Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

TTT is hosted by Broke and Bookish and this week's theme is top ten recommendations for readers who don't read the genre. I chose historical fiction. Historical fiction is such a hard sell at my school. Students don't usually come in requesting it unless it's for a book bingo slot. There are quite a few titles that beg to be taught and many would be nice additions in the social science classroom. Here are some of my favorites:

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May, 2004. 

I sort of fell in love with this book and tried to hand sell it mightily, exhorting my students to ignore the cover (see above). It didn't work, nor did the winning of two honors. It just sort of sat on the shelf until October of 2007 when I had the opportunity to host Gary Schmidt on his tour to promote The Wednesday Wars. I had plenty of lead time, so I purchased a class set of the paperback, which had a less unfortunate cover (see below left) and set to reading it aloud to all my classes from grades 5 to 8. At three classes per grade times four grades, I reread Lizzie Bright twelve times that fall as I read the book aloud to my students. The language, while lovely, is a bit quiet and the books gets off to a slightly slow start; but very soon there is a hysterical scene that snaps the attention of the reader and wins him or her over. I had the delight of witnessing that twelve times. While not every student fell in love with the book, most admitted that they would never have read it independently and ended up loving it. They also adored Schmidt. His visit was one of the more memorable ones.


PS: I wonder why the latest cover incarnation dropped the Printz Honor seal?

Sophia's War: a tale of the Revolution by Avi. Beach Lane Books, September, 2012. 

I read this one with my ears and it spurred me to read Steve Sheinkin's excellent biography, The Notorious Benedict Arnold a month later. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Weyn. Disney-Hyperion, May, 2012.

This is one that didn't grab me when I tried it with my eyes but I had read some excellent reviews so I tried it with my ears. I was enjoying it well enough until, whammo! The first big reveal caught me so by surprise I nearly drove off the road. Then I was hooked. Then I reread the darn thing with my eyes immediately. It was that spectacular. I work in a middle school and this is a difficult read on many levels but your higher level readers can handle it. I've had few students read it and love it.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Square Fish, January, 2011.

I decided to include this one at the expense of a few other favorites (The Alcatraz Trilogy by Gennifer Choldenko, Bud, Not Buddy or The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis or Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm) because it features a young girl with an interest in science. I also loved the relationship she had with her grandfather, who encouraged and nurtured her love of science. I also happened to read a bunch of Darwin biographies around the same time.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles. Scholastic, May, 2010.

I so love the cover of this one. The 45 is ridged making for tactile joy. There's more joy within the covers of this unique documentary novel. Sometimes, when I booktalk historical fiction, I bring in historical photos to talk a bit about the time. This book did it for me. I have the second installment of The Sixties trilogy on my tbr pile now. 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia Williams. HarperCollins, January, 2010.

My, my, look at all those medals! Well deserved, as this is a story that will nestle deep in your heart. It's a spectacular audiobook, wonderfully narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson. The sequel, P.S., be eleven might be even better.


Vietnam series by Chris Lynch. Scholastic Inc., April, 2013.

This hard-hitting yet middle school-friendly series hit the ground running in April of 2013 and released the first four relatively quickly. I grew to care deeply about each of these four young men and am so looking forward to the release of book five, The Walking Wounded, this October.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Scholastic Inc., December, 2004. 

Oh, how I love this book. It's one of my all-time favorites. I recently suggested it to an eighth grade boy who was working very hard on improving his reading skills. I was hesitant because I thought that it might be a tad sophisticated for his ability but he had read all of Chris Lynch's Vietnam books and wanted another war book. I told him that it was my favorite but that he had to be patient. He ended up returning it a day or so later. I thought he quit it but he hadn't! He said that it was a good thing I told him that to be patient and that it was told in flashbacks but he loved it. I am so proud of him.

The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick Press, August, 2011.

I chuckled my way through this slim gem of a book as well as a sequel, Button Down, released in 2012. A prequel to these two, The Curse of the Buttons is due out in October and I am lucky to have an arc, which is near the top of my tbr pile!

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter. Scholastic Inc., August, 2011. 

Suspenseful, romantic, atmospheric are words that come to mind when recalling this book. I also enjoyed the author's biography of Cleopatra as well.


  1. Historical fiction is a good choice. Many of my favourite historical novels are written in verse. Books like Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt, and Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald are all great examples of historical verse novels for young readers.

  2. This is the second list I've seen Codename Verity on. What is this? Will have to buy it on iBooks and check it out. Here's my list, if you wanna check it out. :) I'm experimenting with doing them on YouTube now, please like and comment if you can :) http://youtu.be/dapaLyFe-N0?list=UUP4Ao6fj3mLXHqOSSxyqh8w