In 1962 something happened in the world that was pretty scary, something we now call The Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis happened when the Soviet Union (USSR) started to secretly build missile launching sites in Cuba. US spy planes found out about this. President Kennedy went on television and announced a naval blockade around Cuba to keep the missiles from getting delivered to the sites in Cuba. He also said that if the USSR launched one of the missiles, the US would fire back, “if you bomb us, we’ll bomb you.” The problem was that the missiles were nuclear missiles…so if anybody bombed anybody, lots and lots of people would die. Luckily, the ships carrying the missiles turned around before they got to Cuba and neither side launched any missiles.
For about two weeks, though, nobody really knew how the standoff would turn out. People, even the grown-ups, were pretty scared. Countdown is the story of 11 year-old Franny and what it was like for her to live through this time, because even without the threat of missiles, a kid’s life can be tough sometimes. Franny feels ignored and left out — her teacher keeps skipping her (even though she’s a good reader), her best friends doesn’t seem to want to hang out with her anymore, her sister is being secretive and distant, her mom is short-tempered and her dad is gone – flying an airplane for the President, which is his job. Add on top of that Franny’s Uncle wants to build a bomb shelter in her backyard and she has to do drills at school so that she knows what to do if a missile is coming – Franny is about over the edge!
I loved Franny and watching her figure out how to get past the troubles in her life. ..how to understand that her teacher might not be ignoring her on purpose, how to understand that her best friend might have other things to think about besides her & how to understand that her mom is a person too that has feelings, even fear, that makes her act weird sometimes! Franny finds out that any crisis, not just the missile crisis, can turn out in surprising ways that might not be all that bad. Author: Deborah Wiles
If you like Franny and reading about the 1960s, a time that was full of lot of new and sometimes scary things like: the missile crisis, men in space, the fight or civil rights, rock music & more, try one of these:
Turned out by her mother and sent to live with her father, Meggy shows up in London and her dad wastes no time showing his disappointment. “What use is a daughter to me?” (page #8) He was expecting a boy. I guess he didn’t pay too much attention when Meggy was born.
So Meggy’s stuck in London at her father’s house where it is dark and cold and quiet. Meggy has no food. Her dad seems to have let her in the door and then promptly forgotten she exists. He’s closed up in his shop studying alchemy, searching for the elixir of life…while Meggy sits cold and alone, starving.
Enter Roger, her dad’s errand boy. Roger knows his way around London. Roger knows how to get food. Roger knows how to survive. Roger also knows how to smile, have fun…and be a friend, something Meggy has never had before. Author: Karen Cushman
If you like stories like Meggy’s set in the Middle Ages try some of these. They also feature tough kids, some orphaned like Meggy, living in a time period that was rough even for people in a family. These kids are survivors in the worst of circumstances. They are feisty and strong and often funny too, like Roger. Some of them are girls trying to be feisty and strong at a time when girls were really not supposed to act that way.
12 year old Jutta Salzberg lives in Germany in 1938. She likes going to school and being with her friends and having fun – just like you. Jutta lives in 1938 though, when Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were in power. Hitler and the Nazis were responsible for the oppression and killing of Jewish people in Germany from 1941-1945. Jutta and her family are Jewish and try to live normally even though rules keep being passed that make their Jewish customs and way of life illegal. Finally, Jutta’s dad realizes that the only way they will survive is to leave everything and everyone they know and try to get to America.
In this book Jutta tells about her last year in Germany as she gradually says goodbye to all of the things and people she knows. Her friends leave one by one, because Jutta’s Dad is not the only Dad who fears what will happen to his familyi f they stay. Jutta doesn’t just tell you what happened though. This book is Jutta’s real autograph book. Young girls at this time in Germany kept autograph books which they would pass to each other to leave messages – kind of like Facebook on paper.
Jutta was a real girl and it is her daughter, Debbie Levy, who shares Jutta’s book with us. In the authograph book you can read messages that Jutta’s friends wrote that give you glimpses into the scary things that are happening around them. It ‘s hard to imagine that grown-ups would purposely hurt children in this way, but they did.
At the end, Debbie then tells what happened to each of the girls in the book, the girls that were Jutta’s friends before they all had to try to make an escape to safety. Of the 30 people mentioned in the book, only half of them survive. This one might bring some tears to your eyes, but it will make you feel really good too knowing that friendship can survive really terrible situations.
Gee’s Bend is a tiny little place in Alabama on the bend of a river. It isn’t even a town really, just a place with a name. It’s the place where Ludelphia Bennett lives with her family and a few neighbors who are also sharecroppers for Mr. Cobb. Old Mr. Cobb owns the land around Gee’s Bend. The Bennetts and the other familes work the farm and pay their rent with a “share” of the harvest. It’s 1932 and times are really hard. It is the Great Depression and times are tough for everyone, especially those who are alreay dirt poor to begin with, people like the Bennetts and their neighbors.
Ludelphia’s courage starts to shine the day her mom goes into labor. Ludelphia helps her mom deliver the baby. After the birth, Ludelphia’s mom is very, very sick. Her only hope is Doc Nelson, the only doctor around and he’s 40 miles away in Camden. Ludelphia’s only ten but she sets out alone anyway on a dangerous journey for a girl of her time. It’s no small thing for a black child to set out travelling alone, but Ludelphia loves her mama and will do anything to save her.
On her journey Ludelphia meets people outside of Gee’s Bend for the very first time. She sees the wealth and modern ways of a big city. She confronts the difference between superstitian and modern medicine. And she experiences both the kindness and racism of total strangers – strangers whose help she needs in order to save her mother. Author: Irene Latham
With her adventurous sister, Meryl, suffering from the Gray death, meek and timid Princess Addie sets out to find a cure. Author: Gail Carson Levine
This book was a very good mix of fantasy and adventure. The main plot is about Addie,a princess,who always relied on her sister Meryl to provide protection from spiders and other things she was scared of. This all changes when Meryl falls victim to the Gray Death, a plague that has no known cure. With the help of her friend Rhys, a sorceror in training, Addie sets out on a quest on which she gets captured by a dragon, fooled by a specter, battles an ogre and defeats gryphons. The end is so surprising, it was a real page-turner! -by Mattea
Thanks Mattea for the great review. I haven’t read that one yet but will add it to my list.
If you like reading about Addie, try these other princess heroine stories by Gail Carson Levine. Perhaps you have heard of Ella Enchanted, it was made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway (the actress who played Mia in The Princess Diaries). The book is better!