(Definitively YA - some swearing... the f word right in the beginning. Honestly, I couldn't imagine a teenage boy NOT using the f word as the towers fell on 9/11.... some intimacy, suicide is mentioned but never addressed directly)
Kyle is a sixteen-year-old boy who is living in NYC at the time of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. On the day the towers fall, he runs into a girl who has amnesia. (She may be been attempting suicide, however, this portion is dealt with delicately.) In the confusion, he ends up taking her back to his family's apartment to convalesce. The two end up consoling each other while Kyle also takes care of his brain-damaged Uncle Matt. Kyle's Dad is a first responder and his Mom and sister have been grounded in California, so the three are left alone while the rest of the family gradually makes their way back home.
The plot of this story could have gone awry at many moments and veered into problematic territory. However, the writing of this book is so honest and empathic, it avoids any potential pitfalls. Kyle is a relatively well-adjusted teenage boy while his new friend has suffered a dramatic trauma. Although this book is centered around 9/11 it's also a story about how those who lived close by were impacted by that day and how people recover from traumatic events. It is a must-read.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 →
(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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(Middle Grade writing level – no content concerns)
Attack of the Turtle takes place during the Revolutionary War. Nathan Wade has grown up a Patriot and he is there when his cousin, David Bushnell (a real historical figure) invents the first submarine
With this story, the history was much stronger than the character development. The text was written with a fifth-grade mentality and a 7th-grade vocabulary. Really the kind of “gee-whiz” attitude of the main protagonist was a bit too peppy to seem real. Beyond that, the story was a bit thin for a full book. I think this book is great for that student who just loves anything about war, but it’s just a book for the classroom shelf. Place it on the shelf and hand it out to that student who keeps asking you when you’ll be teaching about World War II.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 - 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 - 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 →
(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 →
Answering the Cry of Freedom profiles 13 African Americans who fought for freedom in some form during the Revolutionary Era. Some established their own settlements in Africa or Nova Scotia, others fought for the freedom of their family members, and others fought either with the Patriots or the British. The stories were compelling and many were new to me, even though I've been teaching this subject for many years. (This again speaks to why the narrative of U.S. History needs to be rewritten.) Teachers could use this book in a multitude of ways with students. Please pick up a copy for your classroom.More info →
This book traces the stories of the enslaved Africans who were owned by four of our founding fathers – George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson. I really enjoyed the stories in this book. Davis brings humanity to the people who surrounded our founding fathers. He includes fantastic details within those stories that really remove the barriers surrounding those men. Did you know that Dolly Madison didn’t really save George Washington’s painting (which was a replica anyway)? A White House slave named Paul Jennings is that forgotten hero of that story. He would go on to be a co-conspirator in an attempted slave rebellion in the nation’s capital.
There are dozens of stories like this in Davis’s book. They really caused me to reframe my understanding of the United States at that moment in history. Each story could be combined with any general discussion of the founding fathers.More info →
(Upper Middle Grade to YA reading level - no content concerns besides the violence of war)
There was so much to enjoy about this novel that it’s almost hard to know where to start! Readers who think that Sam’s story in The King’s Broad Arrow is just another example of the classic “Hero’s Journey” shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Kathryn Goodwin Tone’s debut novel. She did such a wonderful job of worldbuilding, from the challenges of growing up on the frontier of colonial American society and the feelings of injustice as early Americans struggled against British mercantilism, that it was easy to become engrossed in Sam’s adventures! This would be a wonderful novel for readers who need a dash of adventure to keep them engaged as they learn about the beginnings of the American Revolution from the eyes of someone not that different from themselves.More info →
This book focuses on the children that resulted from the relationship* between Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. It most specifically tells the story of two of those children – Madison and Beverly.
I absolutely loved this book. It’s a really good story, even though it doesn’t have much of a plot. I found myself picking up the book when I had a spare moment, even though it’s really a book for middle-grade children. By focusing on the children of Sally Hemings, it tells a story of slavery that discusses the unfairness of slavery, and the sadness of slavery, without exposing the horrifying brutality that slavery was for most. The author shows how the Jefferson children were treated differently than most other slaves at Monticello. It talks about a whipping at Monticello, a friend who was sold away, and about how some of the Jefferson children could “pass,” and some couldn’t. It’s really a story about a family, and how they dealt with the situation that had been handed to them by the color of their skin and their biological father.
Given that the author had to rely on a topic that was covered very little by official historical documents, the book really needs to be considered historical fiction. Still, I think the author created a very plausible narrative and an engaging story.
*(I recognize that many struggle with the idea of Hemings and Jefferson as a relationship. For the purposes of the term here, Jefferson did father her children. We don’t know what form that relationship took, and the book makes the assumption that Hemings had some agency. I think the book acceptably covers the topic at a middle-grade level.)More info →