Monday, July 13, 2015

Hot Summer History Reads

It's summer time! Yahoo! And what better way to celebrate summer than to indulge in some summer time reading.  It’s my favorite genre to write and read. Historical fiction is the coming together of two opposing elements: fact and fiction. But as the great Katherine Patterson once said, “…historical fiction [is] a bastard child of letters, respectable neither as history nor as fiction.”  I’ve written before, how defining historical fiction shares similar idiosyncrasies as Doctor Who.

When Patterson wrote historical fiction, she was often taken to task for writing stories that were considered not true to contemporary readers. But, said Patterson, “…In many instances, historical fiction is much more realistic than a lot of today’s realism…Nothing becomes dated more quickly than contemporary fiction.” In the best of historical fiction, as with any story, a child becomes a hero who gains power over her situation, a theme that contemporary readers appreciate.

And summer time is the best time for savoring my favorite historical reads.

I read this book in one sitting. An exciting read from Avi is City of Orphans (2011). The book follows young Maks Geless, a newsie scraping a living on the mean streets of New York City in 1893. Maks’ sister Emma has been arrested and he has only four days to prove her innocence.

Paul Fleischman’s award-winning Bull Run (1993) brings together sixteen distinct viewpoints in the
gripping retelling of the first great battle of the Civil War. This can be either an easy afternoon read or a fun summer performance for readers’ theater. An amazing study in perspective!

I revisited these books this summer, following the discussions on diversity in literature. Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America Trilogy begins with Chains (2010). As the Revolutionary War starts, young Isabel wages her own fight for freedom. The story continues in its sequel, Forge (2012) with Curzon as an escaped slave serving with the Continental Army. A particularly moving and heart-stomping depiction of the struggles that the enslaved and the freemen endured during the country’s fight for its own freedom.

Westerns are my absolute favorite. Laurie J. Edwards, under the pen name Erin Johnson, introduced Grace Milton in her Western for young adults, Grace and the Guiltless (2014), Book One of the Wanted Series. When her family is murdered by the Guiltless Gang, Grace struggles to survive the wilderness and her grief. Her story continues in the sequel, Her Cold Revenge (August, 2015), as Grace becomes a bounty hunter and hunts the gang that killed her family.

 As one reviewer offered, this may just be the story that hooks a new generation of readers on the Western genre. For a summer treat, you can read the first chapters of Her Cold Revenge here!

Another series that I have particularly enjoyed this summer is Iain Lawrence’ High Seas Trilogy. The Wreckers (1998) and its companion The Smugglers (1999) follows young John Spencer in a high-sea adventure complete with swashbuckling characters, salty dialogue and a spine-tingling cliffhangers. The story continues with The Buccaneers (2001). This series reminds me of another favorite, Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Kidnapped.

Let the adventure begin! 

Bobbi Miller


Rebecca C said...

Just when I thought my thought my summer reading pile couldn't get any taller, you post these great recommendations! Looking forward to checking these out! said...

I love historical fiction and will have to look into a few of these that are new to me. Thanks!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Bobbi! I'm looking forward to plenty of good summer reading!

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Thanks for the recommendations!

Clare Helen Welsh said...

Thank you, best get to the library :-)

Rosi said...

I cannot resist good historical fiction. Thanks for the recommendations.

Bobbi Miller said...

Rebecca and Marcia: You'll love these books. These titles (except for GRACE) tend to be filed under "For Boys Read" but I'm not convinced of such gender differentiation. I think girls love a good adventure.

Bobbi Miller said...

JoAnn: Thank you! The best part of these postings is recommending favorite books. My pile keeps getting larger!

Bobbi Miller said...

Yvonne and Clare: I think you'll enjoy these adventures!

Bobbi Miller said...

Rosi: The most challenging aspect of these postings is having to limit my list of favorites. Despite all the rumors that "historical fiction is dead", I find there are many, many grand stories!