Friday, November 4, 2011

MG Historicals = Love

When I was a student, I disliked history classes. They were like eating lima beans (and only lima beans) for supper. Even if you like lima beans (which I don't), that's a depressing meal. History was memorizing names, dates, and battles. Nothing stuck in my brain. Until I discovered historical fiction--which ties history to a story. And suddenly, when history became a story, it was fascinating.

Today, Michael Gettel-Gilmartin at Project Mayhem and several others (the links are located at Project Mayhem) are highlighting middle grade historical fiction, a fabulous way to cast a whole new light on history.

Of my many favorite middle grade historicals, one you need to read, is Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read it as an adult (it was published in 2008, and I've been an adult for, well, quite awhile), and even though it's written for middle graders, my perspective of the American Revolution was turned upside down. The Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, freed Americans, right? And the American Revolution secured that freedom, didn't it?

Wrong. The Declaration of Independence freed certain Americans. And the American Revolution secured that freedom for some Americans. If you were African American, your freedom didn't arrive until 1865.

While this is not news, the backdrop to this story makes you rethink history. Picture living through the American Revolution as a slave. Not only as a slave, but as a slave girl. This is the world you enter when you read Chains. Read it and you too will wonder: why didn't the American Revolution seek freedom for everyone in America? Read Chains and challenge your historical mirror.

Do you have a favorite middle grade historical?


  1. Hi Barbara,

    Thanks so much for helping me out. You did a fantastic job--and you bet I will be reading Chains after the Cybils is over.

    My 5-yr-old, Nicholas, is on my lap after waking early. He tells me he likes your blog header. "I want to walk in the sand too!" he said.

  2. This has been on my list for a while!

  3. I'll have to check this book out. Some of my favorite historical novels are Ann Rinaldi's books.

  4. I read Chains when it first came out, and it had me sobbing while reading on the treadmill! It's a powerful story, but a major cliff-hanger ending! Unfortunately, I wasn't drawn into the sequel, Forge, like I was with Chains, and I put it aside. But I'll try it again at some point because Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing.

  5. Gosh, I really need to read these books. I love everything else I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson.

    Well, you know I adore MOON OVER MANIFEST, but also THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE, BUD NOT BUDDY, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS, and anything by Elizabeth Speare, especially WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND.

  6. Thank you for other recommendations; I love learning about other historicals.

    Kristen Lenz, I found that with FORGE too, although I did stick it out, and I think what I missed was the power of Isabel's voice. I'm awaiting ASHES to see how Halse Anderson draws it all together.

    Joanne, love ALL those you mentioned and AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS is in my reading pile.

  7. I adore middle grade historical -- so hard to pick a favourite! I loved Smith by Leon Garfield as a kid, though boy, it scared me!

  8. Amie, I haven't heard of that one! Thank you.

  9. I've always associated history with the seriousness that comes with studying history for good grades in school. It took me a while to even take the chance on a YA historical and I've only started dabbling in MG historical thanks to you.
    So this lady here has a long way to go to find a favorite and she is grateful for all the recommendations in the comments :)


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