Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Fool’s Girl by Celia Rees

Violetta appears to be the young and beautiful apprentice of a Fool, who entertains passersby on the streets of London, but appearances can be deceiving.. She is really of noble birth, forced to flee her homeland when it is attacked from without and betrayed from within. She and the Fool–Festus, who is not foolish at all–weaving a web to catch the playwright Shakespeare, who will provide the means for them to steal back the sacred relic at the heart of the country and one day return to rule their country.

Celia Rees has spun the story behind the story with The Fool’s Girl (Scholastic 2010). The young Shakespeare is still struggling to establish himself in the precarious theater world of England. He is captivated by Violetta’s story, which Rees lifts from Twelfth Night. (Or is it Shakespeare who steals the story from Violetta?) As Violetta and Festus reel him in, Shakespeare finds that he is no longer in charge of the story, but caught up in a web of intrigue whose strands are being pulled by the highest political powers. He must get every word and action just right, or it could be the end of the Globe Theater and more.

Even though its inspiration is from Twelfth Night, The Fool’s Girl is an original tale filled with romance and danger. The story roams from the beautiful shores of Illyria (where Violetta lives a charmed childhood before her country is ripped apart) to the slums of London (where Violetta is streetsmart), the village of Avon (where Mrs. Shakespeare rules the homestead) and deep into the forest of Arden (where Violetta discovers a mysterious haven).

Through all the twists and turns of the story, Violetta remains strong and determined. I love that she doesn’t just let fate unwind but takes control of her own destiny wherever possible. While she would love a happy ending with her childhood friend Stephano, she will not let romance interfere with what she knows is right. There is no taking the easy way out for this girl, but can she pull all the threads of her story together before the evil Malvolio succeeds in destroying her and all she loves once and for all?

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program. If you decide to make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate links, including in the linked picture above. Amazon will pay me a commission. This commission doesn’t cost you any extra. All opinions are my own.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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Rose Justice is an American pilot who is flying planes for the ATA in England near the end of World War II. When she flies an Allied fighter plane from Paris back to England, she is captured by the Nazis. Rather than treating her as a prisoner of war, the Nazis send her to Ravensbruck as part of a transport of French political prisoners.

A companion to Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein stands alone as a powerful novel set against the backdrop of World War II on the home front in England and in a Nazi concentration camp. I listened to this one, narrated by Sasha Pick, thanks to the Sync YA summer downloads. Pick does an excellent job narrating (I loved the accents and voices for the different characters), but I do want to go back and read a text version. I know one reading of any kind is not enough to enjoy all this book has to offer.

I love so much about this book. Let me count the ways!

  • Rose herself. Rose is a little bit brash (from her youth and American optimism) and a little bit naive. (While her fellow pilots and prisoners endured the hardships and horrors of World War II, Rose was back home near Hershey, Pennsylvania, competing in canoe races, singing Girl Scout Camp songs and playing basketball.
  • Flying! I have my pilot’s license and love any story that takes to the air. Rose’s flying goes beyond anything she could have imagined back home stateside. In particulary, she learns–and later attempts–taran, the practice of using your airplane to ram another. While risky, it could be survived if the pilot was skilled and lucky enough. Taran shows up again and again, both literally and symbolically. I love how Rose and Irena (a fellow prisoner and Russian fighter pilot) use their hands in flight to give each other courage.
  • Poetry. Not only does Rose fly airplanes, but she also writes poetry. She also quotes extensive poetry, especially poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. The poetry is the main reason I want to read the text. I want to see the poems on the page and savor each word. Poetry gives Rose a voice when she cannot trust her own.
  • Survival. The prisoners at Ravensbruck are not passive victims of Nazi cruelty and brutality. From their initial processing to their eventual escape, Rose and her fellow prisoners engage in acts of rebellion. While they cannot stop the Nazi’s murder of millions of prisoners, they can “organize” needed supplies and hide some prisoners (the rabbits) scheduled for the gas chambers. Rose’s “family” in Ravensbruck even says grace before eating their meager rations. They look out for each other the best they can and grieve for those who are killed.
  • I learned more. I have read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the Holocuast and thought I knew quite a bit. I learned even more about the horrors of medical experiments conducted by the Nazi doctors. The girls and women from a Polish transport underwent many operations that left them lame. Those who survived were protected by their fellow prisoners. They were ingenious in finding ways to get their story out, even when the world could not believe them.
  • No easy answers. Many of the characters are complex and even difficult to like. Rose is certainly flawed as she puts her foot in her mouth and just doesn’t get things. The German pilot who flies her to Ravensbruck is kind. He gives her chocolate bars and even lets her fly the plane. The German prisoner who leads Rose’s work detail (the worst kind of work leader) was one of the guards who held down the rabbits for their operations, but she also provides extra vitamins for the girls on her work crew. Roza, the most unforgettable of the rabbits, is demanding and insulting and incredibly brave.
  • A glimpse of life after the war. I am so glad Wein did not stop the story with Rose’s escape from Ravensbruck. She goes on to show how difficult it is for Rose to reenter life after experiencing the horrors there. At first, Rose cannot bear to wear clothes or leave her hotel room as she writes down her experiences. She does go on with her life, but she is forever changed. She promised the rabbits that she would share their story with the world, but she finds that she cannot speak of it. When she writes poetry and stories, she finds that the editor doesn’t want the ones that detail the horror. It is too much for readers.

If you have not read Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire, what are you waiting for? Both books give a heart-poundng, page-turning account of life in the middle of World War II. Whie the stories are very different, both build almost unbearable suspense that makes me glad I live in a time and place where peace mostly prevails.

What stories from World War II or the Holocaust would you recommend?

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program. If you decide to make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate links, Amazon will pay me a commission. This commission doesn’t cost you any extra. All opinions are my own.

Revealed by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Margaret Peterson Haddix creates a heart-pounding conclusion to The Missing series with Revealed. I’m just relieved that we didn’t have to wait for 36 (the number of missing children kidnapped from history) for the end–and to learn which missing child from history is tied to Jonah Skidmore.

If you have missed this series, it starts with Found–where Jonah and his annoying little sister Katherine learn about a mysterious plane that appeared 13 years ago–filled with babies. Each of the babies was a missing child from history who had been kidnapped out of time in order to be adopted (and make the kidnappers Gary and Hodge very rich) in the future. It’s an exciting adventure that lures in even readers who don’t think they like science fiction. It starts in the present day with mysterious events, and Haddix weaves in the sci-fi elements gradually so that we are able to (sort of) understand it along with the teenage characters.

But it’s not just science fiction. With each of the subsequent books in the series, Haddix explores famous missing children from history as Jonah and Katherine travel back to fix time and to save the lives the missing children have in the present. They travel to 14th century England, Roanoke Island and the Hudson River in the 1500s, the fall of the Russian czars in the early 20th century, the home of Albert Einstein in Germany before World War II, and finally, to the kidnapping of the Linbergh baby in America. With each visit to the past, new complications with time arise and Gary and Hodge keep a step ahead of the time agents.

In this last book, Jonah is stranded by himself to save not only Katherine and himself, but all  of time itself. Charles Lindbergh appeared in his living room to kidnap Katherine. Then Jonah’s parents have reversed their ages back to 13–along with JB and Angela. The other 35 children from history have disappeared. It seems that Gary and Hodge are back with one last plot to make their fortune by selling famous babies in the future. If they succeed, everything and everyone that Jonah loves will be destroyed.

Once again I am amazed at the twists and turns that Haddix weaves into this final plot. I had long suspected that Jonah might be the Lindbergh baby. I was right–and surprised (but I won’t tell you how). Jonah learns that he can depend on himself to make the right decisions even when he doesn’t understand all there is to know about time travel. Heck, even the time agents learn a thing or two when Jonah follows his heart to do what is right.

If you haven’t yet discovered this series, check it out. You’re in for the ride of several lifetimes as you explore history from the ancient past to a possible future where time travel can happen.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program. If you decide to make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate links, Amazon will pay me a commission. This commission doesn’t cost you any extra. All opinions are my own.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

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A long time ago in a library far away from where I live now, I discovered the books of Charles Dickens. I devoured Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield and all the other books that lined that shelf. Yes, I was that teen who not only willingly read the classics assigned in class, but I also looked for them on the shelves for fun.

When SYNC YA offered Terry Pratchett’s Dodger (read by Stephen Briggs) as one of their free audio book downloads this summer, I was doubly excited. I had been introduced to Terry Pratchett by a long ago student who eagerly explained Discworld to me, but I never got around to reading any Pratchett boooks even though they sounded like my kind of book. And then, well, Dodger.

I was not disappointed. I love Pratchett’s Dodger. He is quite a rascal, but has a generous heart. He also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. (Some might think it’s the wrong place at the wrong time when he goes for a shave from Sweeney Todd, but it always works out for Dodger.) His adventure begins when he comes up out of the sewer and finds two thugs beating a young woman. He fights off the thugs and can’t get the young woman out of his mind. As he earns her trust, he creates a plan for her escape from a deadly trap. Somehow he transforms from geezer tto hero with every adventure.

I enjoyed the secondary characters as much as I did Dodger. The mysterious young woman–known as Simplicity (though she is not simple at all) has as much spunk and nerve as Dodger. I want to know more about Solomon Cohen–the Jewish jeweler who took Dodger in and tries to keep him on the straight and narrow (or at least a straighter and narrower way than the streets might influence). I suspect Solomon has had quite a few adventures of his own.

Some of the characters are recognizalbe figures from literature and history. I already mentioned Sweeney Todd. Mr..Charles Dickens himself takes quite an interest in Dodger, though his constant scribbling makes Dodger nervous. I learned the inspiration behind several other characters from the author’s note at the end. (I love an auther whose author’s note on historical references and slang vocabluary can make me snort.) Charles Dickens’ friend Henry Mayhew and his wife care for simplicity. Dodger finds himself on the same side of the law as the “Peelers” or new cops under Robert Peel. Angela was indeed one of the most independent and wealthiest women in England. Even Benjamn Disreali makes an appearance or two (though he would have liked missing the tour through the sewers).

Dodger leads readers (or listeners) on a fun romp through Victorian England–especially the underbelly. I’m glad I don’t live on London’s streets and hunt for coins in the sewers, but I enjoyed visiting while I listened. Now I’m even more interested in exploring Discworld.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program. If you decide to make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate links, Amazon will pay me a commission. This commission doesn’t cost you any extra. All opinions are my own.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Happy Pi Day! today is an extra special Pi Day since the date (3-14-15) gives five digits of pi instead of the usual three. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to share a book that weaves a story of Pi throughout a quest for two boys–and even more characters they meet along the way–to find their way home again.

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 Jack Baker has lost his bearings after the death of his mother. Instead of letting him stay in Kansas where landmarks show up against the sky, his father, a Naval officer before and during World War II, drops him to find his way alone at the Morton Hill Academy for Boys in Cape Fealty, Maine.

Jack narrates the story of his friendship with Early Auden, “the strangest of boys,” in a voice that is both matter of fact and heartbreaking. Jack makes a half-hearted attempt to fit in with the other boys, but there is too much he doesn’t know (rowing, the sea, school legends), and too much that they don’t know (grief, homesickness, lostness). Instead, Jack finds himself drawn to the mysterious Early.

Early rarely shows up to class. He has a workshop in the basement. He listens to Mozart on Sundays, Louis Armstrong on Mondays, Frank Sinatra on Wednesdays, Glen Miller on Fridays and Billie Holiday when it’s raining. When he looks at Pi, he sees colors and textures. He is convinced that Pi is lost and shares the story revealed in the numbers with Jack as they work together to build (or rebuild) a better boat. Jack even learns to row in a straight line with Early as his coxswain shouting out directions.

When Jack’s father doesn’t show up as planned for fall break, Jack joins Early on a quest to find Pi–and Early’s dead brother Fisher–and bring him home before he disappears completely. As they journey deeper and deeper into the Maine wilderness, they encounter characters that offer help and harm: loggers/pirates, a gruff woodsman and outdoor guide, a lonely old woman, an ugly girl who turns out to be beautiful and the biggest grizzly bear on the Appalachian Trail. Will they ever find their way home again?

I love the way Clare Vanderpool weaves together multiple stories in Navigating Early (Delacorte Press 2013). Both Jack and Early bounce between their past and present stories. Each of the characters they meet has a story as well. Then there is the story of Pi, that only Early can see in the numbers. Each of the stories and the characters within them connect in surprising ways. I will be thinking about this book for some time to come and looking at the connections in my own life in a new way.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associates Program. If you decide to make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate links, Amazon will pay me a commission. This commission doesn’t cost you any extra. All opinions are my own.

The Picture Books Are Coming!

Did you know that November is National Picture Book Month? I didn’t until Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts shared her plans to read #bookaday–and share out on her blog–for the month. I decided to join in the fun.

When it comes to middle grade and young adult literature, I can list hundreds of books on hundreds of topics and genres and by hundreds of authors. But when it comes to picture books, not so much. I’ve been seeing the pictures books shared by other readers and have wanted to explore this format more.

I headed to the children’s room in our  public library and quickly became overwhelmed. All those thin books sticking out at odd angles up and down the shelves. Where do I  even begin? I sat down at one end of the shelves and began browsing. (Of course, I didn’t write down any of the titles I discovered through IMWAYR or other blog posts.) Even so, it didn’t take long to create a stack of books to bring home.

I discovered some familiar friends among the authors. Some wrote books that I enjoyed reading to my daughter when she was younger. Other were authors I recognized from their books for middle grade or young adult readers. The picture books did not disappoint.

hello red foxHello, Red Fox by Eric Carle – My daugher (and me, too) loved Eric Carle. We had board books and hardback and paperback picture books. As soon as she saw Hello, Red Fox, she recognized Carle’s distinctive artwork. I was surprised there was another Carle book that we hadn’t read. Little Frong invites his friends to his birthday party, but Mama Frog thinks they are the wrong color! Using an optical illsusion based on the color wheel, the reader helps Mama Frog “see” the right colors. As a kid, I loved these illusions. I enjoyed the concept even now, but my eyes are getting old! It’s hard to stare at the colors page after page.

louise the adventure of a chickenLouise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss – How could I go wrong with a story by Kate DiCamillo? Louise is a brave chicken who yearns for more adventure than she can find in the hen house and farm yard. She discovers pirates sailing over the seas, lions rampaging at the circus, mysterious strangers lurking at a bazaar. After each adventure, she is glad to return home…until the next adventure calls.

holly & ivyThe Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden and Barbara Cooney – Godden’s The Diddakoi was one of my most treasured books from my grandmother’s library. Discovering The Story of Holly & Ivy was like having tea with an old friend. The magic of Christmas wishes brings together three unlikely characters on a cold Christmas night. The oprhan ivy wishes for a family of her own, so she sets out for Appleton to find the grandmother she is sure is waiting for her. Holly wishes to leave her perch in the toy store window so she can be some little girl’s Christmas doll (even if the scary owl Abracadabra says impossible). Mrs. Jones wishes for a child and decorates a tree even though she’s not quite sure what she’s hoping for this Christmas.

strega nona's giftStrega Nona’s Gift by Tomie dePaola – Of course I remembered Strega Nona. This one turned out to be another Christmas story. (I’m really not trying to rush the season, but I do love Christmas stories.) Strega Nona is cooking and cooking and cooking for all the feasts through the month of December in her village of Calabria. She even cooks a feast for the animals, but something goes wrong when Big Anthony can’t resist the goat’s treat. What will it take to set the world right again?

I have even more great picture books to share tomorrow. What picture books should I be looking for to read next? Let me know your suggestions in the comments.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people  are reading.

It was a quiet reading week, but I enjoyed meeting lots of interesting people that I interviewed this week. Now I have lots of writing to do!

I finished…

forgive me leonard peacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – Once I neared the end, I couldn’t stop listening. This is one of the most powerful books I have read in some time. Leonard will stay with me as well the questions this book raised. We never know how much the people we come in contact with every day might be hurting or how much our words and actions can impact them. I know I will be treating the people around me with more kindness and paying more attention.

chinese cinderellaChinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah – My heart ached for the rejection and cruelty that Adeline experenced within her family. As I read I marveled at her strength and courage and resilience. How did she do it? So many children would have withered under the acts of cruelty she lived with daily. She found strength in her Aunt Baba and grandfather as well as in her success at school.

I’m currently reading…

Poliser_SummerLettingGo_jkt_website_207_1The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner – We didn’t read much last week with all the work assigned before break and the last games of the soccer season. Now that my daughter is on fall break, I’m hoping we can get back to reading every night.

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – It’s still slow progress, but I’m still reading some every week. The rebels are regrouping in the barricade, preparing for the next wave of attack from the army.

again calls the owlAgain Calls the Owl by Margaret Craven – I just barely got started with this one, but I can tell I will enjoy it. Craven’s prose brings to life such a different time in the world.

Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy(AWAI) – Another couple of chapters read this week and another class down. I am learning that I enjoy this type of business copywriting more than I thought I would.

Coming up…

We have lots of catching up to do over fall break–all those projects that kept getting pushed back until we have more time. There’s shopping for winter clothes and a college visit. I hope to make progress on the books I’m reading.

What have you read this week?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.


I got some writing done, I canned more tomatoes and pasta sauce.  I battled yellow jackets and baby snakes.  I even read some.  Here are the books that joined me through this week.

I finished…

cup of our lifeThe Cup of Our Life by Joyce Rupp – I’ve been using this book for my morning devotions the past six weeks.  I’ve used it before, but since I’m at a different place in my life, the reflections are still fresh and relevant.  Once again, I am moved by the symbolism of a cup for many things in my life.

staff of serapisStaff of Serapis by Rick Riordan – I found this one while poking around on Amazon looking for something else.  I still have to wait until October for The Blood of Olympus, but this long short story–or is it a short novella–might hold me over until then.  This time Annabeth Chase and Sadie Kane come together to defeat a monster that combines Greek and Egyptian elements.  The question remains, is Riordan just teasing us with these shorts, or is he planning another series joining the Greek demigods and the Egyptian magicians?

I’m currently reading…

les-miserablesLes Miserables by VIctor Hugo – I know this is one reason my reading (in terms of number of books) has slowed down.  I have spent quite a bit of time this week with Gavroche (a Paris street urchin) as he rescued his unknown younger brothers and escaping from prison with Thenadier.  He may be a rascal and the “master of the house,”  but he does have street smarts.  I am now 67% of the way through.  I’m still working to finish it by the end of the year.

code name verityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I am almost done–just 25 minutes or so left.  I loved Morven Christie’s narration of Queenie/Julie.  She wrung every drop of emotion out of the character without being overwrought.  Then when Lucy Gaskell started narrating Maddy’s/Kitty Hawk’s part, I was blown away.  Her voice brought Maddy to life in my mind.  I will be sad to finish with this story again.

2014 childrens writers market2014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market edited by Chuck Sambuchino – I have learned so much from reading the articles and interviews–making the most of conferences, creating compelling characters, taking the plunge into self-publishing, and more.  I am almost through the informational part for writing craft and business and to the list of publishers, agents, editors, magazines.

buggedBugged!  How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee – I am having too much fun reading this one.  I have to bite my tongue to keep from sharing gross facts about bugs and the diseases they spread at inopportune times.  Even though much of the information is groww, I find myself laughing, too.


How to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals by Mal Warwick – This one is due back at the library today, and I think I’m going to hand it back in unread.  My heart is with writing stories–both fiction and nonfiction–not in copywriting.  If that opportunity presents itself, I know where I can get the book if I want to learn it later.

Coming up…

I am nearly finished with several books.  I’m not sure what I what I will grab off the shelf next.  I will choose another audio book from the ones I downloaded from Sync YA earlier this summer.  I’m looking for something lighter after the intensity of Code Name Verity.  I’ve also been picking up Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed, so it may be next up, too.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? Is a meme sponsored by Sheila at Book Journey.  Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Menor Texts gave the meme a kidlit twist.  It’s a great way to reflect on what you’ve read and reviewed the last week and plan what you want to read next.  Join up with us and discover what good books other people are reading.


Now that school is back in for my daughter, I’m back to trying to balance my reading and my writing…and gardening.  The tomato plants have exploded with ripe, juicy Roma tomatoes that we transform into salsa and pizza sauce and pasta sauce.  Let’s not even talk about the fresh corn, cantaloupe, bell peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers.  We even still have broccoli!  Even so, I managed to finish two books last week and make progress with more.

I finished …

handbook of magazine article writingWriter’s Digest of Magazine Article Writing edited by Michelle Ruberg – Some of the information in this guide repeated what I had read in my previous books in my freelance writing crash course.  Not surprising since the people who wrote the books I read earlier contributed to this book as well.  I appreciated hearing it again (It’s starting to sink in.), and there was enough new information to make it worth while to read.  Following the advice I’ve been reading, I received my first assignment from an editor last week!

praying in colorPraying in Color:  Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth – Not only did I finish reading this book, I’ve been exploring praying in color myself.  It is a very different way for me to pray since I have always been more comfortable with writing than drawing, but I am eager to explore more.  I plan to write a more thorough reflection on the book and my explorations later this week.  Meanwhile, I’ve sharpened the colored pencils!

I’m currently reading ….

les-miserablesLes Miserables by Victor Hugo – The story is picking up again and so is my reading.  My favorite part from this week’s reading was when Jean Valjean stopped a pickpocket in his tracks and then gave the thief the purse he was trying to steal.  Then the thief lost the wallet to a young pickpocket, who gave the purse to an old man who had nothing.  My goal is to finish this by the end of the year.  I will need to spend more time with it than I have been.

code name verityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – The audio is excellent and gets better by the minute.  I’m nearing the end of Queenie’s story, and the narration is heart-wrenching to listen to.  I can’t wait to hear how Maddie’s story is narrated.

2014 childrens writers market2014 Children’s Writer’s & illustrator’s Market edited by Chuck Sambuchino – I knew this was a comprehensive list of publishers, agents, and magazines for the children’s market, but I did not realize how much practical advice and tips it contained as well.  I’m learning so much!

buggedBugged:  How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee – i don’t know how it happened, but nonfiction today is much better than back in the day when the children’s librarian at my public library had to beg me to read nonfiction.  (I reluctantly tried mythology and biographies, but not much else.)  I always thought I would want to write fiction (and I do), but I would also love to write nonfiction like this.  It’s not only “swarming with facts” (as the cover proclaims), but it’s funny.

Coming up …

how to write successful fundraising appealsHow to Write Successful Fundraising Appeals by Mal Warwick – It’s another book in my crash course (almost all of them from my local library).  The copywriting I am most interested in doing is for not-for-profits.  Having worked for both secular and religious not-for-profits, I know fundraising is a fact of life for them.  I like the idea of using my writing to help causes I support, too.  Since I keep putting off opening this one, I know where I want to spend my time writing.

What are you reading this week?

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

imageOver the last couple of years, I have had quite a few books connected with the Civil Rights movement come across my TBR pile.  Most of them have been excellent, and I have learned something from all of them, whether I was reading historical fiction or historical accounts.  Rita Williams Garcia introduced me to yet another aspect of those years that I knew next-to-nothing about in her novel One Crazy Summer (Scholastic 2010).

Delphine leads her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, to visit the mother who left them.  They fly across the country to Oakland, California, for the summer of 1968, to get to know the mysterious Cecile.  Even once they are living in her house, Cecile remains a mystery, but Delphine is not stubborn and bossy for nothing.  She will do whatever it takes to protect her sisters and get answers from Cecile.  She might even learn something about herself  along the way.

Delphine’s first surprise (after Cecile kicks them out of the house for the day) is her encounter with the Black Panthers.  Behind the headlines she heard back in New York City, she discovers that the Black Panthers distribute food to hungry children in the neighborhood and run a day camp for kids at the Community Center.  Before she quite knows how it happens, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are practicing parts to perform in a demonstration at the community park.  Before the demonstration is over, will encounter even more surprises.

Williams-Garcia tackles some serious issues in this novel–racism, abandonment, and families–and she does it with wit and humor.  Delphine is an unforgettable character, who is much stronger than she realizes.  As she finds her voice, she discovers the power of poetry and the power of the people and the power of herself.

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