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 →
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 - Content warning - death, war, gun violence, racism, racial slurs, antisemitism, bullying, medical procedures)
With Allies, Gratz once again combined several disparate perspectives to tell the story of a major historical event. Although this book touches on several topics related to WWII - including the French occupation, the Holocaust, and the treatment of Black soldiers - the book's central focus is the D-Day invasion of Normandy beach. Given the brutality and enormity of that invasion, Gratz made the wise decision to just tell the story of the main characters without trying to tackle all the death that occurred on that day. I do feel that Gratz tried to incorporate too many narratives into the plot and it appeared that some of the characters were dropped along the way. Despite that flaw, Gratz once again delivered an adrenaline-inducing narrative that deftly combined historical detail with interwoven points of view. This book is perfect for the student who's always asking you, "When are you going to teach about WWII?"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 →
(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 →
(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 →
(Younger Middle-Grade Reading Level - No content concerns)
Richard Peck is one of those authors that I grew up reading. His books were among my favorites, as he was an expert at world-building and character development. I always felt like I was able to fall within his stories. With Fair Weather, Peck continues to envelop readers in history as the main character, 13-year-old Rosie Beckett, is offered a chance to visit the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. This book is a quick read, and the characters possess Peck's ever-present wit and charm. However, it is not my favorite of Peck's books, and I feel like he could have done a bit more with the story. If you have a young student who would like to learn more about the World's Fair in Chicago, this book is a great first step. (Then, when they're older, hand them Devil in the White City to scare the bejesus out of them!)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 →
(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 - 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 →
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 →
(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 →