Set in Oahu, Hawaii, in 1941, Heroes by Alan Gratz is a novel about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two thirteen-year-old boys: Stanley Summer and Frank McCoy, whose fathers are pilots for the U.S. Navy, bond over their love of comic books. The two see the fleet of ships on Battleship Row as a metaphor for superheroes: the Justice Society of America. Frank is a writer and Stanley an illustrator. Together, they invent characters, write their origin stories, and draw them into situations where they emerge as heroes. However, Frank feels a bit like a fraud. Ever since The Incident in Florida, their last militaryRead More →

Set in Cuba and the United Stated from 1958-1961, Farewell Cuba, Mi Isla by Alexandra Diaz was inspired by history. Many readers will recall the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, a time when Cubans fled from the tyranny of Fidel Castro, seeking refuge in Florida. While several of those refugees thought their home in the United States would be temporary, believing that the US would not allow a Communist country so close to their border, that belief did not come to pass. Borrowing from memories of her own family’s stories, Diaz creates two tween cousins, Victoria Pino del Mar and Jacqueline RomeroRead More →

Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Boston Weatherford is a powerful textual tribute to “the ancestors who carried us through” accented by scratchboard-like illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. In this verse novel, the Weatherfords conjure the voices of their ancestors and speak to them and through them with their art. Seeking answers to key questions: “At what age is hope born, when does resistance first rise up, and when do dreams wither” (22-23), the mother/son pair tells a moving story of their family tree. Their goal is to give voice to their African-American ancestors who were “marginalized, muted, or muzzled” as they tilled fields intoRead More →

With her recent historical fiction novel for middle grade readers, J. Anderson Coats has written a poignant coming-of-age tale. Over the course of six months—April through September—A Season Most Unfair tells the story of Scholastica Greenwell (aka Tick) who lives in St Neots with her papa and stepmother, Mama Elly, who “bubbles over with warmth and hugs and the coziest of welcomes” (51). Tick cherishes the time she spends with her papa making candles. She feels needed and loved. However, without Tick’s knowledge, Papa takes an apprentice, and suddenly Henry’s gains become her losses. Tick is angry and hurt that her father no longer hasRead More →

Set in the 70s in Santa Monica, Clouds over California by Karyn Parsons tells the story of a mixed-race sixth grader. Stephanie Morrison, aka Stevie, moves to a new neighborhood at a critical time in her life, so making friends adds a layer of challenge. Her best friend from her former school has moved on, and talking about boys and fingernail polish are not Stevie’s thing. For Stevie, the library is a kind of church. She’s also loves to skate and imagines herself in an Olympic arena as a Roller Derby queen defending the team’s lead. When her older cousin Naomi comes to live withRead More →

Newbery Honor Winner, Rodman Philbrick introduces adolescent readers to an account of historical fiction in his new release, We Own the Sky. Both adventure and history, the novel features eighteen-year-old Josephine Michaud and her twelve-year-old brother, Davy. Orphaned in 1924 after both of their parents have perished in separate mill accidents, the two adolescents become the wards of Ruthie Reynard and enter a strange new world of flying machines and daredevils. Their mother’s famous cousin, Ruthie is not only a record-setting aviatrix but the star of her very own flying circus and the first pilot of any gender to fly nonstop between Chicago and NewRead More →

The history of the Jewish Empire of Khazaria would die out completely if not for stories like Black Bird, Blue Road. In this historical fiction account, Sofiya Pasternack shares the story of Ziva and Pesha, twelve year old twins. Stubborn, persistent, passionate, and observant, Ziva aspires to be a judge. Her brother, Pesha may not have the same fire, but he is brilliant in his own way. Ziva is convinced that with his inventive mind, Pesha will find a cure not only for the leprosy that afflicts him but for other diseases, as well. Selfless and kind, Pesha also has a gift for learning languages.Read More →

A master storyteller and the creator of the character Maria on the television program Sesame Street, Sonia Manzano brings to life the unfolding injustice of Fidel Castro’s reign in Cuba from 1959-1961. Through the narratives of four pre-teen adolescents in Coming Up Cuban, Manzano weaves a tapestry that captures a compelling period in human history. Readers meet Ana Andino, an aspiring artist in Havana, Cuba, in 1959, whose father is a revolutionary. In Ana’s eyes, her Papi is fighting for an unjust cause—one that is keeping a rebel leader with suffocating rules and ideas in place. Rafael explains to his daughter: “This Revolution was foughtRead More →

To reflect her view that the War to End All Wars didn’t do its job because of its complicated and convoluted nature, Jennifer A. Nielsen uses five viewpoints to tell the story Lines of Courage. Through her five protagonists, whose paths all cross, readers are invited to widen their perspective on WWI. Living in Austria-Hungary, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, Felix Baum was present on June 28, 1914 when he saw a glint of metal and could have screamed a warning. Instead, paralyzed by fear, he remains silent and watches the Archduke of Bosnia and his wife die. The assassination sets in motion events that leadRead More →