Old and New Fictional Friends

Jacket.aspxIt was quiet in the Children’s Room. The preschool crowd had gone home for lunch and the after school crowd had not yet arrived. As I wandered around, picking up books to reshelve, I spotted a copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.Jacket.aspx

How I loved (and still love) that book! It was one of my favorite’s from childhood. I wanted to be Meg Murry and travel to other worlds. I still know the story by heart.

This got me to thinking about the books my daughter loved as a child. Yes, A Wrinkle in Time was one, but she also loved The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, featuring Cimorene, the princess who ran away to live with the dragons. Like my love for Meg, my daughter wanted to be Cimorene.


Jacket.aspxWhen it came to historical fiction, I loved Laura Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie series. My daughter also enjoyed the tales but had new heroines such as Patience Goodspeed (The Education of Patience Goodspeed) and Jacky Faber (Bloody Jack).


Same thing for mysteries. Nancy Drew was my detective. My daughter had Enola Homes, Jacket.aspxSherlock Holmes’s younger sister in the Enola Holmes mystery series.

As I put A Wrinkle in Time back on the shelf, I wondered what my future grandchildren would be reading and who their favorites would be.

The “I Survived” Series and Related Book Suggestions

Is historical fiction or survival fiction something that intrigues you or your child? Then you have probably heard of the I Survived series of children’s chapter books by Lauren Tarshis:

This series consists of historical fiction that is plot driven and faced paced. It grabs the attention of most willing readers with stories about courage and survival. According to Scholastic the books are best suited to those reading and a second grade reading level and up, with Lexile ratings around 600 and higher. For more information on the I Survived series check out the Scholastic’s webpage dedicated to the series. The series includes:

1. The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912
2. The Shark Attacks of 1916
3. Hurricane Katrina, 2005
4. The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941
5. The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
6. The Attacks of September 11, 2001
7. The Battle of Gettysburg, 1863
8. The Japanese Tsunami, 2011
9. I Survived the Nazi Invasion,1944 will be released in late February but you can place a hold on it now!

If you have read all of the books currently available in this series or are looking for more books about courage, hope, and survival for children then I would recommend also checking out: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko and its two sequels, Pirate Hannah Pritchard: Pirate of the Revolution! by Bonnie Pryor and its sequels, Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Laurie Calkhoven and the entire Boys of War series, Survival in the Storm: the Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards by Katelan Janke (part of the Dear America series), The Winter of Red Snow: the Revolutionary War Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart by Kristiana Gregory (part of the Dear America series), Rex Zero by Tim Wynne-Jones and its sequels, The Journal of Jesse Smoke: a Cherokee Boy by Joseph Bruchac (part of the My Name is America series), Sophia’s War: a Tale of the Revolution by Avi, and Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo.

I know that I have barely touched the surface of historical fiction that deals with children facing times of war, environmental catastrophe, and other situations with include a struggle to survive. Do you have a favorite, series or stand alone, that you would recommend?

Historical Fiction for Middle School Students

As someone that has spent time in the children’s room, I have witnessed more than one panicked student, or parent, as a reading assignment for a particular kind of book comes due. Sometimes it is biographies, or sports fiction, or realistic fiction. It can be hard to know what to choose when assigned a book far outside your normal reading preferences, or when the student in question does not read much on their own anyway.  Here are some options for Middle School age students assigned to read historical fiction, and have no idea where to start.


Nobody’s Princess

Nobody’s Princess by Esther Friesner is likely appeal more to girls because it is about the Spartan princess Helen as she disguises herself as a boy. She learns to fight and has adventures to prove that she should be able to make decisions about her own life. On one level, the story is about a  spoiled princess using her mind and status to get her own way, but larger issues of women’s rights, slavery, choice, and individual destiny play their part as well. The era is well portrayed and the book is entertaining while leaving the reader looking for more. Thankfully, if this book sparks interest, there is a sequel, Nobody’s Prize, in which Helen manages to join the quest for the Golden Fleece on the Argo.

Fever 1793

Fever 1793

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson takes place as Philadelphia becomes overwhelmed with mosquitoes and rumors of fever.  Many have taken ill near the docks, and the number of deaths is growing. Mattie Cook is just 14, and has just lost a friend to the fever, but she has no time to mourn. New patrons overrun her family’s coffee shop and Mattie’s fears about the fever are all but overshadowed by dreams of business success. However, the fever begins to strike closer to home and Mattie’s work to build a new life must give way to a new fight-the fight to stay alive. An accurate and compelling look at the times, and the lives of young people of the era.


City of Orphans

City of Orphans, written by Avi and illustrated by Greg Ruth takes place on the streets of New York City in 1893. Newsboys like thirteen-year- old Maks Geless need to watch out for gang leaders like Bruno,  and tier plots to take control of all the newsies on the lower East Side. While on the run Maks meets Willa, a strange girl who lives alone in an alley but has spunk and skills. Maks must find a way to free his sister Emma from the city jail where she has been imprisoned after being accused of stealing a watch. Bartleby Donck, an eccentric lawyer guides Maks and Willa in the the search for the truth. The novel offers readers action, mystery, a look at historic New York,  and a story about the love of family.

This is just a sampling of the available titles that might fit the bill. If these books appeal to you and your young readers I also suggest browsing our books by Markus Zusak, Henry Aubin, Ross Collins, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Susan Fletcher, Julius Lester, Lois Lowry, Gill Harvey, and Christopher Paul Curtis. Do not forget that our librarians are always available to help you find these books, or to make further suggestions.