Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Rocklin, J. (2011). One day and one amazing morning on Orange Street. New York, NY: Amuelt Books.
2012 Beatty Award
Interest Level: 3-6
Reading Level: 5.2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subjects: Neighborhoods, Trees, Oranges, Friendship, Family Life, California

“The street I lived on was like a book of stories, all different, but bound together.” – The Memoirs of Ethel Finneymaker

One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street tells a story of friendship, struggle, illness, fear, anxiety, war, aging and sadness; all woven together in a cluster of individual plots centered around each character as they deal with the conflicts in their lives. The author tells of the power of friendship and courage, as each of the characters in the book come to find compassion, strength and hope, individually and together, the story unfolds with each separate plot coming together at the end of the story as the children and adults, using their own forms of conflict resolution, find a common bond that links them together forever under the shade and history of Orange Street’s lone orange tree. In the span of only a day and a half, the reader gets to know the children who grew up on Orange Street, those who live there now and those who once lived there, as well as the history of the tree that brings them all together. In telling the street’s history, we learn of the Great Depression and the Vietnam War and the toll they took on those who lived through them.

As the story opens, we discover each character’s struggle within their families, and we are introduced to a mysterious stranger who shows up early the first morning parked near the orange tree and empty lot, and of that ominous orange cone in front of the lot on the sidewalk. Mrs. Snoops (Ethel Finnymaker) called by that name because she is perceived to snoop on everyone on Orange Street, is alarmed by the orange cone across the street and calls 911 to report a crime, one that has yet been committed. She knows something is up, as does everyone else as the day progresses. Overwhelmed by their own problems, however, the characters go about the first day on Orange Street just trying to resolve the conflict they are confronted with.

In the time span of a day and a half, we learn of the struggles of each resident of Orange Street. Mrs. Snoops, the keeper of Orange Street’s history, who suffers from memory loss and the effects of aging. Bunny Perkins, a quirky, oversensitive little girl, plagued by rituals and superstitions that she believes she must continue to practice in order to prevent her mother from dying in a plane crash on one of her many business trips. Leandra Jackson is worried about her grandfather who wears a pacemaker after a heart attack and of the news that her parents are having another baby. She has fears she will no longer be important and special. Ali, whose brother can’t speak since having surgery for a tumor on his brain, she is afraid he will never be able to talk or walk or be the same again. Robert Green, a loner, feeling different than the others, has been told he is developmentally and emotionally slow. He spends his days trying to impress the other children with magic tricks in a painful effort to fit in. To make matters worse, his best friend has just moved half way around the world and he misses him. We learn of a few other residents of the street, as well as Ruff, the dog, and finally the mysterious stranger, a past resident of Orange Street whose father died in the Vietnam War. We learn of all of these very special characters, as they make their way through the pains and joys of growing up. They come together, around the fragrant and historical Valencia orange tree, each of them with memories of the tree and how it bonds them together forever. This is a story of hope, of courage, of learning to work together to make a difference, in each of their lives and on the street they have come to love.

The story is easy to read, threaded with emotion and history. The story is told in third person, although it is never quite clear who is telling the tale, it almost seems as though the narrator is the orange tree itself, as it tells the story from a unique position on the street; an empty lot among all of the houses. Readers will come to care about each child who grew up there and feel moved by each story. Although there is sadness, how each life touches the others, and how the children all come together at the end as they find resolution to their troubles, the reader is left with a sense of love, peace, and joy. Although primarily written for a younger tween audience, One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street would be a delight for all readers, boys and girls alike. It is a nicely paced story, with aspects of historical fiction. And for those who enjoyed books such as Pie by Sarah Weeks about a secret pie recipe, a cat, and a community that must work together, or The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson about 57 Japanese girls that came to America as a gesture of friendship between their countries, the story shares of their experiences as well as the loss of 13 of them.

Avi. (1990). The true confessions of Charlotte Doyle. New York, NY: Avon.
1991 Newbery Honor
1991 ALA Notable Children’s Book
1991 Library of Congress 100 Books for Children
ALA Notable Children’s Book
Interest Level: 5-8
Reading Level: 5.3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subjects: Murder, Sea Travel, Action and Adventure, Gender, Liverpool (UK), Rhode Island (USA), Atlantic Ocean

“Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.”

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, tells the tale of thirteen-year-old Charlotte Doyle and her journey across the Atlantic from her school in England to her home in Rhode Island, United States. Charlotte is scheduled by her father to travel on the Seahawk, a cargo ship, and discovers once aboard that the two other families that were to accompany her on the voyage had cancelled. As the journey begins, Charlotte is alone, out of her element, the only lady, and aware that her presence is unwanted by the crew. Yet, one crewmember, Zachariah, an older African man that serves as the ship’s cook and surgeon offers his wisdom to Charlotte, advices her not to trust Captain Andrew Jaggery and even offers her a dagger for her protection. She is appalled by Zachariah’s disrespect for her and the captain and wants neither his friendship nor his dagger, but, in time, she will need both.

When Charlotte meets Captain Jaggery, she instantly views him in the same light as her father, a gentleman and adores the time she spends with him. During their daily teas and dinners he encourages her to befriend the crew so as to be a good role-model when in actuality he is manipulating her to spy on his behalf. When Charlotte overhears that the crew intends rebel, she immediately tell Captain Jaggery, and after he stops the mutiny chooses to severely punish Zachariah, the second closest person Charlotte has as a friend on the Seahawk and informs the crew that his punishment is the fault of Charlotte who told him of their plans. Now, as Charlotte feels betrayed, depressed, and lonelier then when she first came upon the ship, she chooses to join the crew and fulfill the duties of Zachariah who’s presumed dead. The crew eventually accepts her as their own which in turn infuriates the Captain. Still traveling to America, and Charlotte enjoying her new life as a member of the crew, a hurricane changes everything. During the storm, the first mate is found dead, and not by the storm, but rather murdered with the dagger Zachariah had given Charlotte, thus, she is accused of murder by the captain and awaits her punishment, a sentence of death by Captain Jaggery.

Charlotte discovers that Zachariah is hiding in the brig. In attempt to save Charlotte he attempts to overtake the ship once again, and in the battle Captain Jaggery is thrown overboard. Surprisingly, with no one to take charge, the crew names Charlotte as their new captain. She captains the ship for a very brief time before arriving in America where she is once again reunited with her family. They observe the obvious physical changes from her voyage, her calloused hands from hard labor, trousers suitable for a sailor, and her short boyish haircut. Though she tells her parents of her adventure, none believe it to be true, she is forced to resume her high-class gentlewoman life but as she find that no longer desirable, Charlotte runs away to her new home as captain of the Seahawk.

It’s amazing how we see the courage and strength unfold during the course of the story with Charlotte. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is a sweet, suspenseful action packed adventure story from beginning to end with more than enough surprising twist and outcomes. Charlotte is a strong female role model that many girls may dream to be like. This is a book may be enjoyed reading multiple times. Usually read for school curriculum, approximately 7th grade, and as an adult re-reading the novel gives a sense of empowerment and reassurance that even adults can still overcome any obstacle they face. Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle is truly a delight and an inspiration for all of those that read it, tween girls and boys alike. A book where anything and everything you wouldn’t expect to happen does. Readers that enjoy strong female roles, characters who chose to decide their own fate, willing to risk everything for their happiness and dream, as well as historical fiction will also enjoy reading Chains (2008) by Laurie Halse Anderson about a young female teenage slave that spies for the rebels during the revolutionary war in hope for her freedom, or Newsgirl (2009)by Liza Ketchum who dresses as a boy so as to make a living selling newspapers to support her family after moving to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

Hara, T. (Producer), & Takahata, I. (Director). (2012). Grave of the fireflies [Motion picture]. United States: Studio Ghibli Productions
Interest Level: YA
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subjects: World War II, Japan, Orphans, Siblings, Homelessness, Survival, Death, Grief
Format: Animated
Language: English, Japanese
Subtitles: English
Rated: Not Rated
Run Time: 89 minutes

A powerful antiwar film about two siblings who face despair as the war and their lives come to an end.

Grave of the Fireflies by Isao Takahata is a historical fiction war animation which succeeds at eliciting emotions from its viewers. The animation is stunning and forces its viewer to reflect on the importance of family and the non-combatant victims of war. Grave of the Fireflies was originally made in 1988. It is a coming of age story due to necessity of a young boy (approx. 12-14 years-old) that cares for and protects his little sister (approx. 4-6 years-old) in war stricken Japan. Regardless of all the loss, tragedy, and despair due to the horrors of war, this animation tests the love and loyalty of family.

The movie begins with the death of a young boy as his spirit which then joins another; a young girl that we come to learn is his sister.  The movie flashbacks to their home village that is attacked by fire bombs near the end of WWII. Teenage Seita and his younger sister Setsuko literally run for their lives as they view mass destruction, death, and hysteria. Now homeless and left on their own while their father is away serving in the Imperial Navy, these two find themselves unsure how they will survive and utterly frightened in their newly shattered world. Seita and Setsuko initially stay with their aunt who only adds to their misery as result of her lack of compassion and hatred for the children as their guardian due to the time commitments and financial responsibilities that she’s now been burdened with. Sieta decides that he and his sister will leave, fend for themselves, and make residence in a cave by a stream. Due to their ages and lack of funds, their meager resources are quickly exhausted. Seita resorts to stealing food for the sake of his sister, Setsuko, who eventually still dies from malnutrition and is buried by her brother in an unmarked grave. Sieta, now in the crowded railway station where the movie first began, broken hearted and his spirit broken, he collapses and dies.

Grave of the Fireflies is not for the faint of heart, but nonetheless an excellent historical fiction film. This animation is very sad and depressing as the viewer watches the siblings lose their parent, their home, attempt to live independently, the brother’s devotion and sole purpose in life entirely focused on keeping his fragile sister alive while the war still rages and food become more and more scarce. As the two children live on their own in a cave, the viewer will wonder if their hope is that of a child with some innocence still salvageable and not yet stripped from the war, or an impressive sense of hope and will for survival that helps maintain their spirits high regardless of the horrors surrounding them. The viewers will observe that one of their highlights are the nightly fireflies which are symbolic in their dark reality. Interestingly, Takahata combines the present and the past in this late WWII historical fiction animated story with the imagery beginning and ending in the train station. This is very poignant and emotional for the viewer to learn of the event that led to the young boy’s death. Initially knowing that the protagonist dies and then following the preceding events leading to his death suggests that children who, like Seika and Setsuko, die needlessly in wars they neither fought nor understood. The film is unrated and not suitable for young children and should be cautiously chosen if being shown to early tweens due to the violence and emotionally intense material. The message of Grave of the Fireflies is simple; innocent civilians suffer as much as or more than the combatants, and triumphs as it displays the bounds of the human spirit amidst brutal and horrifying experiences.

Films such as Grave of the Fireflies may easily be used for WWII related course curriculum. The film was originally produced as a motion picture in Japan in 1988, is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, and has even been made into a live feature film with the same title. This film is as moving, unforgettable, and emotional as the film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas based off of the book by John Boyne or the novel The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.