Which book will hurt which reader how?


There are some lively debates going on at Heavy Medal and Fuse #8 about Laura Amy Schlitz’s The Hired Girl, a presumed favorite for 2016 Newbery consideration. The Horn Book starred it; I like it too (and here’s a brief interview I did with Schlitz in the September Magazine). What’s interesting about this debate is […]

Review of The Hired Girl


 The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz Middle School   Candlewick   392 pp. 9/15   978-0-7636-7818-0   $17.99 e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7943-9   $17.99 In 1911, spirited fourteen-year-old Joan, the only girl in a family of three boys plus a verbally abusive father (her weak-of-constitution mother has died), musters her courage and leaves her rural Pennsylvania home for Baltimore, the […]

Review of The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

kelly_curious world of calpurnia tate

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly Intermediate, Middle School     Holt     309 pp. 7/15     978-0-8050-9744-3     $16.99     g Kelly returns to turn-of-the-last-century small-town central Texas to continue the story of nascent scientist Callie Vee. Kelly quickly fills readers in on essential background (only girl in the family, with six brothers; […]

Review of Dear Hank Williams

holt_dear hank williams

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt Intermediate   Holt   220 pp. 5/15   978-0-8050-8022-3   $16.99   g On the first day of school, September 1, 1948, eleven-year-old Tate P. Ellerbee learns that her class will be writing to pen pals, with her teacher explaining that “new worlds will unfold in front of you, and you’ll see your […]

Teens meet history

wein_black dove white raven

Adolescence is always a time of transition. For the characters in these YA historical novels, that transition takes place while the world is changing as well. Black Dove, White Raven is set mostly in Ethiopia in the 1930s. Em (who is white) and Teo (who’s black) have grown up together, their mothers American stunt-pilots who […]

(Not-so) long ago or far away

hill_bo at iditarod creek

In these works of historical fiction for middle graders — taking place in 1920s Alaska, 1932 North Carolina, WWII England, or 1950s Illinois — the settings may be unfamiliar, but the feelings are timeless. At the start of Kirkpatrick Hill’s Bo at Iditarod Creek, Bo’s family has left Ballard Creek for the bigger and noisier […]

The 2015 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction


The 2015 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction goes to Dash, by Kirby Larson, published by Scholastic Press. While Mitsi is going to miss spending time with her beloved dog Dash now that Christmas vacation is over, she is looking forward to seeing her best buds Mags and Judy. Mitsy thought the trio would always […]

Novels to supplement history | Part 1


This year, I started a new role as the 8th grade Humanities teacher. I began the school year with an ambitious “Novels of the World” plan that would flawlessly integrate every Common Core standard in Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking along with the world history. Then reality hit me in the throat. I realized that […]

Thinking about school as a privilege

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys

As our year in second grade began last fall, my students and I spent some time thinking about why we go to school. In our first few weeks together, I tried to help my students understand that going to school is a privilege that has not always been (and is still not) available to everyone. […]

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia In the “crazy summer” of 1968, three black sisters set out from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to reconnect with their estranged mother, an active member of the Black Panther political movement. How does Williams-Garcia balance historical events with the girls’ personal journeys? How do both these aspects of the […]