Dit Sims lives in tiny Moundville, Alabama in 1917. He’s got nine brothers and sisters and his Dad routinely forgets his name. It’s summer, it’s hot and Dit’s best friend is away for the summer. When he finds out that a new postmaster is coming to town, Dit hopes the new postmaster, Mr. Walker, has a son close to his age that will want to go fishing and play baseball.
The postmaster comes, and Dit is disappointed to learn that he doesn’t bring a son, he brings prissy, brainiac Emma who always has her nose in a book and doesn’t know one thing about baseball. Dit’s town is disappointed to learn that the Walkers are African-American.
Dit’s family welcomes the Walkers and the two families slowly build a relationaship sharing chores and helping out when family members are sick. Dit and Emma start building a friendship too. Dit teaches Emma how to throw and hit a baseball. Emma helps Dit with math and introduces him to exciting adventure books like Treasure Island. Slowly, over the summer, the two kids become best friends.
Some people in Dit’s town don’t welcome the Walkers, especially the town sheriff. Some people object to Dit and Emma’s friendship, even object to the Walkers living in Moundville at all. When the two kids witness a racially motivated shooting and realize their friend, the town’s black barber, is unjustly blamed and sentenced to hang, they secretly come up with a daring plan to save him.
This story brings the injustice and horrors of racial bigotry to life. It’s a story about friendship between people and how that friendship is stronger than the forces around it that try to tear it apart. Two thumbs up historical fiction. Author: Kristin Levine
It’s 1852, 12-year-old Omakayas and her family are setting out on a dangerous and uncertain journey. Forced from their land by incoming white settlers, Omakayas and her people are travelling by canoe and by foot west along the shores of Lake Superior in search of a new home. They set out prepared for a long, hard winter but unexpected things happen that put their survival in question. There are unfriendly enemies to avoid, a forest fire and an evil traitor who puts all their lives in peril by stealing their food and other provisions. Near starvation, the group trudges forward bouyed by their attachment to each other and the way of life they cherish. Omakaya’s story shows how people can survive and overcome even the most perilous circumstances. Author: Louise Erdrich
The time in this book is right before the Revolutionary War. Isabel and her sister Ruth are slaves owned by an old woman in Rhode Island. When their dying owner promises them freedom after her death, the two see the possibilities of a new life. To there horror, the old woman’s nephew refuses to free them after his Aunt’s death. He instead sells the girls to an abusive couple in New York. While the property of the Lanktons, the girls know only pain and work.
The Lanktons are Loyalists, people who are loyal to King George. New York is a hotbed of discontent between the Loyalists and the Patriots, people who want to break away from English rule. At first, Isabel is drawn to the Patriots and their beliefs in liberty and freedom. She agrees to spy on her Loyalists owners for the Patriots until she realizes that their beliefs about liberty and freedom don’t apply to her, a slave. Isabel realizes that if she wants freedom, she’s going to have to fight for it herself. This is a gripping story of one girl’s fight against what seem like impossible odds. Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
If you want to know what it was really like during the California Gold Rush, this book is a great place to start. It isn’t a textbook telling all the facts, this is the inside story of the gold rush told by one of the miners himself, Thomas Hartley. Thomas tells the story from the day he heard about the discovery of gold in California. All the people around him can talk about is gold, “how much and how to get it and how to spend it once you’ve got it.” Of course, they forget to talk about all the work…and the danger. Thomas’s story includes blisters and rotting teeth, scurvy, dysentery, scheamers, crooks and murderers. A true adventure that just might end in fortune. Author: Tod Olson Illustrator: Scott Allred
Gary Paulsen, the author of this book, calls it “the true and fictional account of the most valiant marshal in the West.” Mr. Paulsen adds a little here and there to fill in the places where history left gaps…but for the most part, this is the story of a real guy – the first African-American U.S. Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi – and this was in the 1870s! Bass became a legend, even in his own time. Some outlaws turned themselves in once they heard it was Bass that would be looking for them!
Bass was born to slave parents in the 1830s but escaped to the Indian Territory during the Civil War and lived with the Seminole and Creek Indians. After the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in 1863, Bass returned from the Indian Territory and settled in Arkansas. Because he knew how to speak several tribal languages and knew the land so well, he was hired as a U.S. Marshal. In his lifetime he brought in over 3,000 outlaws. This book is the story of how he went from being a child slave to being one of the most respected lawmen in the West. A really inspiring story and fun to read too. Bass was not boring and thought up all kinds of interesting ways to trap outlaws or trick them into custody. He could fight and he could shoot when he had too, but mostly, he was smart! Truly, one-of- kind! Author: Gary Paulsen