Believe it or not, a bear served in the British Army during WWll. In 1942 five Polish soldiers adopted a bear cub from a boy in the mountains of Iran. They named him Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior” in Polish. Voytek loved army life and the soldiers loved Voytek. He slept in the tent with them. He drank beer and smoked cigarettes. He took showers. He even caught a spy!
In order to travel with his company to Italy, he was officially enlisted as Private Voytek. During the battle of Monte Cassino he joined the soldiers passing ammunition to the front and never dropped a shell. The officers were so impressed they made a picture of Voytek with a bomb in his paws as the emblem of the Transport Company of the 2nd Polish Corps.
Read about Private Voytek’s amazing adventures in this book based on the true story of Voytek, the bear that went to war. Soldier Bear won the 2012 Batchelder Award for most outstanding book translated to English.
Eliza is a slave on a tobacco plantation in Alexandria, Virginia in the 1850s. Eliza is unusual because she has been taught to read and write. Eliza keeps a diary of her life on the plantation and she is a good storyteller.
Eliza tells about how it felt when her mother was sold away. She tells about how scared she is when she hears Sir’s boots walking toward her. Her words make her experiences feel real while you reading her diary. I felt scared when Eliza felt scared. Just thinking about the sound of the boots, “thump, thump, thump” gives me shivers.
Eliza overhears a conversation about herself before an upcoming slave auction:
“Late in the day, a man came to see Sir. When I passed through the parlor I heard him say something to Sir about the price I would fetch. I pretended I did not hear the talk. But I am in so much fear.” page 29
Eliza decides it is time to run. She has a quilt her mother made that has pictures in it. The pictures, a mysterious women called the Conductor and a series of friends help Eliza find her way to freedom on the Underground Railroad. This is a great book if you want to feel like you are right there, hearing and seeing and feeling the same things that Eliza heard and saw and felt. Author: Jerdine Nolen
Deza Malone is on a journey. The verbose 12-year old, whom readers first met in Bud, Not Buddy, has lived her entire life in Gary, Indiana, with her mother, father, and 15-year old brother, Jimmie.
A passionate reader, she wants to be just like her teacher, Miss Needham, when she grows up. But it is 1936 and the Great Depression has forced her father to look for work in Flint, Michigan. When a month goes by without a letter from him, her mother decides the family should follow him to Flint.
Their trip north takes them through a hobo camp, where Jimmie disappears, bringing even more changes for Deza. Her mother finds a job in Flint, and Deza faces life in a new city with a new school, new teachers, and new neighbors, all while remaining hopeful that her family will be reunited.
I love Deza’s spunky personality and how she remains true to herself as she dreams of finding that place called Wonderful. Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Beverly knows a secret and it’s a big one. It’s really hard not to tell it but he has promised his mama he’ll keep his mouth shut. And Beverly is good at that – keeping his mouth shut – all slaves are good at that. It helps them stay out of trouble.
The secret word rolls around in Beverly’s head though. “Papa.” Even though his Dad is really busy and is gone a lot Beverly lives for when he is around, even though his Dad doesn’t really talk to him much. Beverly can’t call him “Papa” to his face or tell anyone at all who his Dad is, because Beverly’s Dad is Master Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson. Yes, THAT Thomas Jefferson. The one who wrote, “all men are created equal”.
This is the fascinating story of Thomas Jefferson’s children who grew up on Monticello but didn’t live in it. They lived with their Mom in the slave quarters. It isn’t known for sure if this is true, but many scholars think so.
I loved how this story made history more real by putting real people into it. The characters live during a time when slavery was part of life. It’s hard for us to imagine it now. This book reveals a lot about what kind of world that would be – a world where a fair, respected, smart, well-liked man could also own slaves. It’s hard to wrap your head around.
Great, great characters and peek into a complicated piece of history, because even if a man treated his slaves well, they were still slaves. There was still no freedom. The last chapter will put an actual lump in your throat. Author: Kimberly Bradley
Here are some more stories that reveal interesting relationships between free and slave people. These books help us realize that history isn’t just a chain of events, it is about real live people who are hardly ever simple or predictable.
Maks sells newspapers every day on a street corner so his family can keep the shabby apartment they live in and so they can eat. Just eat. Nothing else. He gets 8 pennies a day.
He also gets threatened by bullies who want to steal the little bit of money he has. When the Plug Uglies gang finally corners him in an alley Maks is pretty sure he’s done for until an unlikely person steps in and saves his face from a certain pounding.
That person? A homeless kid. A girl. With a club. Willa is not a girl you want to mess with. She’s just the sort of friend Maks needs when his sister Emma gets falsely accused of stealing a watch from one of the rooms she cleans at the fancy Waldorf hotel. Emma is thrown into “The Tombs,” the city’s prison and it’s up to Maks to figure out how to save her. He’s got four days to do it or his sister will most likely be found guilty and die in prison from a sickness or starvation. It won’t be from old age.
With the help of an old detective Maks and Willa start an investigation into the missing watch that reveals more about the Waldorf and the fancy people inside it than they ever could have imagined. It reveals quite a bit about the two of THEM also, as well as Maks’ family. These are people to really, really like. They make you hope for the very best to happen to them. Like the first line of the book says, “Amazing things happen.” This book makes you hope those things happen to Maks and his family. Author: Avi