Set in 1848, Starting from Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach joins a multitude of other information-rich, historical fiction books written for young readers.  Schwabach’s novel features eleven-year-old Brigid Gallagher (aka Bridie) who was born in Ireland but orphaned when her last living relative—her mother—is left destitute by a husband who drinks too much.  That is after her father and her brothers die on the coffin ships navigating to America during the potato famine in Ireland. Because Bridie asks question, points out the problems with things, speaks when not spoken to, and has opinions about the way things ought to be, she is considered trouble.  SheRead More →

Whether readers celebrate National Space Day in May, World Space Week in October, or simply dream of someday being an astronaut, We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly is an inspiring book. It will also appeal to those who enjoy arcade games or who have ever wondered about family, friendship, tragedy, science, and exploration. Kelly’s book follows three plot threads as it accompanies the experiences of Henry Nelson Thomas (aka Fitch), Bernadette Nelson Thomas (aka Bird), and Cash Nelson Thomas.  The perspectives of these three siblings add unique insights to being twelve and thirteen while living in Delaware in the 1980s. Fitch received hisRead More →

Set in 1941 in Viteretz, Ukraine, Don’t Tell the Nazis is a historical fiction account of events during the Soviet Occupation of Ukraine, the few days of “freedom,” and the German infiltration that followed.   Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch frames her story around real people and events so as to be true to the history but takes liberties to humanize it. Readers follow the heroism of Krystia Fediuk, a twelve-year-old girl wishing to bring the hope back to her mama’s eyes after Tato’s death from cancer.  Krystia steps in to take on the tedious tasks that could wear her mama down, but she feels powerless against Ukraine’sRead More →

For the past year, Stuart Mallory and Sophie Sawyer have lived and breathed Camelot’s Honor, an online multi-player game featuring King Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, Merlin, and the many other characters from Arthurian Legend.  Slaving away on menial quests, gaining experience, and rising in levels, the two tweens are obsessed with gaming.  After all, life is so much easier inside the game where a person never has to worry about being cool or impressing anyone else.  Also unlike junior high, there are no surprises in the game, all the fight sequences can be researched online, and a person can look and act any way he orRead More →

Set in New York in 1863 at the time of the Civil War, Daniel José Older’s series novel Dactyl Hill Squad is a blend of history and fantasy with an abundance of action and adventure. Although Older adds dinosaur riders to his story—giving twelve-year-old Magdalys Roca the special ability to hear the dinos’ thoughts and control them with her mind—he tells the truth about orphan life and explores some other very real social issues.  For example, he mocks segregation habits like designating riding privileges along racial lines or colonization attempts like renaming. When the Kidnapping Club, led by the devious Magistrate Rich Riker, burns downRead More →

Middle-grade readers looking for an adventure story with a dash of history and a little mystery will likely enjoy A.M. Morgen’s new book The Inventors at No. 8. Set in 1828 London, Morgen’s historical fiction novel takes the reader on a treasure hunt with George, the Third Lord of Devonshire who is weighted by fear and self-doubt but has a stubborn streak; Ada Byron, a sharp, funny, and rarely humble girl who always has a plan swirling in her scientific mind; Oscar, a gifted artist who knows colors and the minerals that produce them; and Ruthie, an orangutan who has learned semaphore and can readRead More →

1957 is the year that Frisbees soared, postage stamps cost three cents, and the Russians launched Sputnik.  It was also a time when women were typically kitchen-bound and wore skirts and aprons.  However, Kathleen Curie Gordon’s mom is not a Betty Crocker mom; she’s a professor of nuclear chemistry.  With a woman who resists convention as a mom and two older sisters playing from that same playbook, ten-year-old Katy, the protagonist in Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages, has learned to keep asking questions and to never settle for being ordinary. And Katy, who is more comfortable in cleats and a ball cap, isRead More →

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann is based on the true story of Etzel, the German shepherd from the Bavarian Alps region who made it from a sun-washed barnyard to the Berlin Police Force and finally to silent-movie stardom in the 1920s. Through a technique called anthropomorphism—attributing human characteristics or behavior to an animal—Fleming invites readers to imagine a dog with movie star abilities and with a talent for reading people and making human connections. Etzel’s transformation from a carefree life as a puppy to “a cold, uncaring police dog, who slashed at otherRead More →

Three stories told, three countries represented, and three lives profiled.  Despite the years that separate them, the trinity of humanity featured in Alan Gratz’s novel Refugee experience remarkable and horrifying similarities with intersecting conclusions. Imagine feeling unwanted, dirty, and illegal.   Imagine hearing sirens, soldiers, shouting, gunfire, breaking glass, and screams daily.  Imagine thinking that if you want to live, you have to leave your homeland and all that is familiar.  These are the realities of three refugees and their families: Josef Landau, a barely thirteen Jewish boy living in Germany in 1939 under the reign of Adolph Hitler; Isabel Fernandez, a pre-teen Cuban citizen enduringRead More →