This is a true story of Ona Judge, a slave of George and Martha Washington, who ran away from them while living in Philadelphia. As the title indicates, Judge was never caught, and she never returned to slavery.
This book combined several narratives in order to paint as clear a picture as possible of Ona Judge’s life. Her story is centered within the lives of the Washington family, and within the time period in general. Dunbar engaged in speculative writing in order to attempt to create a clear vision of what Judge’s life may have been like post enslavement. What I like best about this story was the agency demonstrated by Dunbar in her escape, and the help she received from the free black community.
Historians are often criticized for writing history with a narrative voice, and they are criticized for writing history with a more clinical and dispassionate voice. Dunbar combined both of those styles in this book, and I would argue that it made the story more appealing and compelling.
This book is best suited for high school students, as it deals with the issues of agency and sex more directly. Still, the writing makes the book engaging enough for a student who might also love historical fiction.More info →
(Middle-grade reading level, no content concerns)
Rabia, a girl fleeing Afghanistan after the arrest of her father, and Colin, a boy traveling home from London, are the two fictional protagonists of this 9/11 story. They were both aboard a plane that was diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11. In each case, the two are worried about family and their ability to find their way home. While the true history from the event is an easy setup for drama and emotion, the tale lacked much of what made the true history intriguing. Many of the detail is caught up in the minutia and are devoid of authentic emotion. If a student is already interested in stories about 9/11, this book would be a good pick. Otherwise, teachers are better served by choosing other books on this list.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 →
This book appears to be geared towards teachers who are just entering the world of inquiry-based learning. There is considerable space devoted to a discussion of why inquiry-based learning is a best practice for Social Studies education. There are six specific three-day lesson examples, and each has its own chapter. Some of them remind me of the lessons from the Stanford History Education Group, and some even use the same documents.
I like the structure of the individual lessons, and the documents are reasonably modified for seventh-grade readers. The lessons each contain some background history to help teachers with historical context, and each also mentions videos that the students may watch to gain some context. I do wish that they provided historical context readings for the students in a handout form. The lessons do include student worksheets. They also provide an "IREAD" approach for students to access the documents.
The lessons are just individual lessons, and not centered within a unit. Therefore, the questions that guide each inquiry are very rather specific. I do think that they could be broadened to include more activities, but teachers would need to create those activities on their own. Each lesson is linked to the C3 framework and common core.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.
More info →
(Middle Grade reading level - No content concerns)
A fast-paced read for the middle school set, Nine, Ten explores how the dynamics of how four teenagers' lives changed with the events of 9/11. Naheed is a Muslim girl in Ohio who is struggling with some bullying because of her hajib. Sergio is a Math whiz who has had a tough upbringing in NY and has recently made friends with a firefighter. Will is in Shanksville, PA, and still dealing with the loss of his father in the previous year. Finally, Aimee lives in LA. She's concerned about he parent's relationship and misses her Mom, who is in NYC for business.
The four stories all end up connected to 9/11 in some way. Most of the four overlapping stories take place in the days preceding 9/11 and then the ending jumps to the year after. I found the anticipation that built with these stories was the most nerve-racking portion of the book, although some of the endings were left more to the imagination. I find that this book would be best for a more sensitive student who might struggle with the trauma of 9/11 itself.More info →
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 →
(YA writing level – torture, violence, some suggestions of sexual harassment)
The first of two books centering around a pair of female protagonists during WWII, Code Named Verity is a fast-paced thriller with an unreliable narrator who keeps you guessing with intricate plot twists and details. All are woven within carefully dispersed tidbits of a heart-wrenching storyline. As Verity slowly reveals British secrets for her demanding Nazi captors, she also weaves in how she and Maddie (a pilot) came to be best friends.
Code Named Verity was a slow burn for me. I basically realized about 100 pages into the book that I needed to read more carefully to understand all the details coming in my direction. Although technically labeled YA, I would only present this story to a few high school students, as the text requires a bit of deciphering and patience. I still strongly like this book. I wasn’t brought to tears (as many reviews note), but I enjoyed the creativity contained in the plot. I've heard it's even better on audio, so you might want to check it out there.More info →
King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the American Revolution
(Middle Grade reading level - no concent concerns)
This book takes the history of the Revolutionary War and rewrites that history in a conversational tone that's more engaging for students. While I might quibble with the title (I know I at least taught a lot of the details from this book), I did enjoy the historical anecdotes and the depth of detail. (For instance, while I knew that John Malcolm was tarred and feathered, I did not know that he mailed the bits of tar and feathers back to the British government. His skin was attached in some places!) Even if teachers don't use this book with their classes, it provides fun details for classroom discussions.More info →
(Middle-grade reading level - I wouldn't suggest this book to Muslim students, it would be needlessly upsetting for them to relive this experience.)
This book was very different from the other 9/11 books I read because it focused very closely on the unjustified backlash against Muslim Americans after the attacks. The action unfolds in Florida, near where one of the hijackers was located. The story becomes quite engrossing as Jake's friend becomes embroiled in the controversy, primarily because his family has a Muslim background. Although I found myself frustrated with Jake's character, I also recognized that his confusion and anger was typical of the time. This story is realistic in its focus, but that realism makes the storyline a bit dark. Still, I think the book would be quite popular among middle-grade students.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 reading level - This book does show a realistic deptition of how a white teen girl might act towards the enslaved people that her family owns. She is somewhat oblivious to their concerns. Some students might find that attitude frustrating.)
This is a rare book that is told from the perspective of the experience of a southern girl named Susanna Bolling. Bolling lived on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia that was invaded and occupied by General Cornwallis in 1781. Most of the story is centered around Boling herioc nighttime journey to warn General Lafyette of an impending British attack. She displays a realistic perspective of the time, as she is rather ignorant of the plight of the enslaved people live and work on the plantation in close proximity. Still, I found that this story of her heroism fascinating enough to still recommend the story.More info →