to be able to care for her grandson and cook the meals in exchange for food and shelter over her head. She collects old sweaters and uses scraps of wool to make scarves so that she can save enough money to prepare for her unmarried daughter Qian’s annual trip home for the New Year holidays.

The reader soon senses her generosity of spirit and kindness. Jing notices a young five year old boy sitting on the bridge near her window and watches with sadness as his mother does not return for him. Jing takes him in for the night and realizes that he is blind. She resolves to take him by foot to the orphanage, where she is a familiar character. The reader learns that she has done this many times before. Feeling particularly sad about the vulnerability and susceptibility of this disabled five year old named Fei Fei, Jing is unable to forget him. When she makes a return trip to the orphanage, she finds that he has been neglected. The director agrees to place Fei Fei in her care as a foster parent for three years. Jing doubts she will be able to succeed in taking care of him until he is old enough to be trained properly in a school for blind children, but she knows his survival is dependent upon her. When Jing’s daughter Qian arrives for the holidays, circumstances take another dramatic turn.

The reader learns how the concept of motherhood can change and transform us. Will Fei Fei face a life of misery or will the struggling old woman named Jing somehow succeed in rehabilitating this child who, like many other Chinese children, has been abandoned on the “Lucky Bridge?” I recommend this book to children age eight and up. The story is based on a character that the author met in China. All the characters are well developed; the author explores some very important societal issues as well as the culture of China. This book is a good multicultural addition to a classroom library and introduces children living in the Western hemisphere to Asian traditions.

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FIGHT OR FLEE?

The Color of Freedom

Written by Michelle Isenhoff

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I was greatly impressed with this work of historical fiction intended for children and adults age ten and up. While I had not previously read any of this author’s works, I found the language to be crisp and refreshing and the pace just right. The physical descriptions allow the reader to visualize these colorful characters living in Massachusetts, 1774, poised on the brink of rebellion. “ A dray rumbled by. The shoes of the heavy workhorses clomped on the cobbles. Somewhere very close, church bells pealed out the hour. In a moment, the sound was echoed from churches in every quarter. There could be no mistaking the hour in Boston.”

But do not think this is a novel about the war events themselves, the stress in the book is on how these events affected the minds of the characters who were manipulated by them. Here is a brief summary. At the outset, the reader meets fourteen year old Meadow Wynn, an indentured servant in Lord Dennison’s home. Meadow hates the British because she and her Irish tenant farmer father were thrown off their lands and forced to indenture themselves to gain passage to America. Once they arrived, Meadow and her father Amos were separated. All she knows is that he is somewhere in Boston. Her miserable life becomes worse when her master tries to assault her. She knocks him out with an iron griddle and hides in the barn. Her friend, Daniel disguises her as a boy and devises an escape plan. So begins a journey of adventures! As Meadow frantically searches for her father, she finds the British redcoats everywhere and the Patriots scrambling to uncover their plans. Many surprises await her. The knowledge of horses provided to her by Daniel allows her to link up with a traveling merchant named Salizar and later accrue a job in the British army’s stable. Meadow does eventually locate her father. To her dismay he is working for a member of the Sons of Liberty. The reader is drawn into all the intrigues and subterfuges of battle on both sides and the psychological and physical torment it leaves on the women and children of their families.

As the battle unfolds, everything in Meadow’s life seems to fall apart; she is in danger of being captured as a traitor by both sides, her friends’ lives are in shambles, and she learns that each side has its faults-nothing is black and white. Much like the life of tweens and teens today, Meadow is questioning who she is and how can she fit in to the crazy events happening around her. She has no other choice but to work hard and make difficult choices; otherwise she will die. There are many twists and turns to the plot, and some real surprises as well.

I read the kindle version which also included a free link to download the author’s first book in a Civil War trilogy, Divided Decade Trilogy, by the name of The Candle Star. Looking forward to reading that one as well. The trailer for the book (also linked) presented the story superbly. Some readers may be aware of the fact that Michelle Isenhoff has also written young adult fantasy novels with colorful characters and settings as well. They are available online. If you enjoy fantasy and adventure, check them out.

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