Posts tagged historical fiction
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Jack Gantos has a whole summer planned full of baseball, history books, and war movies when suddenly, caught in the middle of his quarreling parents, he becomes “grounded for life,” ruining everything. Even though he lives in the dying town of Norvelt (originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt to help poor families) and there’s not much to do, when his mom volunteers him to help an aging neighbor type up the town’s obituaries, he’s less than thrilled. Soon, though, Jack finds himself absorbed in the town’s history and the “original” Norvelters, as his spunky neighbor calls them, and he’ll do anything to get out of house arrest and over to help her in her task. Soon he’s involved not only with the obituaries but in a feud with an old man who ride’s a trike, play-acting the Grim Reaper, distributing Girl Scout cookies, digging a fake bomb shelter, and a near-constant nose bleed, not to mention a potential murder. Suddenly his summer is anything but dull!
Described as “melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional,” Dead End in Norvelt is a most-times funny and sometimes heart-breaking story of a boy coming of age in an old town past its prime full of wacky yet believable characters. Both darker and lighter themes blend with Gantos’ humor as Jack finds himself imbedded in nearly everything going on in town. The relationships between Jack’s parents and himself are enough to fill a book, but author Gantos has woven an entire town’s worth of personalities and interactions together seamlessly. (more…)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, book one)
Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae has had a harsh life: born the daughter of death, her “mortal” father fears and hates her, and after years of beatings and abuse, she is sold into an arranged marriage. When strangers help her to escape, she finds herself taken to the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that she is not only Death’s daughter but also a tool of Death’s revenge. At the convent Ismae becomes strong, learning everything from poisons and hand-to-hand combat to societal etiquette and effective spying techniques. Over the years, she develops friendships, new skills, and a place she calls home. (All of this takes place in 15th-Century Brittany.)
Several years later and in the midst of her first assassination assignment–her job is to find a man “marked” with Death’s fingerprint and perform His will–she encounters a handsome but frustrating nobleman, Duval, and he becomes a complication that follows her into her next trip and provides riddles as to the protection of the Duchess of Brittany, Death’s true intent, and the way the world truly functions. As the political intrigue grows, Duval and Ismae grow closer, supposedly working together while struggling to trust one another. When the convent determines it is Death’s will that Duval be assassinated, Ismae finds herself in an emotionally tumultuous position, unsure of her loyalties and her developing feelings. All the while Brittany is threatened by attack from France and the young Duchess is in ever-growing danger and in need of Ismae’s protection. Without giving away too much of the plot or romance, let’s just say it’s a really good page-turner! (more…)
Author Sarah MacLean has written many best-selling historical romance novels, but with The Season, she jumps into the young adult realm. As an avid romance reader, I have not had the pleasure of reading her previous novels, but if The Season is anything to go by, she has won my reading loyalty.
In the tradition of Jane Austen’s novels, MacLean has created characters that can hold their own with the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. As the only daughter of a Duke, 17-year-old Lady Alexandra “Alex” Stafford is being launched for her first season in London society. Despite her mother’s wishes for her to catch a suitable husband, Alex wants nothing to do with the marriage-minded men of the ton. She finds them dull and not at all her intellectual equal. She longs for adventure, not romance.
Alex and her friends Vivi and Ella (also being launched for the season) find themselves embroiled in an espionage plot against England and childhood friend Gavin. When Gavin’s father dies under suspicious circumstances and Alex overhears something she shouldn’t, the mystery deepens and a budding romance begins. (more…)
A warm welcome to our friend Marin, a fellow kids’ and teen book enthusiast! Marin is currently a grad student in library school and loves reviewing books as much as we do. Here’s her latest review of the Caldecott Award winning book by Brian Selznick, soon to be released as a movie in theaters.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
A grumpy man, a brash girl, a broken automaton, filmmaking and Paris; what do these things have in common? Selznick combines them in descriptive prose and emotive illustrations to construct a unique reading experience. A young orphan living in a hidden room in a Parisian train station in 1931 is skilled at fixing things but has to shoplift to survive. One day he is caught stealing and the fast-paced adventure begins.
Going back and forth seamlessly between series of wordless images and more traditional text the narrative describes what happens when Hugo becomes an apprentice to a mysterious grumpy toy booth owner and meets his god-daughter. The two children set out to unravel a mystery that changes all of their lives.
Pencil sketches combine with historical photographs of Paris and stills from black and white movies to create a distinctive setting and mood for the characters’ adventures. A fun way to introduce readers to silent films, the study and practice of magic, and the creativity and variety of possibility in invention.
2008 Caldecott Award Winner
Copyright January 2007
Also be sure to check out Brian Selznick’s newest book in the same mixed style of beautiful images and text, Wonderstruck, released just last week to critical acclaim (see what the New York Times has to say here). And thanks to Marin for sharing her review and love of awesome books!
(Review is based on an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of the book.)
This is a story about friendship, friendship between nations and friendship between people. While researching Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson came across a picture of an American farm girl standing next to a life-size Japanese doll, and a story was born.
In 1927, to strengthen relations with America, 58 life-size, beautifully crafted dolls were made and sent as Ambassadors of Friendship. They toured the country, with many of them eventually ending up in museums where we can see them today. One mystery remains, 13 of the 58 are still missing.
This is the story of Miss Kanagawa and four girls, who unknowingly need her guidance. Miss Kanagawa sees herself as “the Ambassador.” Larson has created a character that lives and feels. To the Japanese, dolls are not playthings, but noble creations who have a purpose.
“When the Japanese gave a doll in friendship, it was bestowed with great meaning and honor…even adults speak about dolls as though they were almost human. A doll is not simply stored in a box. She sleeps waiting for a child to wake her.” – Jamie Tobias Neely The Spokesman-Review, March 3, 1993
Miss Kanagawa has a mystical otherworldliness to her. When you look into her eyes, she has something profound to say to you. She often likens herself to a samurai, because she is also a noble, honorable warrior. (more…)