The Star That Always Stays (Holiday House, 2022) by Anna Rose Johnson is a fascinating historical novel set after the turn of the twentieth century. It’s based on the author’s ancestors and the book includes their photographs at the end.
Norvia Nelson had to leave her home on Beaver Island and move to the city. And now with her mother remarrying she must not tell anyone she’s part Indian. Her dream is to go to high school. Will she fit in? Especially when people discover her parents are divorced? But more importantly, will she ever be happy?
What an interesting look at the culture of the times. I love the stories Grand-père and the two Marys tell of Norvia’s Obijwe heritage, and how the Ward family encourages Norvia in her Christian faith. There are great themes in this story–adapting to a blending family, prejudice, friendship, love. The novel has chapters set in previous times in Norvia’s life to show what has happened in the past.
This is the author’s first book–Wow! Anna Rose Johnson is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Learn more about her here and check out the awards, lists, etc. for Anna’s debut book here.
Paperboy (Delacorte Press, 2013) by Vince Vawter is a compelling read. Look at the first three lines: “I’m typing about the stabbing for a good reason. I can’t talk. Without stuttering.”
This historical novel, set in 1959, is about an 11-year-old boy whose communication with others is difficult due to his stuttering problem, and so much more. Victor agrees to take on his friend’s paper route for the month of July. The throwing part will be fun. Talking to customers to collect, not so much. And he has no idea that giving his yellow-handle knife to the junkman to be sharpened is going to cause so much trouble.
This book was a 2014 Newbery Honor book. I’m so glad I didn’t miss reading it. There’s a sequel called Copyboy when Victor is older.
Read about the author here. And take a look at a blog post about other languages the book was published in here.
And another historical for you: Chasing Secrets (Wendy Lamb Books, 2015) by Gennifer Choldenko, who never disappoints. I still remember crying over Notes from a Liar and Her Dog.
It’s 1900 in San Francisco and thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy would rather be with her physician father than going to Miss Barstow’s finishing school. And even though Aunt Hortense doesn’t think it is appropriate she is interested in science, Lizzie goes whenever she can. But dead rats are appearing everywhere. Could the plague have arrived?
Besides secrets, the story involves mysteries, sneaking around, a new friend, danger, and more. Lizzie even learns a thing or two.
Check out Gennifer’s stupid author photos here or see her other books here. You’ll be glad you did.
I love learning about history via historical fiction–it just brings it alive. Is It Night or Day? (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010) by Fern Schumer Chapman is a recent discover for me. The book is inspired by the author’s mother’s experiences, who was one of twelve hundred children rescued from the Holocaust by Americans through the One Thousand Children project.
It’s 1938 and twelve-year-old Edith has to travel alone from Germany to America as the anti-Semitism is getting worse. She’ll be staying with family she’s never met in Chicago. Is that scary or what?
See if the opening lines of this book don’t just grab you: “The first long train trip I ever took in Germany was my last. Now I see that it was a funeral procession. The mourners traveling with me were my father, my mother, and Mina, a Christian girl who lived with my family and was as dear to me as my big sister, Betty. We were burying my childhood.”
The author creates such sympathy in the reader’s heart for Edith. Wow! It’s an unforgettable story and definitely a good read.
Read about Fern Schumer Chapman’s other books here.
I read Lucky Broken Girl (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017) by Ruth Behar before the announcement that Ruth won the well deserved 2018 Pura Belpré Author Award. This historical novel is based on the author’s own experience of being in a body cast for almost a year. One of the things this story set in the 60’s did for me was make me grateful for medical advancements.
Fifth grader Ruthie Mizrahi and her family have emigrated from Cuba. Hear her voice in the opening two lines: “When we lived in Cuba, I was smart. But when we got to Queens, in New York City, in the United States of America, I became dumb, just because I couldn’t speak English.”
However, Ruthie is a fighter and an encourager. She makes friends with another student who is from India who is also “not dumb.” She gets the teacher to agree to them both being promoted to the smart class. She’s also the hopscotch queen in her neighborhood and has even talked her father into a pair of go go boots.
But then the family is in a terrible car accident and Ruthie is put in a body cast. She is pretty discouraged–she’s alone so much and afraid. Surprisingly, in time her life improves. The question remains though: will she ever walk again?
Amazingly enough this is Ruth Behar’s debut novel. Ruth is also a cultural anthropologist. Read more about her here. And read about the other honors and lists, etc. for this book here.