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

Dash

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

Sundiata

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 […]

No Crystal Stair

No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie Documents, photos, fictionalized and true accounts of historical figures and events are woven together in this portrait of Nelson’s larger-than-life great uncle Lewis Michaux. What to you make of the […]

Historical fiction — why didn’t I use it more?

One Crazy Summer

A librarian friend of mine* recently asked me why historical fiction doesn’t make its way into social studies and language arts classrooms more often. The thought keeps rattling around in my brain. First, I should say that I don’t know for sure that there aren’t tons of classrooms where historical fiction is a great pillar […]