Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Staff Pick: The Mighty Miss Malone

Staff Pick: The Mighty Miss Malone

The Mighty Miss Malone

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

Recommended by: Janet Spaulding – Selection

More Staff Picks

If you liked reading about Deza and her family try one of these:
Bud Not Buddy Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry Leaving Gee's Bend Zora and Me
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Jefferson’s Sons

Jefferson’s Sons

Jefferson's SonsBeverly 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.
Chains Forge My Name is Phillis Wheatley Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
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City of Orphans

City of Orphans

City of Orphans

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

If you liked reading about Maks and Willa you might like these books that tell more stories about immigrant kids at the turn of the Century:
97 Orchard Street Tennement Newsgirl Journal of Finn Reardon
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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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