I just finished Ruta Sepetys’ new book Salt to the Sea which I received as an ARC at ILA. It was amazing. As I poured over the historical notes in the book, I marveled at the dedication and know-how that it takes to create a masterful historical fiction book, and Ruta Sepetys is a master at it. I know that some of my students live and breathe for historical fiction and therefore thought a list of some of my favorite historical fiction chapter books would only be in order.
I have to start with the book that made me want to make this list; Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This book is a masterpiece, told in multiple perspectives and once again taking a little known event and giving it its proper place in history telling the tale of one of the largest maritime disasters in history that happened in 1945. The only unfortunate part is that this book is not released until February, 2016, but do yourself a favor and pre-order it now. I just did.
Ever since The False Prince, Jennifer A. Nielsen has been one of my favorite authors, so I was terribly excited when I read her new historical fiction novel A Night Divided about a young girl and her brother trying to reunite with their father in a divided Berlin. This book was a page turner and also offered an incredible glimpse of what life was like in East Berlin.
I have loved Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson for a few years, trying to pass it into the hands of as many students as possible. The story follows Hattie as she tries to prove up on her uncle’s homesteading claim. There was so much I didn’t know about the trials and tribulations of this time, I am so glad I read this book to teach me.
Although intended for a more mature reader, I did have a copy of The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow in my 5th grade library. This loose interpretation of the famous German Boxer Max Schmeling’s experiences after KristallNacht is one that a student declared the best book he had ever read. I don’t think I can give it a bigger recommendation than that.
Is it awful to admit that the reason it took me so long to read the incredible The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was because I didn’t like the cover? Oh when will I ever learn? This book is an amazing account of what it felt like to be a child in London during WWII and especially the children that were transported to the countryside to live with strangers for protection. A must add.
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool is a quirky book that grows on you as you as you read it. Students tend to not pick this one up by themselves, but once I have book talked it , it always finds it home with “that” kid that falls deeply in love with it.
I had the distinct honor of seeing Pam Munoz Ryan speak, and even play the harmonica, at ILA this summer and it only strengthened my belief that she is a genius. Echo, her latest book, is a masterpiece with three seemingly different stories woven together perfectly all surrounding WWII but in three very different places. I cannot wait to hand this to as many students as possible.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine was a Global Read Aloud finalist, need I say more? With its tale of two girls becoming friends in segregated Little Rock, I felt like I held my breath until the end of the story. I have used this for book clubs as well with much success.
It seems only fitting that I end with another Ruta Sepetys book Between Shades of Gray. A remarkable book that details the forcible relocation of Lithuanians that happened during WWII. Books like this are the reason historical fiction is so important to have for students.
I purposefully am trying to highlight newer books to me, but please do not forget about these amazing books as well that have already stood the test of time. Some of these include
I actually have a bit of hard time with Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Being born and raised in Denmark and having a grandfather that was a resistance fighter during the war, this book has taken something very hard in my country’s history and packaged it a little bit too neatly. However, it does give a taste of what Denmark was like during WWII, but certainly not the full story. If you have more mature readers, have them read The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Moose. That will give a much more comprehensive and astounding look at what really happened during World War II in Denmark.
So which ones have I forgotten?
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.