Posts Tagged ‘Historical fiction’

Death coming up the hill

By Chris Crowe

ISBN 9780544302150

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing

It’s summer break on this side of the world at the moment and I’m on a bit of a roll reading verse novels and this one is another one to shout out loud about.

Written in the form of haiku, each syllable in this young adult book represents each “soul”  of the 16,592 American soldiers who died in Vietnam in the year 1968. Apart from the absolute hard work to produce these haiku, and keep the story flowing, the research and historical background is very much evident.

It’s 1968, and war is not foreign to seventeen-year-old Ashe. His dogmatic, racist father married his passionate peace-activist mother when she became pregnant with him, and ever since, the couple—like the situation in Vietnam—has been engaged in a senseless war that could have been prevented.

We are caught up in Ashe’s life, his fears, the impact of the Vietnam War, his parents marriage breakdown, and a time of strong racist actions. Ashe is loyal to his parents but he is soon faced with choices; choices that will change his life forever.  There is much political unrest with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Throughout it all, Ashe is worried he will be drafted to join the soldiers and fight.  Ashe and his girlfriend connect, both sharing the belief that peace is a far better option than war. A good insight to a different time with good solid characters with real flaws. I was completely drawn to Ashe and his situation. The format is easy to read and has a beauty with its mix of haiku and white space on the page. Very sobering numbers and facts. A powerful read.

We need books like this to remind us of the past and to keep moving forward towards peace, no matter who we are or where we live.

The language of fire: Joan of Arc reimagined

By Stephanie Hemphill

ISBN 9780062490117

Balzer + Bray

 

The Language of Fire is a lyrical, dark, and moving look at the life of Joan of Arc, who as a teen girl in the fifteenth century commanded an army and helped crown a king of France.

Most of us are aware to some extent of the story of Joan of Arc, perhaps we’ve seen movies or were taught about her in school, but here in this novel from Stephanie Hemphill we are inside the head of Joan and are privy to her thoughts.

Joan, or Jehanne as she is known, hears the voice of God who tells her to build an army and lead France to victory. Told as a novel in verse form, it is easier to capture the moments of doubt, dismay, fear and loneliness, but also success, that Joan feels. We feel it all with her, every step of the way.

As a young, illiterate peasant girl Joan struggles at first with the idea that God has spoken to her and commanded her to do his will. In time, she understands it is her destiny, and with grit and determination as a teenage girl in a man’s world, Joan takes up the challenge, knowing the price she will eventually pay.

I don’t tend to read historical novels but this was a very good read and I was right into the story of Joan and loved seeing her mature into the brave leader she became.

We know how things ended for Joan but it still hits you as a reader when you get to there but Joan was very courageous right up until the end. However, her fight was more than physically brandishing a sword. It was a fight to be understood and to be treated with respect; for women back in the 1400’s were easy prey for men with horrid intentions. A great read, if somewhat dark at times, but that is the reality of the life of Joan of Arc.

“I am just a lowly peasant girl.

Who am I to be chosen

to save France?

The idea is surely folly

fueled by my longing

to be more than I am.”

Bastion Point: 507 Days on Takaparawha

My New Zealand Story

By Tania Roxborogh

ISBN  9781775434795

Scholastic NZ

 

bastion

 

This is a moving account of the realities of life during the 1977 – 1978 occupation of Bastion Point. Erica Tito tells us just what it was like when her father uprooted the family and joined  protestors in Auckland. A protest that was only supposed to be a few days or weeks at most, turned in to 507 difficult and challenging days for everyone involved. The luxuries of normal life, like running water and electricity have been left behind and Erica even enrolls in the local school which brings a new set of problems.

As Erica realises their stay could go on for some time she becomes increasingly desperate to return home to her horse Silver. A horse she is working hard to pay off and make her own.

From the start there are clashes between the protesters, Nga¯ti Wha¯tua elders, police and politicians and we begin to see things from Erica’s point of view, which is both child and Maori. It is Erica’s voice we are hearing and through her eyes we see history happening.

I love how we see Erica’s growing understanding of the situation and the realisation that all of us are guilty of believing in stereotypes. I confess that there were things I just never knew or perhaps ignored, about the days of the Bastion Point occupation and through this novel I am forced to confront the truth and that is not always easy for anyone.

Author Tania Roxborogh provides us with a well thought-out and well researched novel aimed at year five and up. This is the latest in Scholastic’s My New Zealand series which highlights history through diary entries of young children.

I was so lucky to go to Tania’s book launch a few weeks ago. It was great to see her planning and her research and to know how hard she worked to get this right. And she did!

Teacher notes can be found here.

Belle epoque

By  Elizabeth Ross

What an intriguing book trailer. Love the sepia tones and the whole bohemian Parisian atmosphere.

It is a time when the city thrives on beauty, decadence and loose morals.

Maude Pichon runs away ending up in Paris. Life is not as she expected and she is soon desperate for work.

She takes a rather unusual job where she is hired to be a friend. The idea is that the wealthy can hire a plain friend making the wealthy instantly more attractive.

Maude is hired to befriend headstrong Isabelle, the daughter of Countess Dubern but Isabelle is not privy to this secret hired friend.

The whole idea of hiring friends is rather abhorrent but secrets always have a way of being found out. Deception and decadence sounds like a really good mix. I will be looking out for this one.

Changeling
By Philippa Gregory

Changeling is the first book in the new Order of Darkness series.
Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit her father’s estate. She is also accused of witchcraft and threatened with burning. Along comes seventeen-year-old Luca Vero who is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon and commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil. Together, and with new friends, Freize and Ishraq they journey into a world of werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers. An historical novel with mythical beliefs. Due out this month. Keep an eye out if you like historical novels with a twist.

Historical novels

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Secondary
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Fallen Grace
By Mary Hooper

Fraud, secrets, and intrigue all set in Victorian London. Grace and her sister are orphans with nothing to their name. An awful heartbreak sends Grace on a path that changes their lives forever.

Velvet
By Mary Hooper

Velvet is an orphan working as a laundress in Victorian London. That is until Madame Savoya takes her away from the harsh job. Madame Savoya is a medium but it is not long before Velvet realises things are not as they seem to be.

David

Posted: September 18, 2011 in Secondary
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David
By Mary Hoffman
Florence, the Renaissance, Michaelangelo, spies and murder all wrapped up in a thriller.
The statue of David was one of the main reasons I decided to travel – many years ago now.
Can’t wait to read Hoffman’s thriller.

The Apothecary

Posted: September 14, 2011 in Intermediate, Primary School
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The Apothecary
By Maile Mely

Great book if you like adventure, history and magic all rolled into one novel.
Janie and Benjamin are on the run trying to keep secrets, solve secrets and save the world.