Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River

Teenage brothers Sam and Stick live in Chicago in 1968. Their dad, Rev. Roland Childs, is a respected minister and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. Sam’s dad believes passionately in non-violent protest and tirelessly organizes and participates in peaceful protest marches.

Older brother Stick has begun to question Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and has been secretly attending meetings of the Black Panthers, an organization whose philosophies are more aggressive than Dr. King’s and are different from what Rev. Child’s preaches and teaches his boys at home. Sam is torn between the ideas of has father and the ideas of his older brother, both of whom he respects and admires.

Everybody can relate to being torn between two choices and being torn between the opinions of two people you respect. When it comes down to figuring out what you think for your own self – that’s when things get hard.

After Dr. King is assassinated and Sam witnesses the brutal beating of a friend by police officers, he becomes more interested in the ideas Stick is learning about at the Black Panther meetings. He begins to attend the meetings also. The conversation the teens have at home, at school, and at these meetings are some of the best parts of the book. They are living the civil rights struggle as they face discrimination every day. Listening to these conversations you get a real sense of each philosophy and why it was chosen by the people committed to it.

This book has a pretty explosive, surprising ending. It isn’t a book for the faint hearted. These are really hard issues and there is violence in the book. It isn’t a happy story with a happy ending because it’s not that kind of story. It wasn’t a happy time. The book is true to the historical period so the violence is part of the story being told.

It is hard for Sam and Stick to stand by watching people suffer the injustices of racism. When Sam finds out Leroy, the leader of the student Black Panthers, sneaks away to talk to Rev. Childs, the same way Sam is sneaking off to the Black Panther meetings, he realizes that these issues are hard for everyone. Sam discovers that standing quiet and firm is different than doing nothing and that you can be agressive, without being violent. A really powerful, emotional book. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end – it is a great discussion of the true events, people and groups that appear in this book. Author: Kekla Magoon Award: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent 2010

Look Inside The Rock and the River

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Picture Book Historical Fiction

Picture Book Historical Fiction

 

Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride A fictionalized account of the night Amelia Earhart flew Eleanor Roosevelt over Washington, D.C. in an airplane.
As Fast As Words Could Fly A thirteen-year-old African American boy in 1960s Greenville, North Carolina, uses his typing skills to make a statement as part of the Civil Rights movement.
Ballywhinney Girl Young Maeve feels a strong connection to the mysterious, mummified body of a young girl that her grandfather uncovers while cutting turf in an Irish bog. Includes facts about bogs and the mummies that have been found in them.
The Bicycle Man The amazing tricks two American soldiers do on a borrowed bicycle are a fitting finale for the school sports day festivities in a small village in occupied Japan.
The Blessing Cup A single china cup from a tea set left behind when Jews were forced to leave Russia helps hold a family together through generations of living in America, reminding them of the most important things in life.
Bobbin Girl A ten-year-old bobbin girl working in a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the 1830s, must make a difficult decision–will she participate in the first workers’ strike in Lowell?
Desmond and the Very Mean Word While riding his new bicycle Desmond is hurt by the mean word yelled at him by a group of boys, but he soon learns that hurting back will not make him feel any better.
Fish for Jimmy When brothers Taro and Jimmy and their mother are forced to move from their home in California to a Japanese internment camp in the wake of the 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing, Taro daringly escapes the camp to find fresh fish for his grieving brother.
Follow the Drinking Gourd By following the directions in a song, “The Drinking Gourd,” taught them by an old sailor named Peg Leg Joe, runaway slaves journey north along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada.
In Andal’s House Kumar, a young boy living in present-day India, faces bigotry when he goes to visit a classmate from a higher caste family.
Keep the lights burning Abbey Relates the real-life saga of Abbie Burgess, who single-handedly kept the lighthouse lamps lit during a four-week winter storm that lashed the coast of Maine in 1856.
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations Presents a fictionalized version of the story of a young man who won a contest by flying his kite across Niagara Falls and inspired the construction of the first bridge across the span, connecting Canada and the United States.
Knit Your Bit When his father leaves to fight in World War I, Mikey joins the Central Park Knitting Bee to help knit clothing for soldiers overseas.
Matchbox Diary Follow a girl’s perusal of her great-grandfather’s collection of matchboxes and small curios that document his poignant immigration journey from Italy to a new country.
Max Goes to the Moon Max the dog and his friend Tori take the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo missions, inspiring the nations of the world to build a Moon colony. Scientific principles that support the story are clearly explained in “Big Kid Boxes” appearing on each page.
Miss Rumphius As a child Great-aunt Alice Rumphius resolved that when she grew up she would go to faraway places, live by the sea in her old age, and do something to make the world more beautiful–and she does all those things, the last being the most difficult of all.
Nasreddine As Nasreddine and his father take dates, wool, chickens, or watermelon to market, people tease them no matter who is riding their donkey, and this causes Nasreddine embarrassment until his father helps him to understand.
Red Kite, Blue Kite When Tai Shan and his father, Baba, are separated during China’s Cultural Revolution, they are able to stay close by greeting one another every day with flying kites until Baba, like the kites, is free. Includes historical note.
Welcome to America Champ! In 1945, when young Thomas, his mother, and his new baby brother leave war-torn England to join his stepfather, an American soldier named Jack, in Chicago, Thomas finds a way to give courage to a fellow traveler on the Queen Mary. Includes historical note about war brides.

Books recommended by: Janet Spaulding, Selection Services

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A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water

Part of this story is about a boy named Salva. He lives in Sudan, a country in Africa, during a Civil War that happened there in 1985. The other part of this story is about a girl namy Nya and takes place in Sudan right now.

When we say “The Civil War” here in America we are referring to our own Civil War that happened 150 years ago. The Civil War in Sudan was only 25 years ago. During the War in Sudan many people were killed, children were made orphans and families were separated. In order to get to safety many people WALKED to Ethiopia or Kenya.

When you are reading Salva’s part of the story you hear about how he slept on the ground at night and could hear lions hunting around him:

Marial was gone – vanished into the night. He would never have wandered away from the group on his own. His disappearance could mean only one thing. Lion. (page 40)

Salva even has to cross a river infested with crocodiles. Some of the people do not make it across the river. On the other side of the river is a desert…which the people also have to walk across. Can you even imagine surving a journey like that? I can’t.

Nya’s part of the story is about how she walks twice a day, EVERY DAY to a pond to get water. Nya carries the water in a plastic jug and balances it on her head to walk home. That’s what she does every single day; once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The pond is so far away from her home that she has no time to do anything else. No school. No playing. Just walking – carrying water to keep her family alive.

A Long Walk to Water shows you how Salva’s story and Nya’s story are related even though they take place 25 years apart.

There are parts of the book that are hard to read and very, very sad. Some parts are scary. In the end, though, this is a book about really good things. It is about people looking after each other – even if they are stangers to begin with. It is about trying hard and doing your part and it is about hoping for something better.

The really great thing is that A Long Walk to Water is based on a real boy named Salva – you can see his picture with the author on the book jacket or in the video below. (He’s grown up now.) At the end of the book there is a letter to you from Salva that I think you’ll like to read. The best thing he says is, “Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get thorugh it when you persevere instead of quitting.” (page 117) Those are pretty powerful words when you realize they come from a kid who survived a situation much, much more difficult than anything we will probably ever face.

  • Amazon Look Inside A Long Walk to Waterwater-for-sudan-logo
  • Linda Sue Park’s Official Website
  • Linda Sue Park’s Blog
  • Watch the PBS Need to Know Episode “The Lost Boy of Sudan” – it’s about Salva himself.
  • Water for Sudan – Salva’s own organization that drills wells to provide water to people Southern Sudan.

Here are some more books about people like Salva who decide to DO something:
Wengari's Trees of Peace Three Cups of Tea Do Something Ryan and Jimmy and the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together
Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand A Gift from Childhood Making Change The Doggy Dung Disaster
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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

The Best Bad Luck I Ever HadDit 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

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