Political strife, religious miracles, 1990s hip-hop—is there anything historical fiction can’t do? These standout
titles, some daring, others heart-wrenching, were reviewed
in Booklist between April 15, 2016, and April 1, 2017.
Bronze and Sunflower. By Cao Wenxuan. Illus. by Meilo
So. Tr. by Helen Wang. 2017. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763688165). Gr. 4–6.
Bronze and Sunflower are kindred spirits brought together by tragedy. This evocative
story provides a window into life as a child in rural China during the early 1970s, near the
end of the Cultural Revolution.
Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science. By Jeannine Atkins. 2016.
Atheneum, $16.99 (9781481465656). Gr. 4–7.
This three-part novel in verse vividly imagines the lives of three girls (naturalist Maria
Merian, fossil-hunter Mary Anning, and astronomer Maria Mitchell) who grew up to become famous for their achievements in science.
Full of Beans. By Jennifer L. Holm. 2016. Random, $16.99 (9780553510362). Gr. 3–6.
In Depression-era Key West, 10-year-old Beans Curry doesn’t appreciate the New Dealers trying to turn his town into a vacation hot spot—but he changes his tune after running
into a bit of trouble.
The Inquisitor’s Tale; or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. By Adam
Gidwitz. Illus. by Hatem Aly. 2016. Dutton, $17.99 (9780525426165). Gr. 5–8.
À la The Canterbury Tales, travelers gathered at an inn share stories about three miraculous children and a greyhound, who are causing quite a stir in medieval France. A
humorous, taut, and inspired adventure.
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel. By Firoozeh Dumas. 2016. Clarion, $16.99 (9780544612310).
Set in 1978 California, Dumas’ funny and affecting novel tells the story of Iranian-born
Cindy Yousefzadeh as she navigates middle school during the Iranian hostage crisis and
the acts of prejudice it incites.
Max. By Sarah Cohen-Scali. 2017. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter, $19.99 (9781626720718).
In this poignant and provocative portrait of unlikely friendship, Konrad (a product of Nazi
Germany’s disturbing Lebensborn initiative) questions his beliefs after meeting Lukas, a
headstrong Jewish boy.
The Passion of Dolssa. By Julie Berry. 2016. Viking, $17.99 (9780451469922). Gr. 9–12.
Dolssa, a teenage mystic in thirteenth-century France, flees inquisitors, who have condemned her as a heretic. Framed as a story-within-a-story, this tale is cleverly told and
Rani Patel in Full Effect. By Sonia Patel. 2016. Cinco Puntos, $16.95 (9781941026496).
As the only Indian girl in her Hawaiian town, Rani finds empowerment in rap and slam
poetry during the early 1990s. Her strength and unique voice will resonate with many as
she grapples with personal trauma.
Steamboat School. By Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by Ron Husband. 2016. Disney/Jump
at the Sun, $17.99 (9781423121961). K–Gr. 3.
James, an African American boy growing up in St. Louis in 1847, finds inspiration in a
brave teacher, who circumvents a discriminatory new law threatening James’ right to an
Who Killed Christopher Goodman? By Allan Wolf. 2017. Candlewick, $16.99
(9780763656133). Gr. 9–12.
Wolf, inspired by real events, recounts Christopher Goodman’s untimely death one
night in 1979, through the voices of six teens, including the shooter, and traces the intersecting threads that led to the murder.
TOP 10 HISTORICAL FICTION
instruction and enhancing the reading experience. Quietly moving. —Jennifer Barnes
By Keely Hutton.
June 2017. 336p. Farrar, $17.99 (9780374305635).
The year is 1989 and 14-year-old Ricky—
his whole family, except his brother Patrick,
having been brutally murdered—has been
kidnapped from his northern Uganda village
by the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and pressed
into service as a soldier with
this unspeakably cruel rebel
force. Flash-forward to the
year 2006, when another
Ugandan boy, 11-year-old
Samuel, is wounded in
battle, abandoned by his
Samuel’s story is imagined, but Ricky’s is real;
Hutton’s novel is a lightly fictionalized story
of Ricky Richard Anywar, who, himself a former enslaved soldier, grew up to found the
internationally acclaimed relief organization
Friends of Orphans. The novel is a visceral indictment of man’s inhumanity to man, while
also celebrating human beings’ ability to empathize and to rescue those who desperately
need saving. For a similar reading experience,
refer readers to Patricia McCormick’s Never
Fall Down (2012). —Michael Cart
By Susan Krawitz.
Apr. 2017. 220p. Holiday, $16.95 (9780823437566);
e-book, $16.95 (9780823438273). Gr. 4–7.
Rose is spittin’ mad when she discovers her
brother Abe is a liar. He’s supposed to be working as a cowboy, but there he is on the front of
the newspaper with Pancho Villa’s gang of rebels. Aghast, she dashes off a letter demanding
that he come home; however, before she can
post it, she gets caught in a scuffle that results in
her kidnapping by Villa’s men. At their camp,
13-year-old Rose is made the companion of
Villa’s spoiled niece. Hoping that her brother
(or an opportunity to escape) will appear, Rose
bides her time. Rose’s experience among the
revolutionaries is eye-opening, helping her to
understand Villa’s cause rather than view the
rebels as murderous outlaws. She also sees parallels between the injustices facing Mexicans
and those her parents escaped as Jews living in
Russia. The tense atmosphere and exciting setting will ensnare readers’ imaginations, while
Rose’s personal growth will strike a chord with
those straddling the complex divide between
child- and adulthood. An author’s note provides historical context and information on the
Mexican Revolution. —Julia Smith