“The Atomic City Girls” by Janet Beard is fiction. But the author grew up near Oak Ridge in Eastern Tennessee and as a child learned about the facility and its part in creating the atom bomb. With this novel, she manages to share the lives of those who worked there from respected scientist to lowly laborer.
With the increase in diversity in children’s books, there is a plethora of wonderful books for children of all ages that are perfect picks for February and the celebration of Black History.
“Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency” by Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer, is a beautiful book filled with touching and insightful images of a president who could be solemn when the occasion called for it, caring when compassion was needed, loving with his family, and fun when children were involved. The images show a man who wasn’t afraid to be real with people and to show them that he cared. The photographs show a man who radiates confidence and charm. It’s a really lovely book. (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)
L.M. Elliott’s riveting Young Adult historical novel “Suspect Red” takes us on a rough ride through one thicket-filled thorny year in the life of early-adolescent Richard Bradley. He is a thirteen-year-old Washington D.C. resident circa 1953-54. And he is faced with the dilemmas and demons that would haunt any teen-ager whose father, whom he idolizes, is an FBI agent suffering from severe PTSD (making him, in those days, a “psycho”), and who, worse yet, works directly under J. Edgar Hoover during those dangerous and desperate months of June, 1953 to June, 1954: The Cold War rages. Continue reading
“Lemons” by Melissa Savage covers some tough topics in a lovely story. The main character, Lemonade Liberty Witt, named because her mother wanted her to be able to make lemonade from tough situations, has just had a really tough situation. Her mother died.
Lem, as she is called, and her mother lived in San Francisco and enjoyed life to the fullest. Her father was never a part of the picture, and she didn’t really have other family. At least, that’s what she thought until her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, who had been estranged from her mother, in small-town Willow Creek.
It’s rare when a sequel is just as beautifully written and just as touching (maybe even more so) than the first book. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley accomplished this difficult feat with “The War I Finally Won,” the sequel to “The War that Saved My Life.”
Ada is the main character in both books, and it’s her story, that of a child who has endured unimaginable abuse and cruelty, who has struggled through life with a disability, yet who emerges strong and brave. That story has enthralled readers and made tens of thousands of them weep.
In “I Love You, Michael Collins,” Lauren Baratz-Logsted creates a perfect melding of history and fiction in this middle grade story that will be enjoyed by boys and girls and adults.
The protagonist, Mamie (who was named after a President’s wife), is different from the other kids her age. Is she on the spectrum? Probably. She thinks differently and speaks in a manner that is much more mature than others her age. She also thinks more maturely, as is evidenced when all the rest of her classmates choose to write to Buzz Aldrin or Neal Armstrong and she decides to write to Michael Collins. No one can understand why she wants to write to the guy who isn’t going to step foot on the moon, but as the story unfolds, her choice becomes more and more apt.
“A Twist in Time” by Julia McElwain continues the journey in time that began with “A Murder In Time.” In that story, FBI genius profiler Kendra Donovan travels unexpectedly through a time warp back to 1815 where — as luck would have it — there is a series of murders to solve, all committed by a serial killer.
In this story, which takes place right after the first story ends, Kendra’s stay in Regency Period England continues. A wealthy and wonderfully winsome widow who is not held in high esteem by the titled peers of the realm has been viciously killed in her townhouse.
In “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Eloisa James continues to show through her clever and thoughtful writing that she is not only an extremely erudite professor of Shakespeare, but that she also possesses an abundance of creativity. Each of her female protagonists is uniquely talented and often successful. They have independent ideas and thoughts.
In this new story, which includes many characters from recent novels, Mrs. Eugenia Snowe is a widow who after seven years is still missing her husband. When she meets Edward Reeve, the jilted lover from a previous story, she feels an attraction.
But Snowe’s reputation is beyond reproach, and in her position as the owner of an agency that provides governesses to the most sophisticated realms of society, she must keep her reputation perfect — snowy white, as it were.
When Reeve’s half-sister and brother prove too much for the governesses she has sent, Reeve appeals to her for help. He has no idea of Snowe’s social status, and that leads to a misunderstanding that causes the wrench-in-the-works that every good romance must provide.
In James’ usual style, this novel is a veritable treasure chest of both romance and humor. The addition of a pet rat is a wonderful touch, and James treats the charms of the small mammal with appropriate affection. Those who have had pet rats (James’ daughter has one) will especially appreciate the rodent’s arrival. The action never flags and the dialogue is witty and clever. Don’t miss this reunion of old friends and introduction of new ones. It’s the third book in the “Desperate Duchesses by the Numbers” series.
Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by Avon Books, the publisher, for review purposes.
“Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom is truly — without doubt — a book that will cause readers to lose track of time and keep turning page after page. It’s fabulous. And it’s now available in paperback.
The protagonist is Jamie Pyke, whom the reader meets as Jamie Burton, after he is adopted by a well-to-do silversmith and his wife in Philadelphia. Jamie fled north from a strange childhood. He was raised as a white child by what he found out was his grandmother. He had thought her his mother. The hateful man Jamie had thought was his brother was really his father. When his father decided to sell Jamie as a slave, he escaped but not quickly enough to save his grandmother from a fire that consumed his childhood home. He killed his father that night and then fled north.
The majority of the story is about Jamie’s relationship with those whom he befriends and those who have helped him. Most of the story takes place in 1830, but the action begins in the middle, and then goes back in time to when Jamie first arrived in Philadelphia in 1810. He tells the story of how he ended up at the Burton’s home and how they came to adopt him. His first person narrative is entwined with the first person narrative of others in the novel.
“Karolina’s Twins” by Ronald H. Balson is a beautifully told story about an older woman trying to fulfill a promise she made to her best friend during the years they were in a Nazi camp during World War II.
Lena is currently a well-to-do woman living in Chicago. She has, in her late eighties, decided that she needs to fulfill the promise she made to her friend Karolina to take care of Karolina’s twin babies. She asks husband-and-wife team Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart (investigator and attorney respectively) to help her find them. In order for the couple to investigate, she has to tell them her story, her history.
“Dragon Springs Road” by Janie Chang is historical fiction about turbulent times in China right after the turn of the last century. Jialing, the main character, begins the story as a seven-year-old child whose mother leaves her in their home, a residence attached to a large home near Shanghai.
Jialing’s mother was the concubine of a man of failing finances, and as the reader comes to understand later in the novel, she refused to take Jialing with her to be sold into life at a brothel or worse. Jialing’s mother left her in the home at the mercy of the new owners. Throughout the book, Jialing struggles to understand why her mother would have abandoned her, and searches to find her mother.