New Historical Fiction
Third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson lived at the plantation Monticello and kept slaves to work in his fields, farm and home. One of his slaves was a woman named Sally Hemings, mother to four of Jefferson's children - Beverly, Harriet, Maddy, and Eston. Though slaves, the children and their mother were given special treatment by Jefferson because of his discreet relationship to them - but nevertheless, slaves they remained.
Master Jefferson promises freedom to all four of his slave children upon their twenty-first birthdays, but Beverly, the eldest, cannot imagine leaving his mother, sister, brothers - but especially his father. Light-skinned and longing for a father figure, Beverly struggles with the secrecy of Jefferson's nonpublic identity as his father, especially when Jefferson presents him and his brothers with a kit violin and lessons. He and his siblings imagine a life where his mother, siblings and father could live openly together as a real family; a life that did not involve waiting on Master Jefferson's real children, especially the snippy Miss Martha.
Based on true events at Monticello during the early 1800s, Jefferson's Sons is a slave tale of a different order, exploring slavery and racial issues from the fresh perspective of Jefferson's slave children. The novel is a welcome look into one aspect of post-revolutionary slave life in Virginia that explores the bonds of family and friendship.
Reading Level: Grades 7 and up
When Piotr's parents are killed he is is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. But Peter is Volksdeutscher, of German blood, and with his blonde good looks he is the image of a Hitler Youth. Newly christened Peter, he is grateful to escape the misery of the orphanage and to be accepted into the home of a prominent Nazi family. The friendly, jovial father is involved with research into racial purity. While Peter is never a strong supporter of Nazi doctrine, he finds that he is expected to participate in Nazi Youth organizations. As time passes he questions doctrine and rebels in small ways. Finally, though terrified, he helps the resistance.
While many books have been written about The Holocaust and this period of history, this is one of the few that explains the appeal of National Socialism. The author has obviously done extensive research into the experiments dealing with racial purity. This is a compelling thought-provoking novel.
Reading Level: Grade 5-7
Abby Shapiro is an eleven-year-old Jewish girl who desperately wants two things, her first bra and the hot new doll of 1959, the Barbie doll, the one with the bosoms! Her mom says no to the bra and that she can earn her own money to buy the doll. Abby comes up with the idea of designing clothes and sellling her fashion designs to Jackie Kennedy, the "possible future first lady of the United States. Thus Abby begins sending letters to "her friend in fashion."
The book is a lovely coming-of-age story with parts that are laugh out loud funny. Abby learns to deal with complications with her parents, her adored older brother, her gangster uncle, and her neighbors, the witch sisters. Through it all there's her letters to Jackie. A wonderful bonus is the glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew words and expressions.
Reading Level: Ages 3+
Originally published in 1959, this small book is sure to warm your heart. Stark black and white illustrations of a young cowboy contrast wonderfully with red drawings of imaginary wild animals, Indians, and outlaws that our hero must face. Great for any imaginative reader.
Reading Level: Grades 6+
Doug Swieteck and his lousy older brother just moved to a brand-new town that will be probably just as lousy as the old one - and with less baseball. And, just like in his old town, everyone who's anyone (teachers, the police, his dad, Lil Spicer down the street) thinks that Doug's just a skinny good-for-nothing kid who won't ever amount to anything except for trouble.
Despite Lil and Doug's initial dislike of each other, they begin to bond nonetheless. In his friendship with Lil, Doug manages to deal with his lousy situation, including his abusive father and older brother just back from Vietnam. Doug also finds solace in the public library's Audubon bird plates, first tracing the shapes and feathers with his fingers and then learning to draw them, with the help of a kind librarian.
Part laugh-out-loud, part tear-jerker, all American coming of age story, Okay For Now is not one to miss.