By Anne-Laure Bondoux
Blaise Fortune lives with Gloria. The story as Blaise knows it is that when he was a baby he and his mother were on a train that crashed. Gloria came running to the scene of the accident and found Blaise and his mother. His mother was injured and asked for Gloria to take care of her baby, Blaise. Gloria and Blaise live together from that moment on and when Blaise is only seven years old the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria feels that she and Blaise must leave the country. The two head for France and over a five-year period they travel across Europe. Blaise learns secrets about his past and grows into a young man in this coming of age story filled with hope, suffering, and discovery.
Why I picked it up: I picked up this book for an assignment, but being a fan of historical fiction I really enjoyed it!
Why I finished it: When Blaise’s life story starts revealing itself this book is impossible to put down.
I’d give it to: Anyone who enjoys historical fiction!
I’d give it: 4 stars
Reviewed by: Lauren (Haggard Library)
From the cover: “Coming of Age…In a Hospital Bed”
I love this catching tagline from the front cover of this novel set in the 1940’s about 16 year-old Marie Claire who contracts Tuberculosis, and is sent to a sanatorium.
Why I picked it up: A new non-fiction book was written about Tuberculosis, and as I was looking at it, a co-worker suggested that I read this fictional book.
Why I finished it: I loved this story because although Marie Claire and other teenagers at the sanatorium are learning to cope with their disease, they are also dealing with normal teenage issues.
If you are interested in learning more about Tuberculosis, check out this new non-fiction book:
Invincible Microbe By: Jim Murphy and Alison Blank
I’d give it to: Anyone looking for a good story about friendship.
I’d give it:
Reviewed by: Kim (Parr Library)
Title: Sisters of Glass
Author: Stephanie Hemphill
Maria and Giovanna are the daughters of a glassblowing family on the island of Murano, in 15th century Italy. Maria, the younger daughter, is uncomfortable with her father’s dying wish that she, and not her sister, should marry a nobleman. Maria is a talented artist and would rather work as a glassblower, while her sister Giovanna is better suited for the life of a Venetian lady. When Luca, a young glassblower, is hired by the family, Maria finds herself drawn to him. She wonders if she might be able to find a way to control her own destiny. This novel in verse is filled with beautiful imagery and drama. Fans of historical fiction and verse will enjoy this short novel.
Why I picked it up: I love novels in verse and I enjoy historical fiction, so this seemed like my type of book.
Why I finished it: I wanted to find out what would happen to each of the sisters. I felt bad for each of them because they had so few options. Their lives were already planned for them from a very young age.
I’d give it to: Teen girls so they could see that they have so many options and they are lucky to be living in the twenty-first century in America.
Star Rating: Three stars
Reviewer: Renee (Parr library)
Bound by Donna Jo Napoli
Why did I choose it:
Some time ago, after reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, I became interested in learning more about the 19th century Chinese tradition of binding the feet of young girls as a means to allow them to marry into money. In addition to that I have always had an interest in fairy tales, especially those that are retold or updated. I picked up this book because, lucky for me, it contained both of these elements.
Why did I finish it:
I was curious to compare and contrast elements of Napoli’s telling of this familiar tale with Charles Perrault’s version
As in traditional Cinderella stories, Bound is about a young girl who has been left to the mercy of her stepmother after the death of her father. As the story goes Xing Xing’s cruel stepmother treats her much like a slave and is unconcerned about her future.
To help secure her own and her daughter’s future the stepmother binds her daughter’s feet in the hopes that by doing so she will be more likely to marry well. When Wei Ping’s botched, bloody foot binding leaves her perilously unwell, it is Xing Xing who is ordered by her stepmother to locate the itinerant healer and bring him back to their village. This is a difficult task for Xing Xing requiring ingenuity, resourcefulness and, as fairy tales go, a lot of luck. And yes, there is a ‘fairy’ godmother of sorts in this story as well as slippers and a prince.
Since most of us are familiar with the story of Cinderella I won’t reveal any more of Xing Xing’s story except to say that Napoli’s version has many interesting and unique elements.
Who would I recommend it to:
Existing fans of Alex Finn, Jane Yolen, or Donna Jo Napoli will enjoy this book as well as anyone also interested in reading fairy tale retellings containing elements of other cultures and traditions.
If anyone is also interested in the history of fairy tales a little side note worth mentioning is that I read somewhere that the tale of Cinderella actually originated in China.
I’d give it: 3 stars
Reviewer: donnav (Haggard Library)
Title: When Molly Was a Harvey Girl
Author: Frances M. Wood
From the book jacket:
When Molly’s father dies, it’s up to her nineteen-year-old sister Colleen to keep a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, there’s not much money left, and even fewer options. She dresses thirteen-year-old Molly—luckily, Molly’s tall—in women’s clothing (even a corset!) and applies for jobs for both of them at the Harvey Eating Houses, which feed the popular Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
To Molly’s dismay, the plan works!
She finds herself far away from her friends and her almost-sweetheart back home, smack dab in the heart of the Wild West.
But Molly has a plan…
Why I picked it up: It was recommended to me by a co-worker, who knows that my favorite genre is historical fiction.
Why I finished it: This book had a little bit of a slow start, but once Molly and her sister arrived at the Harvey House Molly’s antics and the dynamic between all of the workers and people who visited the Harvey House made for an interesting story. Plus, I had to know if Molly’s efforts to get back to her home town would work out or if she would come to accept and enjoy her new life at the Harvey House.
Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the book which includes a short history of Wood’s great-grandmother, who was a real Harvey girl, as well as several photos of the Raton Harvey House in 1894.
Who I would give it to: Anyone who loves historical fiction.
Star Rating: Four stars
Reviewer: Kim (Parr Library)
In June of 1941, World War II was raging across the world and Lithuania was no exception. The Soviet Union was under the rule of Stalin and he and his secret police were arresting Lithuanian families and sending them to death camps and labor camps. Lina had heard these stories of families disappearing or being hauled away, but she thought they must have deserved it. They wouldn’t take her family because they had done nothing wrong. But on June 14, 1941 Lina found out she was very wrong. The NKVD arrested Lina, her younger brother, and her mother. Her Papa was missing. They were sent to work in Siberia during a harsh winter. They were given nothing but driftwood and meager rations to help them survive. Would Lina and her family’s love and spirit be enough to keep them alive in the woods of Siberia with the NKVD always watching and waiting?
Why I picked it up:I really enjoy historical fiction set during World War II and I was expecially excited to see a book discussing Lithuania, Stalin, and the NKVD. The Holocaust is written about so often that I thought it was refreshing to hear other stories of hardship, struggle, and survival.
Why I finished it:I have read this book twice now and I absolutely love it! I read it once for a class that I am taking and again just because I loved it so much! It’s one of those books you just can’t put down because you have to know what happens to the main character.
I’d give it to:Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or those interested in World War II.
I’d give it:5 stars
Reviewed by: Lauren (Haggard Library)
by J. Anderson Coats
By Elizabeth Wein
“Verity,” a female spy during World War II, gets caught and detained by the Nazi Gestapo. This book contains her written confession and mission details she agreed to write down for them while she is imprisoned. She also interweaves a touching story of friendship with the female pilot, Maddie. I am actually having a hard time writing a summary for this book, because I really don’t want to give too much away. So… just trust me and check it out!
Why I picked it up: I really do not read historical fiction very often, so when I first heard about this book, I was not super interested in reading it. But then I kept hearing about this epic story of friendship, and I decided to give it a go. I’m SO glad I did.
Why I finished it:The story sucked me in immediately. Elizabeth Wein writes beautifully, and the voice of Verity was so real and her personality so alive that I started wishing she was my best friend. And then of course I just had to know what would happen to her
I’d give it to: older teens and adults interested in WWII or women working in traditionally male roles.
I’d give it: 5 stars! (And I very rarely give 5 stars, so it’s kind of a big deal.)
Reviewed by: Nina (Harrington Library)
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
Arn is 11 when things begin to change. War comes to Cambodia and all the people in his village are ordered to walk. They walk into a work camp, where for over 2 years, Arn is split up from his family and plants rice. He and the other people at the work camp are given very little food, and if they go to “the mango grove,” they don’t come back.
When Arn is chosen to learn to play an instrument to learn patriotic songs for the new government, his becomes a little bit of a “star,” but soon realizes the music is punishment of another sort…it drowns out the sound of prisoners’ skulls being hit with an ax before being pushed into a mass grave. His horrific journey continues when the Vietnamese invade and children are given weapons to defend themselves. Why does he live and others don’t? Arn wonders. He will find out.
Why I picked it up: This author writes unflinchingly about events and issues such as sex trafficking and the Iraq war and now this, the Killing Fields of Cambodia. She puts a personal story to the history, and I admire her for taking on these topics.
Why I finished it: It’s a compelling, true story of a boy who survived the genocide in Cambodia. The author chose to write in the fractured-English voice of Arn, so the book is very immediate and hard to put down. I read it in one sitting.
I’d give it to: Everyone…it’s tough to read, but it’s history and teens should know about this part of history. The book would pair well with Between Shades of Gray. I’d also highly recommend McCormick’s previous book, Sold.
I’d give it: 4 stars
Reviewed by: Ramarie (Haggard library)
Title: Stealing Freedom
Author/Artist: Elise Carbone
Why I picked it up: I picked up the book, because it is based on a true story, which, to me, makes the story even more interesting.
Why I finished it: I finished this book, because the moment I pick up and read a book, it is my habit to see the story through and know the ending.
I’d give it to: I’d give this book to my young cousins to inspire them about a girl’s perilous journey to “steal” back her freedom.
Star rating: 5 stars
Reviewer: Huy Dang (Plano teen)