Thursday, December 6, 2018

Our #Holiday Shopping Guide: #KidLit Books for Historical Fiction Lovers

In plenty of time for the holidays, here are some of our group’s fabulous historical novels for middle grade kids – or any age!

The Eyes of Pharaoh, by Chris Eboch: When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?

The Eyes of Pharaoh, set in Egypt in 1177 BC, brings an ancient world to life. “Mid School students and their teachers will love this fast paced mystery that has so much history and culture hidden in plain sight…. You won’t be able to put the book down until you learn what happens to the three friends.”

The Well of Sacrifice, by Chris Eboch: Eveningstar Macaw lives in a glorious Mayan city in the ninth century. When the king falls ill and dies, the city begins to crumble. An evil high priest, Great Skull Zero, orders the sacrifice of those who might become king, including Eveningstar’s beloved brother. Suspicious of the High Priest’s motives, Eveningstar attempts to save her brother, thus becoming the High Priest’s enemy. Condemned to be thrown into the Well of Sacrifice, Eveningstar must find a way not only to save her own life but to rescue her family and her city from the tyrannical grasp of Great Skull Zero.

“[An] engrossing first novel….Eboch crafts an exciting narrative with a richly textured depiction of ancient Mayan society….The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable and determined heroine.” - Kirkus Reviews

The Genie’s Gift, by Chris Eboch: Shy and timid Anise determines to find the Genie Shakayak and claim the Gift of Sweet Speech. But the way is barred by a series of challenges, both ordinary and magical. How will Anise get past a vicious she-ghoul, a sorceress who turns people to stone, and mysterious sea monsters, when she can’t even speak in front of strangers?

The Genie’s Gift is a lighthearted action novel set in the fifteenth-century Middle East, drawing on the mythology of The Arabian Nights.

The Wind Called My Name, By Mary Louise Sanchez: Some days, ten-year-old Margarita Sandoval feels as if the wind might blow her away. The country has been gripped by the Great Depression, so times are hard everywhere. Then she has to leave her família in New Mexico -- especially her beloved Abuelita -- to move to Fort Steele, Wyoming, where her father has taken a job on the railroad.

When Margarita meets Caroline, she's excited to have a friend her own age in Wyoming. But it often seems like Caroline, like many other people in town, doesn't understand or appreciate the Sandovals' Hispanic heritage. At the same time, the Sandovals discover that Abuelita might lose her home unless they can pay off her tax bill. Can Margarita keep her friend, help her family in New Mexico, and find a place in Fort Steele for good? Learn more at or her Amazon page.

After the Ashes, by Sara K Joiner: Katrien lives on Java in the Dutch East Indies in 1883. She is determined to prove Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Unfortunately, nothing causes her Aunt Greet more angst than Katrien crawling around the muddy jungle collecting bugs in the name of science―and in the company of a native boy, no less! If only Katrien would take an interest in running a household and making friends with other girls. But Katrien has no interest in changing, especially if it means socializing with the likes of mean Brigitta Burkhart.

Then, one stifling afternoon, Katrien’s world turns upside-down when the nearby volcano Krakatau erupts with a terrifying blast. For days, a deathly ash rains down on the Javan coast. Amidst the chaos, Katrien knows her only hope of survival is to flee the jungle with the one person she vowed she’d never befriend.

Learn more at Sara K Joiner‘s website or Amazon.

More young adult than middle grade, but definitely worth a read – Bull Rider, by Suzanne Morgan Williams: Cam O’Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull-riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks—frontside flips, 360s—means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury. What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, could the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother?

Bull Rider, set during the Iraq War, is a Junior Library Guild Selection, is on state award lists in Texas, Nevada, Missouri, Wyoming, and Indiana, and won a Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City. 

Suzanne’s nonfiction titles include Pinatas and Smiling Skeleton. The Inuit, Made in China, and China’s Daughters. Visit her website or Amazon page.

The Amethyst Road, by Louise Spiegler: In a society similar to ours in some ways and very different in others, 16-year-old Serena and her older sister, Willow, struggle to get by in a tough, crime-infested urban neighborhood. By birth they are half Yulang, half Gorgio, but are accepted by neither race. The sisters get no help from the Yulang, because Willow’s child was born out of wedlock and the family has been declared outcast. The Gorgios are even worse, trying to take the child away. A run-in with social services launches Serena on a journey that is at once an escape and a quest to reunite her family.

With the help of a boy named Shem, who is on a quest of his own, Serena travels deep into the mountains, where precious gems are mined, and across barren plains, where white-clad Trident Riders are terrorizing anyone who is not Gorgio. Along the way, Serena finds the answers she seeks—and some she didn’t even know she was looking for.

The Amethyst Road, a fantasy set in an alternative Pacific Northwest, was a Junior Library Book selection, a New York Library Book for the Teen Age and a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (Hugo-Nebula Award Scheme) among other honors.

The Jewel and the Key, by Louise Spiegler: An earthquake and the discovery of a mysterious antique mirror unleash forces that jolt sixteen-year-old Addie McNeal back to 1917 Seattle, just as the United States is entering World War I. Addie finds herself shuttling back and forth between past and present, drawn in both times to the grand Jewel Theater. In both decades the existence of the Jewel is threatened and war is looming … and someone she cares about is determined to fight.

Eventually, Addie realizes that only she has the key to saving the Jewel—and the lives of her friends. But will she figure out how to manipulate the intricately woven threads of time and truly set things right?

To learn more about Louise Spiegler and to see examples of class-plans to accompany the books, visit her website. You can also find the books on her Amazon page.

The Young Inventors Guild series, by Eden Unger Bowditch: The Atomic Weight of Secrets is set in 1903. Five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

An amazing story about the wonders of science and the still greater wonders of friendship, The Atomic Weight of Secrets or the Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black, the first book of theYoung Inventors Guild trilogy, is a truly original novel. Young readers will treasure Eden Unger Bowditch’s funny, inventive, poignant, and wonderfully fun fiction debut.

The Ravens of Solemano: It has been mere days since the brilliant children of the Young Inventors Guild slipped through the fingers of the horrible Komar Romak. They have escaped with their lovely and caring schoolteacher, Miss Brett; with their long-absent parents; and with their bizarre captors, or protectors, or both – the Mysterious Men in Black. Now they are traveling by train, destined for parts unknown.

But a note in the hands of a dead man in a New York tunnel guarantees that safety is but an illusion. When the children’s world is blown open, life will never be the same again.

From the rolling plains of America to the wide-open waters of the Atlantic, through the Strait of Gibraltar to the remarkable village in the hills of Abruzzo, Italy, The Ravens of Solemano or The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black, is an adventure like no other.

Get ready for Christmas with Jingle Night: A Christmas Story, part of The Anderson Family Chronicles by Jennifer Bohnhoff: Christmas is on its way, and despite Mom's attempts to eggnog and carol everyone into the holiday spirit, no one in the Anderson family is feeling it. Chloe, Hec’s drama queen older sister, won't be happy until she can be the angel of death in the holiday play. Hec’s younger brother Calvin is left speechless when his obnoxious puppet, Mr. Buttons suffers a tragic accident. Stevie can only remember four words from the song he must sing at the Little Leapers Preschool Pageant. And only the perfect tree and the perfect string of lights can lighten Dad's mood. In spite of being loaded down with homework, Hec and his best buddy Eddie embark on a madcap plan to save Christmas. Only a giant white bear stands in the way of his plans to convert the jingle in his pocket into presents under the tree.

You'll also want to pick up Tweet Sarts: A Valentine's Day Story, for next year!

On Fledgling Wings, by Jennifer Bohnhoff: Nathaniel Marshal is a bully with a short temper and an empty place in his heart left by the mother who disappeared when he was a baby. The spoiled boy can’t wait to leave boring Staywell and begin training so he can become a knight like his father, the cold and distant Sir Amren. But when he arrives at Farleigh, he finds himself in a place of death and danger.

Set in the period of Richard the Lionheart, this is a coming of age story about a boy who must confront issues that many modern boys will recognize: the need to control one’s temper and destiny, the quest for acceptance, the desire for fitting in, and the awakening of love.

The Bent Reed: A novel about Gettysburg, by Jennifer Bohnhoff: It’s June of 1863 and Sarah McCoombs feels isolated and uncomfortable when her mother pulls her from school and allows a doctor to treat her scoliosis with a cumbersome body cast. She thinks life can't get much worse, but she's wrong.

Physically and socially awkward, 15-year-old Sarah thinks her life is crumbling. She worries about her brother Micah and neighbor Martin, both serving in the Union Army.  She frets over rumors that rebel forces are approaching the nearby town of Gettysburg. When the McCoombs farm becomes a battle field and then a hospital, Sarah must reach deep inside herself to find the strength to cope as she nurses wounded soldiers from both sides.  Can she find even more courage to continue to follow her dreams despite her physical disabilities and her disapproving mother?

Code: Elephants on the Moon, by Jennifer Bohnhoff: “And now some special messages,” the radio announcer said.  “The siren has bleached hair.  Electricity dates from the twentieth century.  The moon is full of elephants.”

Elephants on the moon doesn’t make any sense to Eponine Lambaol.  Little has made sense since General Petain, the leader of the French government, allowed the German army to occupy half of  France in the spring of 1940. After her father is conscripted to work on German fortifications, Eponine's mother moves to Amblie, a small town near the coast of Normandy.  They are the only Bretons, and most of the natives seem to hate them even more than they hate the Germans.  After Sarah, a Jewish classmate, disappears under mysterious circumstances, Rene, the charming and handsome son of the mayor, becomes the only remaining villager who treats Eponine well. He's hard to resist, but is he any safer than the disfigured German sergeant who tries to befriend her?

As rumors of an allied invasion swirl around her, Eponine begins to understand that nothing and no one is what it seems, and that the phrase ‘The moon is full of elephants’ makes more sense and is fraught with more danger than she could have ever believed possible.

Learn more at Jennifer’s website or her Amazon page.

The Iron Horse Chronicles, by Robert Lee Murphy: Eagle Talons, Book One, follows the adventures of Will Braddock, a fourteen-year-old orphan, who sets out in 1867 on a quest to determine his own destiny and winds up being involved in the building of the first transcontinental railroad. Will must prove to his newfound fictional friends, as well as numerous historical personages, that he possesses the gumption to make his own way in the dangerous West. He learns after many hard knocks that he must rely upon himself to achieve his goal. 

Bear Claws, Book Two, takes Will across Wyoming, through Utah and Nevada, and on into the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Will Braddock continues as a hunter for his uncle’s survey team as the transcontinental railroad crosses Wyoming in 1868. But Paddy O’Hannigan’s vendetta grows more sinister, and Will is forced to use all his skills to save Ulysses S. Grant when Paddy attempts to blow up the presidential candidate’s train.

Golden Spike concludes the trilogy. The driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869, almost didn’t happen. None of the history books mention this crucial event. Only five people were aware of the incident. Will Braddock knew. He was one of those five. It all started when Paddy O’Hannigan attacked Will; his uncle, Sean Corcoran; and Homer Garcon, in Echo City, Utah, four months earlier. When Will chases after Paddy, the Irish thug traps Will into a bigger mess. 

To learn more about Robert, visit his website. See Robert’s books on Amazon or B&N.

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