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Kid Tested, Librarian Recommended: The heart & soul of history

Historical fiction asks you to stand beside the characters and "feel" the courage, heartache and adventure right down into your heart and soul. Read on for some of my favorite historical fiction reads.

Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling

Sylvia and AkiThis book is based on a true story of two young girls, Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu, whose lives entwined and changed in a way they would have never imaged on the day America joined World War II.  

Aki, her mom and dad plus older brother are Japanese-Americans who own an asparagus farm in California. Aki is going to finish 3rd grade at Westminster School and she's excited just thinking about summer vacation even though it's December. Then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec 7,1941, and all Aki's summer plans disappeared and so did finishing the 3rd grade. 

The government believed people from Japan threatened national security. They thought maybe some were spys. So, Aki and her family and many other Japenese-Americans are sent to a hot, dusty Japanese internment camp at Poston, Arizona, in the desert far from their beautiful, green California farm.  

Aki was worried about her family's farm. Would they be able to come back to their farm? Was it going to turn into a tangle of weeds? Who was going to take care of the farm animals?  Well, Sylvia Mendez, her mom, dad and two younger brothers are, that's who. Sylvia's family leased the farm from Aki's family and are great farmers. Sylvia is a bit younger than Aki and is very excited about starting 3rd grade at Westminster where Aki use to go. 

Sylvia's father wants her to have every opportunity he never had and go to a good safe school with great teachers and brand new books. That was the plan but then Westminster School would not let Sylvia and her brothers register. They would have to go to the Mexican school farther away because they were Mexican-American. Nobody in Sylvia's family was happy about that. Her father filed a lawsuit against the school. Will this pave the way for others and end to segregation in the U.S.? 

So many events happened to Aki and Sylvia – internment and school segregation, plus more because of those two events. All of it tested their spirit and strength. They did get to know each other and I would love to tell you all more but I must not spoil the story.  Every page of this little book is packed with information and the unexpected challenges of Aki's and Sylvia's lives and the extrordinary times of history and change.  True heart and soul history. 

At the end of the book there are interesting facts about the families, the end of school segregation and Japanese internment camps.

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Finding LangstonLangston is 11 years old and is missing Alabama something awful. After his mama died in 1946 Langston's dad moved them to Chicago's neighborhood Bronzeville to start over and to have greater opportunities. They moved into a small, noisy, top floor apartment. Langston left behind his much loved grandmother, aunt and cousins. He use to fall asleep to owls and crickets in Alabama. Now all kinds of city noises make it hard to fall asleep. In the city everyone moves fast and the bullies at school call him "Country Boy" because he has a southern accent.

In Alabama Langston loved to read all the books in his classroom. His mama was proud of his reading and encouraged him but also told him the city library was only for white folks. His dad thought reading was a waste of time. Langston still read.

In Chicago, while dodging the school bullies, Langston came across a big, white, stone building that said above it's door George Cleveland Hall Branch, Chicago Public Library, AND it was a library open to all. I was so happy for Langston when he found this out and he makes good use of this library. He started reading poetry, which made him feel close to his late mama. On page 99 there is a line that tells you about poetry perfectly, "So the poetry you read is a way of putting all the things you feel inside on the outside."

Finding Langston gives you history with a heart. See how Langston becomes closer to his dad. How bullies can maybe have a change of heart and become friends. What was it like for African Americans during the time of the Great Migration to move from the south to Chicago.

Mary and the Trail of Tears by Adrea L. Rogers

Mary and the Trail of TearsThis book is based on accurate true history, with fictional characters 12-year-old Mary and her Cherokee family who love their home and land in Georgia. Then their lives changed drastically. They were forced to leave by U.S. soldiers in June 1838 along with many other Cherokee people. Yes, forced in a very unkind way, to walk all the way to a new Cherokee Nation the government said they had to go to. They had to leave with next to nothing.

The journey was long, sorrowful, tragic and heartbreaking. What they all had to suffer during this terrible time – nasty weather, disease, horrible and very little food, violence and death goes straight to the heart. History will teach you one thing for sure.  Remember, remember, remember and never let the wrong happen again.

Mary is brave and strong while helping to lift her family's and friend's spirits. Is she able to do this the entire journey? Does she make it all the way to the new Cherokee Nation? 

The book's chapters are each a location and place along The Trail of Tears. The author Andrea L. Rogers, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oaklahoma, is very talented and brave to have written an informative, heartfelt book for kids about this sad time in the history of her people. She does not tip-toe around the tragedies though.  You may want to read it in private or you may feel more comfortable reading it with friends or family so you can talk about it as you travel beside Mary on The Trail of Tears.  

In the back of the book is a note from the author, a glossary and a section called making connections.

Lines of Courage by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Lines of courageIn Lines of Courage you will experience World War I through the eyes of five preteen/teenagers (Felix, Elsa, Kara, Juliette and Dimitri) whose lives mix together in very unexpected ways. Felix from Austria-Hungary witnessed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, which started the war. He is terribly worried about his Jewish family being taken away. Elsa's father is a high ranking German officer. Kara works with her mother on a Red Cross train in the United Kingdom. Juliette is displaced from her home in France during a major destuctive battle and then separated from her family. Dimitri is a 14-year-old Russian farmboy sent to war with no weapon. I know there were numerous young teenagers during this war who had to fight and it saddens my heart terribly.

Their stories are about friendship, courage, honor and kindness in the middle of a horrible war. These five courageous young strangers endure many hardships and discover how much inner strength they actually have. Then fate shows up, tapping them on the shoulder to mix things up a bit. It is a rollercoaster of a read.

In the back of the book under author's note there are a few interesting insights into some of the facts referenced in the book. 

A Horse Named Sky by Rosanne Parry

Horse named skyHistory isn't just about humans. In this wonderful book Sky is a free-roaming wild mustang in Nevada who lives with his family "band" in the highlands during the 1860s. When he was just a young thing, running and running was Sky's favorite "must do" with his BFF Storm. He had a special talent for finding fresh water and grazing for his horse herd family. Sky is curious about everything, especially other creatures that are new to him and there are many!  Some are frightening, some are unusal and others are just plain interesting. He and Storm have a great time getting into trouble on a regular basis.

Colts don't stay with their herd forever. When water and grazing for the family becomes sparce Sky decides to leave and head out on his own. Family needs come first! On his new adventure he is captured by the Pony Express Humans! What?!  Plus he has to be trained by humans and they only walk on two of their legs. It's all very scary to him. He has to run as fast as he can on trails and climb over dangerous mountains with a human on his back! 

Well, that is not going to last forever because he is going to find a way to escape somehow. Will he find a way? Humans can be so interfering with their roads, chopping down trees, and mining. Will Sky be able to find the family herd he misses and help to lead them to a better place?

A Horse Named Sky is told through Sky's point of view with his voice. It is really a great read! At the end of the book is more interesting information about the wild mustangs, Pony Express, silver mining in Nevada and its effects on the environment, the California Indian Act of 1850, habitats of the creatures Sky met, and a map of Sky's journey.


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