I Survived the American Revolution, 1776
(Younger Middle-Grade Level - No content concerns either than the reality of war)
Lauren Tarshis does her usual, masterful job at crafting a hero whose dangerous journey offers young readers a more emotional path to learning and I’ll admit it, I admire her for not sparing those readers from the harder-to-swallow truths. Whether it's Nathaniel’s struggles as a young orphan or his confusion over the place of slavery in a society committed to all men being equal, Tarshis certainly offers a more realistic view of early America.
Given the mix of misfortune that befalls Nathan and the strong focus on action and relationship building over history, this book is probably best for the young reader who is mature enough to handle the adult themes but who needs to be more emotionally engaged in the American Revolution before moving on to its “how’s and why's.”More info →
(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 →
(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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History Smashers: The American Revolution
I was so excited to see that there was a History Smashers book about the American Revolution. These books take history and write it with a hybrid of text, images, and cartoons that allow students to SEE this history they're reading about. Further, these books often point out important information that traditional textbooks leave out. For instance, with this book, Messner starts right out with a land acknowledgement. Within the first chapter, she points to the hypocrisy of the Boston Tea Party, where the colonists dressed up as Native Americans to argue for their liberty... while also on land that colonists had taken from Native Americans. She then goes on to discuss the problems with Longfellow's poem regarding Paul Revere. Still, the text is not weighed down by this information, rather, it makes for a much more engaging read. Altogether, History Smashers: The American Revolution, includes a plethora of information dispelling myths about the Revolution while also conveying a more accurate version of the historyMore info →
Hope and Other Punch Lines
(YA reading level - death, mild romance, and some mentions of alcohol abuse)
There are some books that just capture your interest from the first page. Hope and Other Punch Lines is one of those books. Buxbaum tells the story of sixteen-year-old Abbi, whose whole life has been overshadowed by 9/11. Although she was only a toddler when the towers fell, her escape from the World Trade Center was made famous by a photograph taken on that day. In the image, baby Abbi stood at the center of several survivors, clutching a red birthday balloon.
Nicknamed "baby Hope," the symbolic photograph has overshadowed Abbi from that day forward. Now a teenager, she befriends a boy named Noah, who holds his own secret connect to that same image.
The writing in this book just sparkles with authenticity and humor. I found myself reading her sentences out loud as they were both laugh-out-loud funny and so creatively descriptive. This is one of those YA books that is both for teenagers and adults.More info →
Terrible Typhoid Mary
(Middle Grade reading level - No content concerns - if you have a student who's VERY squeamish, this book might not be the book for them.)
So, a biography of "Typhoid Mary" turned out WAY more relevant than it should be in the "panda" era of 2021.? If you don't know that backstory of Typhoid Mary, basically, she was a carrier of Typhoid, but she didn't show any symptoms herself, and never remembered having the disease. She was a transient Irish immigrant in the early 1900s, and she made her living as a cook, so she kept reinfecting people as she transferred from job to job. Mary was eventually tracked down by the rudimentary health inspectors of the day, but she was in complete denial that she could be a carrier. She was then confined to an island off the coast of New York City so that she could be tested for typhoid. Mary's reaction to these events proved most relevant. She fought against any accusations, and once she was released, she would go onto take more jobs (one in a hospital!) and infect more people. She also refused surgery to remove her gallbladder, which may have cured her of the disease. Still, she had reasons to feel the way she did, and as an immigrant woman, she was just lambasted by the press. Her story represented why confusion and pushback against what might be CLEAR medical decisions are so deeply connected to one's understanding of the world. This book would certainly generate some great conversations in the classroom. More info →
Up From the Sea
(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 →
The Woods Runner
(Middle-Grade reading level - no content concerns except for the reality of war, including murder and death)
Samuel is a 13-year-old boy who spends his days in the woods hunting for food and working to provide for himself and his family. This area he calls “home” is invaded by British soldiers who kidnap Samuel’s parents. Samuel experiences many hardships, as well as the terrors of the Revolutionary War, along the journey to free his parents from New York City, where the British soldiers are stationed. He also befriends a girl named Annie, and they become like siblings as they are united in hardship.
Paulsen also incorporated nonfiction passages at the end of each chapter to provide insight into the history of the time period for readers.More info →
All We Have Left
(Middle-Grade reading level - a very small amount of drug use at the beginning, vandalism)
All We Have Left tells the story of two girls impacted by 9/11. Alia's story is told from the day of 9/11 while Jesse's story takes place 15 years later. Alia is a Muslim girl who is also very much a teenager. She's not sure about her direction in life and is rebelling a bit as a result. The book starts as she faces punishment for getting caught with a joint in the bathroom at school. Jesse is also acting out, but her reasons are different. Jesse's brother died during the terrorist attack from that day, and her family unit has crumbled in the aftermath.
This book has a YA sensibility, however, it's written with middle-grade language, so younger readers could access the text also. The story is decently engaging (albeit a little predictable), however, it does its best when it examines Muslim culture and the Islamaphobia that came about as a result of the attacks.More info →
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 →
Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale
(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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Reading this novel was such a bittersweet experience for me. Alan Gratz does his usual, masterful job of creating a spellbinding story with two amazing protagonists and with an almost minute-by-minute review of the collapse of the two towers. Basically, I couldn’t put this book down. First, there’s Brandon, who quickly grows up as he struggles to survive the collapse of the twin towers on 9/11 in 2001. The second protagonist is Reshmina, a young Afghani girl caught in the crossfire between the U.S. and Taliban nearly two decades later. Reshmina is forced to make a choice between vengeance or the path of peace.
I didn’t start this novel until after the fall of the U.S. backed government, and yet that only makes its lessons even more timely. Will a new generation avoid the mistakes of their elders, or will the cycle of violence continue? I only hope that Gratz never has the need to write an epilogue.More info →