Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

That Smudge of Smoke

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

That Smudge of Smoke (Bealu Books, October 1, 2023*) by Edith M. Hemingway is such a good historical read. This story connects two different time periods, 1929 and 2015–via a diary hidden in a door salvaged from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat–and two twelve-year-olds dealing with life changes.

In 1929, Penelope Sinclair (Piper) has tragically lost her mother and has to go live aboard the steamboat, S.S. City of Atlanta, with her father, the busy captain of the ship. Her teacher gives her the diary to encourage her to keep writing. We get to be with Piper through all her grief and experiences on board until there’s a collision with another steamer.

Eighty-six years later, we pick up with Garrett Stevens, whose injured Army Sergeant dad is in a coma. Garrett and his mother have had to move in with his grandparents. When Garrett slams a door in anger, a panel pops off and there’s the hidden diary. Somehow, reading Piper’s experiences helps him through his own.

The story shares events and books from Piper’s life in 1929 as well. The salvaged door from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat is real, which is very cool in itself. Plus, this book gives readers hope.

You can check out the author’s other books here and read about her and the real door here.

(*I got to read an arc–the book is officially out next week.)

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Last of the Name

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I’m continuing reading historical mg novels with the really good Last of the Name (Carolrhoda Books, 2019) by Rosanne Parry.

Twelve-year-old Daniel O’Carolan and his sixteen-year-old sister Kathleen have lost so much. First their father, then brothers and mother, and now Granny on their way from Ireland to America. To survive, Danny must pretend to be a girl and hire on with Kathleen as housemaids. But he has to be himself sometimes and slips away early mornings in his rightful clothes and sings and dances. Can he keep his secret? And the job? He and Kathleen have to stay together. But it seems their troubles in Ireland have followed them to America.

This book is set in 1863 New York City, during the Civil War, and the terribly sad draft riots. You’ll meet immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Germany, plus black freedmen, and everyone is trying to find or keep a job.

In the back of the book you’ll find book partners–other books from the time period. Read more about that here. I definitely understand some more of the issues than I did before (such as Irish Catholics and English Protestants.)

Go here to see what books Rosanne likes to read.

I’ve recommended several of her other books here as well: a YA and another mg.

Posted in Award Winners, MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Badger Knight

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
badgerkBadger Knight (Scholastic Press, 2014) by Kathryn Erskin may be historical since it is sent in England 1346, but it definitely isn’t boring. I found the book hard to put down as I experienced life with the main character.
13-year-old Adrian isn’t content to be small and sickly–he’s going to be an archer. And help in the war against the Scots, or at least become an apprentice bowyer to his father. But no one–not his father or his friend Hugh and especially Good Aunt–think he’s much use beyond collecting goose feathers to fletch arrows. The village bullies call him Badger since he puts dirt under his eyes to dim the brightness of his white face when shooting arrows. Adrian claims the name Badger himself when he goes to help his friend Hugh in the war.
This book is a 2014 Junior Library Guild Selection–you won’t want to miss reading it! And isn’t the cover gorgeous?
Adrian isn’t the only traveler–so’s Kathryn. See her bio!
I have a review of another of Kathryn’s books here: Mockingbird.

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Finding Family

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

Family Story with Photographs

Finding-FamilyIn Finding Family (Bloomsbury, 2010) by Tonya Bolden we get to see the characters grow and change in this historical middle grade novel set in 1905 Charleston, West Virginia. Author Tonya Bolden was Inspired by old pictures to create the story. Here’s a brief summary:
12-year-old Delana is being raised by a great aunt and her grandpa. Aunt Tilley loves visiting kinfolk by pulling the pictures out of a basket. But Aunt Tilley has been scattered lately and changing stories. Grandpa doesn’t say much and Delana thinks he doesn’t love her, so when Aunt Tilley dies, she wants to go home with various family members, not that she’s brave enough to tell them.
See what else the author has written on her website. As for me, I’m planning to check out some of her nonfiction!

Posted in MG Novels, So Many Good Books

Selling Hope

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

SellingHopeSelling Hope (Feiwel and Friends, 2010) by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb is one of those fascinating stories with characters so real you want to meet them. Here’s an introduction:
It’s 1910 and 13-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father, a philosophical/talkative magician, are part of a vaudeville group. The group is going back to Chicago, her home town, and Hope wants to stay and in fact does things that could contribute to her father getting fired to ensure staying. Meanwhile, she knows she has to save up enough money for them to live on for a while and comes up with the scheme of selling anti-comet pills as people are afraid of Halley’s Comet that will be passing by the earth.
The story includes a countdown to the arrival of the comet. It was fun learning inside knowledge on how some tricks work, and reading about their life on the train and in boarding houses. This author did her research! Great way to learn some history as well as being entertained.
Check out Kristin’s other book, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different on her website. On her About page, check out what makes her tick or ticks her off!