‘The Blackbird Girls’ by Anne Blankman is a touching story of Chernobyl, of the Holocaust, of love, and of friendship

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“The Blackbird Girls” by Anne Blankman is so much more than its description. It is about two young girls who are rivals, Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko who end up escaping from the town of Pripyat, their town near the nuclear power plant Chernobyl where their fathers worked. After the explosion, we learn that the government hid news of the explosion for two days, and the day after it happened, residents of that small town strolled about the streets as if it were a normal day in spite of the clouds of blue smoke and the red skies that lit up over Chernobyl. Continue reading

‘The Lost Orphan’ by Stacey Halls is a fascinating trip back to 18th century England and two very different mothers

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What would you do with your newborn baby if you were a poor, uneducated, unwed mother in 1747 London? In “The Lost Orphan” by Stacey Halls, main character Bess is a seller of shrimp. She lives with her father and brother in a tiny two-room apartment, and they struggle to pay the rent and stay warm in the cold London winters. They rise before dawn and, no matter the weather, venture out to sell shrimp in the streets. It’s no life for an infant, and Bess doesn’t have the ability to stay home to raise a child. But she does have the opportunity to leave her baby at a foundling home where they will care for her infant, and when she is ready to reclaim her baby, she will be able to. Continue reading

‘The Light in Hidden Places’ by Sharon Cameron is an inspiring and unforgettable YA novel based on a real story that must be shared

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Sharon Cameron’s genius is clearly demonstrated by the careful and masterful text she has created in “The Light in Hidden Places.” This is a real story of heroism and courage brilliantly re-crafted into a novel that takes readers directly into the heart of the darkest days of WWII Poland.

Stefania Podgórska has grown up on a large farm with her parents and many siblings. When she turns 13, she wants to escape the farm, so she travels to the larger city of Przemyśl, where she finds work with the Daimants, a Jewish family that owns a grocery store. Continue reading

4 middle grade books about compassion and the two-legged underdogs among us (some with wings)

Middle grade novels are not just the next step for children in the reading process. From picture books to adult books, good writers try to imbue their stories with positive messages and important ideas to consider. These four pieces of fiction aimed at readers from fourth grade through middle school accomplish all that and more. Each deserves a special place in school libraries, on classroom bookshelves, and at home. Continue reading

‘The Hollows’ is the sequel to historical fiction mystery ‘The Widows’ by Jess Montgomery

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“The Hollows” by Jess Montgomery follows the characters from her first novel, “The Widows,” as Lily Ross, sheriff after the murder of her husband who was the sheriff, and her friend Marvena Whitcomb deal with the murder of an elderly woman, which has possibly deadly implications for those who are trying to find the truth.

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‘All the Days Past, All the Days to Come’ by Mildred D. Taylor is the culmination of her incredible body of children’s fiction about a family with integrity and grit and the history of racial discrimination in this country

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“All the Days Past, All the Days to Come” is Mildred D. Taylor’s tenth book about the Logan family of Mississippi and their struggle from the 1930s on trying to protect their land and their family from the bigotry, prejudice and violence that they endured living in the Deep South. Readers who know Taylor’s body of work will be thrilled to read about what happens to the family, especially Cassie, as they grow up. New readers will get the pleasure of learning about life in the Logan family. The Logan family, really Taylor’s family, consists of a special group of people. They are raised to be people of integrity with an ingrained sense of their self-worth. Yet they are also taught to be smart in how they behave in their home in the South during times when a simple statement or wrong move could invite harsh retaliation from whites.

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‘The Fountains of Silence’ by Ruta Sepetys

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With “The Fountains of Silence,” Ruta Sepetys gives us another emotionally-charged, historically accurate, fascinating historical fiction novel. While her books are ostensibly aimed at young adults, adults love her novels, too. “The Fountains of Silence” continues that tradition and will educate and horrify readers with the uncovering of what life was like during Franco-era Spain.

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‘All the Flowers in Paris’ by Sarah Jio is a beautiful but heartbreaking combination of historical and current fiction taking readers to Paris now and during WWII

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Paris, ostensibly the most beautiful city in the world, has a checkered past. During the German occupation in WWII, many Parisians collaborated with the Nazis. “All the Flowers in Paris” by Sarah Jio is about a French family with Jewish ancestry that is “outed” by a neighbor, and about a woman in modern Paris who loses her memory and must find out who she is and why she was basically a recluse before the accident that caused her memory loss. What she finds hidden in her lovely apartment gives her a mystery to solve, and by solving that mystery, Caroline not only finds closure for the long-ago Parisian family, but also for herself.

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‘Keeping Lucy’ by T. Greenwood is an emotional story of a mother who will take on the world to protect her daughter

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Ginny Richardson and her successful lawyer husband have one perfect child, Peyton. When Lucy, her second baby, is born with Down syndrome, her wealthy in-laws whisk the newborn to a “school” where she will live and be cared for. Ginny is told she was “enrolled” in the school, and by the time she was coherent after sedative injection after sedative injection, it was too late. Everyone except Ginny’s mother and best friend are told the baby died.

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‘Betrayal in Time’ by Julie McElwain is a wonderful mystery/scifi/historical fiction novel

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“Betrayal in Time” by Julie McElwain is the fourth novel in which Kendra Donovan, a 21st century FBI agent, is unwittingly sent to the past while trying to avenge the deaths of  most of her team. Her goal is to kill the culprit in England. When someone beats her to the kill, she escapes up a staircase and ends up in 1815, in England.

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