Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2 new middle grade historical fiction titles

I've just read a whole bunch of historical fiction and feel my mind has traveled back in time...and is having some trouble waking up! Both of these are nice choices for library shelves.

When the Whistle Blows, by Fran Cannon Slayton, is a classic coming of age story, with some special bits added in that make this a really easy choice to hand to kids. They'll like it AND you'll like it.

Jacket description:
"When the railroad's in your blood, it draws you like a pump draws water from the ground.

Meet a town and a train and a time and a boy--Jimmy Cannon. And meet his father--as strong as a Mallet 200 locomotive--whom Jimmy simply cannot figure out! But who, in a dramatic and unexpected twist, turns out to be so much more than Jimmy ever knew.

In a book that goes to the core of boyhood--it's Halloween mischief, its hunting day mystery, itschampionship football game surprise, and its nighttime adventures--Fran Cannon Slayton brings her readers to the breathtaking crossroads of an unforgettable West Virginia railroad town, a family that matters, and adulthood itself."

The location is brilliantly described and the characters are realistic and fresh. I really enjoyed watching Jimmy blossom into his own, as well as get to know his father as both a parent and a man.

This is a quick read and a good choice to hand to a reluctant reader, as there are lots of scenes of mischief and fun, along with the more serious theme of growing up and learning to understand others.

When the Whistle Blows
Fran Cannon Slayton
176 pages
Middle Grade
Penguin Young Readers
June 2009
Received review copy from author

Anna's World, by Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin, takes us even further back into history---a hundred years further actually, with the story taking place in the late 1840s.

Jacket description:
"Fourteen-year-old Anna Coburn doesn't want to grapple with America's terrible issues. Just growing up seems hard enough. Forced from her home and away from her beloved father, Anna is sent to live among the stern people called Shakers. With their strange believes and strict lifestyle, the Shakers both attract and dismay the bright, headstrong Anna.

When she is reunited with her father, Anna is plunged into upper-class Boston life, where she faces mystery and danger. She also accepts her responsibility in events that will affect not only to herself and her loved ones, but a country about to come apart at the seams.

With a cast that includes Henry David Thoreau, a perceptive Shaker schoolmistress, and a murderous false friend, Anna's World is a powerful coming of age story, widely praised for its vivid characters, gripping plot, and moral stature."

I really enjoyed reading about life in a Shaker home, as that is not a topic I've explored and Anna did a great job in describing her days and frustrations. She reminded me a bit of Anne of Green Gables, in her ability to create mischief without really trying and her headstrong personality.

I also really liked the cameo appearances by different members of our history, as it made for fun little interjections in plot.

I did feel the book was a bit long and some of the scenes could have used some parring down, as well as needing some excitement on the cover. The content is great, but I felt the cover would not be inspiring kids to pick this one over something else. Other than that, a great choice for use in a Social Studies class or for a fan of historical fiction.

Anna's World
Wim Coleman & Pat Perrin
288 pages
Middle Grade
Chiron Books
July 2009
Received review copy from authors


Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Thanks for sharing these. My classroom library is pretty lean in the historical fiction section. Always looking for more to add.

Mary Ann Scheuer said...

I'm so glad you made these comments about When The Whistle Blows. I completely agree that it's a book that kids will like, as well as parents. Funny, and also thought-provoking.

It reminded me of some of Gary Paulsen's autobiographical writing (Angel Petersen, or Harris & Me).

I can't wait to share it with students. Have you had any kids' responses yet?