Friday, November 4, 2011

History Ain't Bunk, Mr. Ford

Poor Guy Fawkes
Ready for possibly the wackiest post ever to be posted on Project Mayhem? Good. Here goes:

Question: What event is celebrated in Great Britain on November 5th?
Answer: The discovery of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.

If you got that right, you're probably either British or a history whiz. Yup, November 5th (tomorrow) is celebrated in my homeland as the day when Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators were foiled. Fawkes was executed and for centuries now we've been whooping it up with bonfires, effigies, and fireworks.

Ain't history grand? (Mr. Henry Ford didn't think so; hence the title of this post. He thought history was more or less bunk--one of the only quotations I remember from my history classes. Good capitalist that he was, he thought everyone should live in the present.)

Which is a roundabout way of introducing what this post is really about: the wealth of historical fiction in middle grade. In my reading as a Cybils judge this year, I've read novels which take place in Ancient Rome (Most Wanted), 1880s Texas (Crosswire), The South African Boer War (Stones For My Father), and California in the 1940s (Sylvia and Aki).

But don't just take my word for it. I've asked (okay, begged) a few of my blogging buddies to add to my collection of historical titles.If you have a moment, pay a visit to these great bloggers and their blogs. (I met most of them through Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.)
First off, Natalie Aguirre of Literary Rambles: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. "He really did a good job nailing Bud's voice. And I loved that it was set in Michigan--Flint and Grand Rapids--since I live in Michigan. It was in the depression and I really enjoyed Bud's journey looking for who he thought was his dad."

Robyn Campbell @ Putting Pen to Paper, Fever 1793: "This story grips me every time I read it. The weight of Laurie's descriptions makes me want to grab my germ-x to kill the yellow fever bacteria. The most striking aspect is watching how even family members abandon their loved ones at the first sign of the fever, going so far as to lock their doors to anyone at the mercy of this dreaded disease. Mattie isn't like that. She is super courageous. During the height of the epidemic she and others bring food to the sick and even go as far as to change their beds. From the swarming mosquitoes to yellow eyes Fever 1793 captivates you the entire time immersing you into Mattie's world. This book should be in everyone's TBR pile."

Joanne Fritz @ My Brain On Books: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. What's unusual about this book is the two very different storylines taking place in the same small town in Kansas, one in 1918 during World War I and one in 1936 during the Depression. The way the stories converge near the end will leave you in tears. This isn't just a story about a 12-year-old girl named Abilene Tucker. It's the story of an entire town and its people, people from many different ethnic backgrounds who learn to work together to avert a crisis. Why did I love it so much? As I said in my blog post about it from 2010 Moon Over Manifest is one of those rare novels that you want to start reading all over again the minute you finish it.

Barbara Ann Watson, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: I love it because it shows in a new way that the Revolutionary War was fought for the freedom of some but not all.

Brooke Favero @ Somewhere in the Middle Sounder by William H. Armstrong: "Sounder was my fave historical MG as a kid and the first book to make me cry (actual tears).

What a great bunch of historicals for a middle grade reader to sink his/her teeth into. Now it's your turn:
Come on, Project Mayhemites: What are your favorite historical MG novels, past or present?


  1. Everyone had such good choices. I don't read enough historical fiction but it's such a good way to read about other times while reading a good story. Thanks for posting this.

  2. I knew it! I knew it! I knew Britain celebrated a terrorist plot with fireworks -- or, rather, the foiling of a terrorist plot. (Patting self on back.)

    As for historical fiction, there is a ton of wonderful historical fiction for MG readers, and what's more -- MG readers LOVE historical fiction! I can tell you that for certain, having taught 23 years of 5th grade.

    So, WHY is historical fiction for YA readers so scarce? I can testify to that too, after having a YA historical on submission and hearing from editors that "Historical is a hard sell for teens." What happens in those intervening years to make history LESS interesting?

    Personally, I just don't get it.

  3. I don't see as much YA historical as I'd like, but one I really enjoyed was Open Wounds, by Joe Lunievicz.

  4. Great idea, Michael. You are thinking outside of that box! *waving*

    I love these choices. I'll have to read Bud, Not Buddy. Moon Over manifest is a fantastic read. Great picks everyone!

    And about the missing YA historical reads. I think writers just need to write some good historical YA. Write it and they will come.

    Poor, poor Guy Fawkes! And as to Henry Ford? Well, he went down in history. Ha!

  5. Well, you've named a few of mine above. Most recently, Moon Over Manifest. I LOVED reading that book. Another recent Historical MG I really liked was Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

  6. This brings back a lot of MG reading memories. Thanks all, for sharing your thoughts. I need to check some of these out!

  7. Let me add BLUE by Joyce Moyer Hostetter to the list. It's set in North Carolina during WWII and based on a true historical event...a polio epidemic.

  8. Did anyone mention THE ART OF KEEPING COOL, By Janet Taylor Lisle? Really great historical MG. It's a WWII novel, fantastic story!

  9. Oh, you didn't have to beg me! I adore MG historicals!! One YA historical I read recently is HARLEM SUMMER--funny and interesting all rolled in one. CHAINS, which I highlighted today is actually the first in a series, FORGE comes next, and ASHES is yet to come.

    I also loved FEVER 1793 and MOON OVER MANIFEST. THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE is amazing, as well as an older one titled THE GOLDEN GOBLET (Anciet Egypt) which my son reads again and again. My kids and I also love ALL of Christopher Paul Curtis's historicals. He writes with such sincerity and humor.

  10. I love Bud, Not Buddy too! All good choices tho.

  11. Thanks for the recommendations!

  12. I think my favorite is TO BE A SLAVE by Julius Lester, but I also love many of the ones listed here. I would also add ACROSS FIVE APRILS. :-)

  13. Ah, is that why British children say, "Penny for the Guy?"

    Thanks so much for including me, Michael. It was fun. Love everyone else's choices too.

    (Note to Diane, for YA historical: what about THE BOOK THIEF? And THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB? And ANNEXED? Come to think of it, these are all about WWII... unlike your own novel, WE HEAR THE DEAD, which of course you know I loved!)

  14. Thanks for sharing yours! HATTIE BIG SKY by Kirby Larson was and is a favorite of mine. And that could go MG to YA

  15. Well, I am not a big historical fiction fan in general, and my experience (12 years) as a junior high ELA teacher actually indicates girls like historical fiction more, and boys shy away from it when it comes to MG.

  16. @Joanne -- Aw, thanks! *blush*

    I am beginning to see more historical fiction slipping onto YA shelves, especially under the guise of steampunk. (Historical, with a wild card thrown in!)

  17. Oh, I love MG historical! Fever sounds great -- I've just gone and bought a copy online, I have to read it!

  18. @Dianne -- yes, yes, YOU should write a steampunk novel! (And I'm sorry I spelled your name wrong earlier - ACK!)

    Michael, I just thought of a classic historical MG I loved in fifth grade: CARRY ON, MR. BOWDITCH. Anyone ever read this?

  19. Joanne, yes! "Sail by ash breeze."

  20. Great post Michael! This is a fabulous list of historical mg fiction. cheers.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!