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Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Fiction Titles I’ve Read and Enjoyed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish to showcase book and help other book bloggers get to know each other better.  This week’s theme was supposed to be “Books I’d Play Hookie With” but I just couldn’t get into it, so I went a different route.

Did you know I was a history major in college?  Yes, its true!  I love learning about different time periods and thinking about what life must have been like during those particular times. I also really enjoy historical fiction, but I tend to read less of it than any other genre because it doesn’t circulate at my school.  I try to focus on reading those things that my students will check out, so I can be informed on their tastes.   Because of this I haven’t been able to read a lot of Young Adult or Middle Grades historical fiction, but I decided that I’d let you know which ones I have read and have enjoyed.  So, this week’s Top Ten is focused on ten Historical Fiction titles I’ve read and enjoyed (in no particular order).

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell BartolettiThe Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti 

Based on the true story of teenager Helmut Hubner, who dares to tell the truth about Hitler in a World War II Germany.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy BlundellWhat I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

A coming of age story of age story involving a girl and the scandal that surrounds her family’s vacation to Florida in a Post World War II United States.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack GantosDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (MG)

Part fiction and part memoir, Jack Gantos tells the story of one  strange, mysterious and humorous summer in his childhood.

Woods Runner by Gary PaulsenWoods Runner by Gary Paulsen (MG)

On the cusp of the American Revolution young Sam must rescue his parents when they are kidnapped by Red Coats.

Cross My Heart by Sasha GouldCross My Heart by Sasha Gould (YA)

A girl navigates life in Venetian society while trying to discover the secrets surrounding her sister’s mysterious death.

May B by Carolyn Starr RoseMay B.: A Novel by Carolyn Starr Rose (MG)

A girl struggling with dyslexia on the prairie is sent away to help a newlywed couple only to be abandoned in the middle of an extremely harsh winter.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'DellIsland of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (MG)

Karana is the Indian girl who lives alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins where she struggles to survive and undergoes personal discovery.

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and TR SimonZora and Me by Victoria Bond and TR Simon (MG)

A fictionalized tale of the childhood of writer Zora Neale Hurston in which she and her friends uncover a mystery in their hometown of Eatonville, Florida.

Billy Creekmore by Tracey PorterBilly Creekmore by Tracey Porter (MG)

An orphan boy  travels from the coal mines of West Virginia in the early 1900s to the world of a traveling circus, in search of his past, his future, and his own true identity.

The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner DubleThe Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble (MG)

The year is 1692 and witches have been found in Salem, Massachusetts.  Panic begins to spread to Abigail Faulkner’s town of Andover causing life  to quickly and  drastically change for Abigail and her family.

What do you think of the list?  I’m sure there are tons of historical fiction titles I haven’t read yet.  Do you have any recommendations for my future reading?

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Mystery and History: Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

I was pretty excited to read this mystery for many reasons.  First, Zora Neale Hurston is from Eatonville, Florida and so are many of my students. Second, the authors came to visit our school and talk to our students (which was awesome!).

Told through the eyes of Zora’s friend, Carrie, Zora and Me begins with the discovery of a dead body by the railroad tracks.  Zora, with her incredibly wild imagination believes that a dangerous shape-shifting gator man (from a local myth she read) is prowling the swamps around the town, feeding on the souls of men.  In order to stop more people from getting hurt, and possibly murdered, Zora, Carrie and their friend Teddy spend their time trying to solve the mystery.  The three friends have no idea what they’re in for as they get a peek into the hearts of men; hearts full of jealousy, deceit and betrayal.  Mystery and history wrapped into one! LOVE IT!

This is a fictionalized story about the childhood of Zora Neale Hurtson, famous writer of the Harlem Renaissance, and her time in Eatonville during the early 1900s.  This book is great for a lot of reasons.  First, the authors, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon grab the readers’ attention within the first few pages as Zora and her friends recount the death of a man by a local alligator. Way to get my students (and me!) hooked!  My students are usually not interested in reading historical fiction, but the authors manage to create a sense of immediacy that makes you want to find out what happens next. Second, I really enjoyed the way in which the authors imagined what Zora Neale Hurston might be like as a young girl.  Knowing her love for learning, people and story-telling they really fleshed out a character who is both believable and interesting.  Zora and Me encourages imagination as it helps readers think beyond the historical figure and wonder “what was that person really like?”.

I also appreciated (as a history major while in college) the fact that the authors didn’t shy away from discussing some of the more disturbing issues that were common in the early 1900s south.  Race and racism is brought up, as well as questions of class and “passing”.  I wasn’t sure how or if my students would really understand any of these concepts (especially the idea of racial “passing”), but they did pretty well and even asked the authors some good questions when they visited the school.

All in all,  this is an exciting historical mystery that younger teens will enjoy.  Some younger readers may have questions about some of the issues mentioned above (and the use of the “n” word- I say so since my students did), which is why I’d tell all parents to read this one too so your kids have someone reliable to answer their questions.