Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again

Ha is ten years old and lives in Saigon, Vietnam during the Vietnam war. For the first ten years of her life the war happened far away from where she lived but now danger has come too close and her family has decided to flee. It’s a hard decision because Ha’s Dad is missing and leaving means leaving him behind.

Ha’s family manages to get to a refugee camp in Florida. To leave, an American must volunteer to sponsor the family; to help the adults find work and begin sending the children to school.

A man comes to the camp wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Ha is sure he has a horse he will let her ride – he is an American…and aren’t all Americans cowboys?

This is the story of all of the things Ha believed about America before she arrived, compared to what reality turns out to be. Some things she learns are really funny and some things she learns are really sad. It is also a story of all of the new things Ha has to try; like chicken nuggests (she gags), American clothes (she mistakenly wears a nightgown to school) and English. (When Ha reads “See spot run” she doesn’t understand how a stain (a spot) can move really fast.)

And then there are the kids at school who just aren’t very nice to Ha at all. Some of the adults aren’t either, actually. But there are a few, especially Ha’s neighbor Mrs. Washington, who turn out to be just the American friends she is looking for.

This is a great book for getting to know exactly what it would be like to go somewhere totally new and have to learn to speak and read all over again as well as understand all of the unfamiliar things people do. Ha is one brave girl. Author: Thanhha Lai

Here are some more books about kids making their way in America:
The Unforgotten Coat Shooting Kabul The Day of the Pelican Drawing from Memory
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Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Rosalind lives in India in the early 1900s. India at this time is a colony to Britain. (Similar to the time period in A Little Princess.) Rosalind’s mother is emotionally fragile after the death of Roslalind’s little brother and her father is a British officer who is rarely home. This leaves Rosalind with a lot of freedom. She sneaks out to the bazaar and roams the streets, falling in love with her home and its people.

When Rosalind’s Father returns from his deployment things are …tense. Father and daughter bitterly disagree about Indian freedom from British rule.

When Rosalind becomes too involved in the lives of the family’s Indian servents and when she sneaks off with her friend Max to hear a speech by Ghandi, Rosalind’s Dad becomes enraged. What teenager wants to hear this:

“…you are not to involve yourself in any way with what goes on in this country. Those who are older and wiser than you are have things well in hand. Is that understood?” (page 68) 

But what if you DON’T think those who are older are wiser, what if you think they are just plain wrong? This headstrong girl who has the moxy to stand up for what she believes in, even to her Dad, was great to read about. The heated debates between father and daughter are some of the best parts. I also loved Rosalind’s relationships with her Indian friends and how she developed her own thoughts about Indian freedom from British rule based on her own experiences and not on what she read or what other people told her. This book reveals the dramatic changes Gandhi inspired that eventually lead to a free India.

I’ll warn you that the story ends when you wish it wouldn’t…and I can’t wait for the next one to find out what happens to Rosalind when she returns to India. (Her Dad gets so mad at her he sends her to England to school!)  I’m thinking Max is going to turn up again and Rosy’s Dad is NOT going to be happy about it!

A Little Princess Kim Gandhi Recipe and Craft Guide to India
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The Trouble With May Amelia

The Trouble With May Amelia

The Trouble With May Amelia

Amelia from Our Only May Amelia is back telling more tales about life on the frontier in Washington in 1900. Amelia is still iving on the farm with six of her seven brothers and a Dad who is pretty convinced girls are worthless.

When Amelia’s Dad finally finds a use for her as translator when he is doing some business, Amelia can’t believe it when he actually says…outloud…for the whole family to hear…”You Did Good, Girl.” 

Her happiness is short lived though when her Dad’s pride in her turns to blame when his business deal goes bad. As if Amelia’s life on a pioneer farm isn’t hard enough, now she has to dig deep and find the strength and confidence to be herself, a girl, in a tough world, alone.  Author: Jennifer Holm

Our Only May Amelia Caddie Woodlawn The Borning Room Little House in the Big Woods
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Neil’s Review: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham

Neil’s Review: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham

The Watson's Go to Birmingham - 1963

The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

Neil says:

The Watsons are very funny. Byron is the oldest. Kenny is the funny one. Joey is the annoying one. The whole family has done something funny. Like when Byron kissed his reflection on the car window. Kenny was embarrased when he read a higher book than the 5th graders. (This is still back during racism). The mom has a gap in between her teeth so she covers her mouth when she laughs. I thought that was very funny. The dad was laughng so hard he cried. I’m telling you this book is hilarious.

Thanks Neil!

Amazon Look Inside: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – 1963

If you like reading about the 1960s, a time that was full of lot of new, controversial, sometimes scary things like: the Cuban missile crisis, men in space, the fight for civil rights, rock music & more, try one of these:
This Means War Criss Cross Gemini Summer Countdown
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Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest

Have you ever had the feeling that maybe the adults aren’t telling you something? They stop whispering when you enter the room. They get funny looks in their eyes when you ask questions. Their eyebrows raise. Sometimes, they seem about to tell you something…and then stop.

Abilene arrives by train in Manifest, Kansas looking for some answers. Her Daddy has sent her to his home town alone, a home town he hasn’t set foot in since he was a boy. Why did he send her away? Why did he send her to Manifest? Why is everyone so evasive? (That means they want to avoid her questions; they don’t want to talk about her Dad.)

All Abilene finds at first is more questions, like who drew the map and wrote the letters that she finds in the old cigar box? And why does the box, which was hidden very carefully, also contain a cork, a fishhook, a silver dollar, a fancy key & a tiny wooden baby doll? Is the map a treasure map? Are the little items just junk, or are they clues? When Abilene starts to ask questions an ominous note appears at the entrance to the treehouse she is using for a hideout. “Leave Well Enough Alone” (page 47)

This is a story about the kind of mystery that has remained unsolved for so long, it almost disappears as the suspects and the clues fade away or die as the years go by. Abilene intervenes just in time so that the things in the cigar box can help the grown-ups tell a very important story that will give Abilene the answers she needs to solve a very important mystery; and the answers she needs about her Dad. Sometimes, the grown-ups are just waiting for the right time to talk as well as the right way. Author: Clare Vanderpool; Newbery Medal 2011

If you like the idea of family secrets and believe that treasure can be found in the attics, barns, and hidey places in old houses…as well as in the stories that old people tell and in their memories, this the story for you.
Finding Family Penny from Heaven The Brooklyn Nine Kaleidoscope Eyes
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