(Young Middle Grade - No content concerns)
Towers Falling is a book for younger readers. Rhodes took the story of 9/11 and made it appropriate for middle-grade students by having it told from the perspective of a girl who was learning about the event through school. Deja is in fifth grade and she was born after 9/11. Her family has recently been unsheltered and Deja has become protective and jaded by the experience of eviction. She is suspicious of her classmates despite their friendliness - Ben a new student from Arizona and Sabeen a girl from the city who shares about her Muslim culture. Ultimately Deja opens up to them and redefines her understanding of family and familial connections.
I would suggest this book for sensitive students who also struggle with conceptual understandings of history. The simplistic approach is gentle and unassuming and would attract those who require that approach to the topic.More info →
I have a weakness for any story centered around British children sent to live in the countryside during WWII. I know that it's a common topic, but I just can't help myself. Bedknobs and Broomsticks anyone? The Chronicles of Narina? Unlike those fanciful tales, A Place to Hang the Moon is firmly centered in reality. Yet, this story still held a magical nostalgia and charm that I adored. The three children at the center of the story - William, Edmund, and Anna - have been recently orphaned, and they're sent to live with a family as evacuees. There is hope in this decision that they will find a family that will adopt them after the war's end.
I absolutely devoured this story. The nostalgia, the sweetness, and the character development are all there. The children are incredibly sympathetic and realistic all the same. While this story is historical fiction, the history lies very much in the background while the children's lives and experiences take center stage. Still, there is much to learn about the experiences of young evacuees during WWII and the hardships of daily life during that time. I even enjoyed the descriptions of the meals the children ate. I'm not sure this story has a place in the classroom, however, it is the perfect story to read to your children at bedtime. Like me, you might enjoy reading it all on your own!More info →
Crow was an abandoned baby who washed up on the shore of a small island in Maine. She was taken in and adopted by a man named Osh. At twelve years old, Crow starts questioning her identity and her origin. Her investigations lead her in the direction towards an abandoned island nearby that once housed a leper colony and rumors of buried treasure.
This wasn't a book that captured my interest, and I'm not sure why. I loved the setting, the story was sweet and simple, and the writing was lovely. However, for some reason I just didn't connect with the characters. As one Goodreads review noted, the book was both heartbreaking and boring at the same time.
Notably, although this book takes place in the 1920s, the story is really timeless. The only indication of historical content is the concern over "lepers" and the leper colony that was located near Crow's adoptive home.More info →
(Middle-Grade reading level - racism, mentions a lynching, an assault - however, all is dealt with appropriately)
This was a book I wished I had as a child. A "Little House on the Praire" styled book, but with a more worldly point of view. Hanna is a half-Chinese girl trying to make her way with her father in the Dakota Territory. She's an aspiring dressmaker who just wants the opportunity to attend school and be accepted by the all-white community. Written by Linda Sue Park, the text and story are expertly crafted at the perfect level for middle school readers. There are big and complex ideas framed with simple language.
The history of this time is embedded within the story without being too dark or needlessly laborious. Hanna is an incredibly likable and sympathetic character. The frustrations she faces from family, racism, and the social mores of the time are real and muddy. None of the characters fit into a neat box. This book deserves just as much love as the Wilder series, and I would love to see several more written.More info →
(middle-grade to YA reading level - some middle-grade students will struggle with interpreting the text)
This is a unique take on trauma associated with a disaster. The main character, Kai, is literally swept up in a tsunami in Japan. Lowitz witnessed the tsunami firsthand and the urgency and fear are captured well through the poetic stanza format. Although this book mainly discussed the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, it connects to 9/11 because the main character ends up visiting Ground Zero during the tenth anniversary and meeting with his estranged father in NYC.
Although the poetry proves a quick read, students should have some knowledge or interests in Japanese culture. Otherwise, they will become confounded by the many references.More info →
(Middle-Grade reading level - most of the fighting takes place far away, however, Sophia does witness the hanging of Nathan Hale at the beginning of the story.)
I've been a fan of Avi ever since I devoured the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle when I was a kid. In Sophia's war, Sophia’s brother, a soldier, goes missing after the Battle of Brooklyn. Sophia befriends a British lieutenant, Andre, who comes to New York City and is stationed in her home. She hopes she’ll find help in him locating her brother, however, her brother languishes and dies on a British prison ship. Her brother's death inspires Sophia to become a spy embedded with the British Army, and she uncovers a crucial piece of information that will change the course of the war.
The pace of Avi's writing style will hook middle-grade readers and keep them engaged. This book incorporates tons of historical information, including discussions of the prison ships for Patriot soldiers in New York City, the betrayal of Benedict Arnold, the quartering of soldiers, and the general experience of life during wartime. It definitely belongs in any middle-grade history teacher's classroom library.
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Shooting Kabul is that rare 9/11 story that focuses on the events from the Afghan perspective. In this case of Fadi is an aspiring young photographer who’s forced to flee his home in the months leading up to the attack on the two towers. It would be easy to classify this story as more of an immigrant experience than a story about 9/11, but doing so would be depriving young readers of a more comprehensive novel about those awful days. First, Fadi experiences firsthand the anger that was directed not just at Muslims, but anyone who seemed even slightly threatening in those terrible first days. Then there’s the fact that readers will learn along with Fadi about the hardships of life under the Taliban, both from his own experiences and that of other refugees. Unfortunately, it's a situation that's now more relevant than ever now that they have returned to power. Shooting Kabul is a wonderful story for readers who want a more all-encompassing view of all sides in the 9/11 saga.More info →
(Middle Grade reading level - no content concerns, however, it does discuss the reality of war)
Nate was injured when he was young, and cannot do the one thing he really wants - serve in the Continental Army. Still, Nate is drawn into the war after his settlement is attacked by Mohawk Indians. Nate soon encounters a Native American boy his age and the two pair up to survive. Much of the story centers around the Battle of Minisink and the aftermath of that battle, which is told in historically accurate detail. This book is one of the few (unfortunately) that includes a Native American perspective of the Revolution War, and by adding that perspective, Mann adds tons of depth and complexity to the saga of the war.
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(Middle-grade reading level - no content concerns)
Sugar is one of the few children located on a sugar plantation in Mississippi after the Civil War. In order to supplement the labor force, the plantation owner has brought in several men from China to help cut the sugar cane. Sugar makes friends with the son of the white plantation owner and she also develops a friendship with the Chinese men who have come to work at the plantation. Her ability to make friends and share stories with both groups shows the intimacy of relationships on these small plantations, and how racial dividing lines were not as clear cut as the laws required. Her spunkiness and curiosity in the story is the way young readers will make a connection to the history.
I really appreciated this book because it was written about a time period and a place that hasn't received much coverage in children's literature. This book is definitely written for younger middle-grade students. There is a lightness to the story, as the friendship between Sugar and the white son (Billy) of the plantation owner is somewhat accepted by the family. Although it is certainly not avoided, much of the prejudice and racial hatred these people would have faced during this time period is toned down for the age level of the reader.More info →
This is the second book in the Seeds of America series by Laure Halse Anderson. For this story, readers follow the perspective of Curzon, the traveling companion and friend of Isabel from the first book. This book focuses much more on actual wartime fighting and the wartime experience, as Curzon reluctantly re-enlists.
Anderson again tackles the dueling ideas of revolutionary freedom and freedom from slavery as Curzon wades through his own wavering status while fighting for the independent United States. While this is the second book in the series, it also stands on its own.More info →
Reading level - upper middle grade - No real content concerns, there is racism towards Chinese people, however, the main character is supportive)
I really like the storyline of this book. Choldenko took on a story that has not really been discussed - especially through historical fiction. She also crafts a plot that allowed her to examine the time period from several perspectives. The main character, Lizzie, is an upper-class white girl. The servant she is seeking to find, named Jing, is being held in quarantine in Chinatown in San Francisco. Lizzie comes to see the prejudice and paranoia that prevails over the Chinese people because she has a personal connection with Jing (and also finds out that his son, Noah, has been hiding in her attic). She also comes to recognize that the plague (and quarantines that resulted) were often used as a justification for attacks on the Chinese people. The characters are well-drawn and the writing envelops you with detail. With that said, I didn't find the plot spectacularly engaging. I read about half the book in one sitting, and then it took me a couple of weeks to finish the rest.
This is yet another book that discusses a contagious disease and the fear of that disease. I've found that this theme comes up quite often in the books I pick up. I think that (until recently), we've very much forgotten how prevailing the fear of disease was throughout most of history. Diseases were misunderstood, treated incorrectly, blamed on specific ethnicities or groups, and very often deadly. Some of that fear disappeared as science improved and cures and vaccines were developed, yet much of it has returned as we deal with new strains. With each book that I've read, I've been able to place that fear within a historical context. It's been both alarming and enlightening.
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Anderson brings a satisfying conclusion to the Seeds of America trilogy with Ashes. Isabel and Curzon are reunited with Isabel's sister, Ruth. The three end up in Yorktown right as the last major battle of the Revolutionary War is breaking out. Once again, Anderson perfectly weaves the history of those events with the personal narratives of the main characters. I highly recommend picking up the trilogy for your classroom library.More info →