This round of Amazing Audiobooks nominees feature historical fiction and true tales of teens making history.
The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Maggie Service
Audio published by Brilliance Audiobook
Publication Date: 7/15/17 ISBN: 978-1484717165
Elizabeth Wein’s latest novel is another humdinger of a historical yarn. This little ditty is just drenched in dulcet dialogue and populated by an irresistible array of memorable characters. Featuring a feisty and charmingly spunky female protagonist with a certain derring-do that takes her to the heart of an engrossing murder mystery. Teenage Julie Beaufort-Stuart returns to her ancestral Scottish home for the summer and is quickly steeped in a conundrum involving pilfered pearls, country travelers, and one boggy corpse.
The Pearl Thief is a well-crafted coming-of-age tale that rings authentic and well-researched. It should appeal to young audiences for its vim, variety of characters, and velocity of narrative. It’s equal parts Harriet the Spy, Sherlock Holmes, and Scooby-Doo. Julie carries the plot effortlessly with her verve and sense of adventure but the accompanying characters also bring much to the story. Julie befriends two traveler siblings and together they tackle the case of the missing heirloom pearls that resulted in a dead body on the family estate. It’s very almost nearly a Nancy Drew Mystery Story.
While many people might wish to continue celebrating Valentine’s Day with romantic reads, there are plenty of readers who prefer their fiction fairly romance-free. If librarian listservs and Twitter conversations are anything to go by, “books with little to no romance” are a common but surprisingly challenging readers’ advisory request in libraries across the country and all year round. Again, the Hub bloggers are here to help!
This week we gathered together showcase some of our favorite young adult fiction where romance is either absent or plays a minor role in the story. Through the combined efforts of the Hub blogging team, we’ve collected a varied list of primarily recent titles that should provide books with appeal for a wide range of readers. Hopefully, you will spot something to please your readers on a quest for literature with a more platonic focus.
Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his female bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat. Siobhan and Owen’s strong bond is based on their friendship and common goal, but there’s no romance involved. – Sharon R.
Kaz, a member of the Dregs gang, has scored a big heist but he needs help. He enlists five others to help him break into the unbreakable Ice Court to steal some precious cargo. – Dawn A.
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Ever since she fell into a nearby pond, Triss has been horribly aware that something is wrong. She’s suddenly developed an insatiable appetite, her little sister seems afraid of her and inanimate objects like dolls not only speak–they scream. To discover what’s happened to her and her family, Triss must journey into strange and bizarre worlds within, beyond, and beneath her world. – Kelly D.
Gen is the best thief in the world and can do whatever he wants to do. At least that is what he claims before he is caught and imprisoned by the King of Sounis. The king’s main advisor soon hatches a plan to harness Gen’s skills in order to steal a holy relic and conquer Sounis’ enemies. An adventure full of unusual characters, storytelling, and mythology. – Miriam W.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
In a different world, the library of Alexandria survived. The library governs the people, selecting knowledge to filter to the people. Jess’s father works as a book smuggler. He decides that Jess’s value lies in his future – at the library as a spy. He forces Jess to take the entrance exam. Jess passes the exam and heads off for basic training. – Jennifer R.
Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Lozen grew up in a divided world—there were the Ones, whose genetic and technological augmentation set them apart, and the mere humans who served them. Then the Cloud came. Digital technology stopped working and much of the world is a wasteland, peppered with monsters—the Ones’ genetically engineered pets gone wild. Now, Lozen hunts down these creatures, serving the remaining Ones in exchange for her family’s safety. But Lozen is more than a monster exterminator—she’s destined to be a hero. – Kelly D.
Tim Wynne-Jones’ latest work The Emperor of AnyPlace, has popped up on a lot of recommendation lists recently. It is one of YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, is one of School Library Journal’s best books of 2015, and is on Horn Books fanfare list. Any Place has a great deal to recommend it and, like many works with an historic element, has the potential to awaken a desire to learn more in its readers.
In Any Place Wynne-Jones delves into such topics as the Pacific Theater in World War II, the mythology of Japan, the experience of that war from the viewpoint of both Japanese and American soldiers, and relationships ranging from those of enemies in battle to beloved family members. It will appeal to those with an interest in history, as well to those who enjoy both realistic dramas, mysteries, and magic realism.
The Emperor of Any Place tells the story of a 16-year-old boy named Evan whose father has very unexpectedly passed away. With little other choice, he contacts his estranged grandfather for help. At the same time he discovers a copy of the diary of a Japanese soldier stranded on a mysterious island in the Pacific during WWII, which Evan’s father was reading just before his death. The diary’s prologue, as well as some of Evan’s father’s last words, hint that his grandfather may have played a sinister role in the author’s life. Evan makes the decision to hide the diary and read it in secret while at the same time clashing dramatically with his militaristic grandfather and dealing with his grief.
The vivid and exciting diary that comprises at least half of the novel grabs a reader’s attention and makes them wonder about what is happening beyond the purview of the story. Was the battle of Tinian really as it was described? Did Japanese civilians and soldiers really believe that the Americans would commit horrible acts of savagery, such as eating babies? And are the strange and terrible creatures that haunt the island made up just for this novel, or do they have a basis in Japanese mythology?
To answer these questions, readers may consult a number of non-fiction resources that can help to answer these questions and more. While the uniqueness of the story makes it hard to find solid read-alikes, I have also included a few fiction novels that might be good follow-ups for fans of Wynne-Jones’ compelling story.
Non-Fiction Resources on WWII in the Pacific
More than half of Any Place is composed of diary accounts of the lives of Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, both of whom are stranded on the same island in the Marianas. For those students who fall in love with this more personal and individual approach to history, there are a number of other accounts, both in print and available online, with which they might like to follow up.
It was pretty much inevitable that I would become a Hamilton addict. As both an American history nerd and a musical theatre geek, I found Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant musical exploring the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States irresistible from the moment I first listened to the opening number. However, my love of Hamilton comes not only from Miranda’s incredibly well-crafted soundtrack and book but also from his clear interest in highlighting perspectives often left out of the historical record, including the voices and experiences of women.
Obviously, I am not the first to notice this; articles like Michael Schulman’s “The Women of Hamilton“ and Constance Gibbs’ “How the Hero of Hamilton the Musical is a Woman” explore the powerful ways that Miranda’s writing and the performances of Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones illuminate the often unacknowledged perspectives, experiences, and contributions of women in our history. Singing along to songs like “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Burn,” I can’t help but feel the urge to read some great historical fiction that places women and their stories in the spotlight.
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”
~John Milton, 1626
Today is known as Guy Fawkes day in Britain, a well-known and celebrated holiday in the country. On November 5th, 1605, Guy Fawkes aimed to blow up London’s House of Parliament and restore Britain’s Catholic monarchy, removing King James I from the throne. Guy Fawkes is a figure known for his actions, and he inspired stories, such as Alan Moores’s comic V for Vendetta, and even appeared on television in a Dr. Who episode.
Guy Fawkes is not the only figure who has influenced stories. Many young adult stories today are riddled with historical figures and events, which may be loosely based and inspired or set in historical time periods. Let’s take a look at a few new and exciting titles that may appeal to historical fiction readers.
I am a huge fan of mysteries, especially during the summer! I love a good page-turner that keeps me guessing until the very last page. A great thing about mysteries are that they also work well when they are blended with other genres. One of my newest favorite genre blends are historical fiction and mysteries! If you are also a fan, or have yet to explore this genre blend, check out some of the titles below to get you started!
Set in the summer of 1868, fourteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes is sent to live with his aunt and uncle where he uncovers two mysterious deaths that appear to be plague victims. However, Sherlock suspects that these deaths are not what they seem so he sets out to investigate and uncover the truth.
Based on the true story of the 1906 Gilette murder case, Maggie is working the summer at a nearby inn, when one of the guests drowns. Mysterious circumstances surround the death, including Maggie’s own involvement and interactions with the victim.
In Victorian London, Mary is saved from the gallows at the last minute and sent to a school where she is secretly trained to be a spy. She is eventually selected to work a case where she is undercover as a lady’s companion to investigate a wealthy merchant’s shady business dealings.
Historical and fantasy fiction have been two of my absolutely favorite genres to read since I was a child. So it follows that historical fantasy–fiction that combines elements of both genres–is one of my greatest literary weaknesses. I’m completely incapable of resisting a good historical fantasy novel!
There are already some excellent guides exploring this growing subgenre available online. Over at their fabulous blog Stacked, Kelly Jensen & Kimberly Francisco have created a number of great genre guides including this one focused on historical fantasy. Additionally, on her blog By Singing Light, Maureen Eichner has an entire page devoted to historical fantasies with middle grade, young adult, and adult titles organized by their chronological settings.
So instead of offering an overview of historical fantasy, I’m going to highlight a few titles that fit into a recent trend. Over the last couple years, I’ve noticed something of an uptick in historical fantasy exploring the first few decades of the 20th century–time periods that have sometimes been underrepresented in this particular subgenre, especially when compared to the medieval and Victorian eras. But if these recent novels are anything to go by, the years between 1900 and 1940 are especially well-suited to the creation of rich, genre-blending stories.
It may be the dawn of the 20th century but for an intelligent and independent young woman like Olivia, living life on her own terms still feels like a distant dream. She sneaks to suffragist protests and reads literature challenging the traditional vision of docile & subservient womanhood. But her domineering father, convinced that she’s heading for trouble, hires famed stage mesmerist Henri Reverie to hypnotize Olivia into forgetting her rebellious ways. But the hypnosis instead leaves Olivia both gifted and cursed; she can now see people’s inner darkness or goodness clearly–and she cannot speak her mind without feeling ill. But her new vision makes Olivia even more determined to work for her independence and the rights of women.
In 1918, the United States has become a country besieged by death and fear as a virulent influenza epidemic rages at home and a global war rages across the Ocean. Even a scientifically minded young woman like Mary Shelley Black can’t completely resist the aura of paranoia—especially since her father has been arrested for treason and her sweetheart Stephen is trapped somewhere in the European trenches. Living in San Diego with her young widowed aunt, Mary Shelley can’t escape the surgical masks, the pervasive scent of onions, or the preoccupation with séances and spirits, particularly after news of Stephen’s death arrives—only to be followed by the appearance of his ghost.
Happy end of April, Hubbers! I can’t believe it’s already almost summer; time moves very quickly when you’re not noticing, I guess. And, with that little rumination on the passage of time, I give to you the third and final installment in our The Hub Loves the ’90s series – great posts from Jessica and Katie have been featured in previous weeks, so be sure to check those out if you missed them the first time around.
The thing is, the 1990s were and continue to be the best decade that’s ever existed, and I’m not just saying that because that was when I was a teenager! Like Katie said, I developed interests and favorites in the world of pop culture that still stay with me today. I was just mentoring a teen the other day that was looking at the latest Rolling Stone that features Kurt Cobain on the cover. She made a really quick comment to me about how great he is. And, readers, let me tell you – that just sparked such a wonderful feeling in my heart because I could see that things I cared about (Nirvana being the #1 thing I loved as a teen) are still resonating with teens today. As an adult, you want to think the art that shaped you will matter in the future, and a lot of 90s pop culture is still attracting teens, which is pretty great.
Well, enough with my sappy introspection! With the influx of 90s culture into the current day, and like Katie mentioned, the influx of 30-somethings into the field of YA literature, we’ve got a bit of a ’90s revival happening in recent teen fiction. Now, there’s no way I want to call fiction set in the ’90s historical fiction (how old does that make me?!), so how about recent past fiction, instead? Good. It’s settled. So, here’s a list of some recent past fiction set in the 1990s that I thought I’d feature for all you Hubbers – first up, Facebook in the 90s?!
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed for military leaders to “prescribe military areas…from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War…my impose in his discretion” (emphasis added). This order goes on to provide for furnishing food and other necessities for the residents of these designated areas, one large group of which was to be Americans of Japanese descent. Over 100,000 Japanese Americans were unjustly imprisoned as a result of this order, in what Martin W. Sandler describes as “American concentration camps.” Below are a few resources for learning more about this dark period in our history, both nonfiction and fiction:
Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim (2007 Amelia Bloomer Young Adult Book List). In this particular slice of the imprisonment history, Oppenheim tells about Clara Breed, a San Diego librarian who had befriended many young Japanese American patrons and who kept in touch with them during their incarceration. Excerpts from letters between the correspondents and from interviews the author conducted with camp survivors help tell this poignant story.
Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of the Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and John D. Houston (1997 Popular Paperback for Young Adults). A now-classic memoir of one girl’s experience of being imprisoned at Manzanar War Relocation Center.
Imprisoned by Martin W. Sandler (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award Finalist) In this overview of the Japanese American experience during World War II, Sandler purposefully uses strong language to point out the truth of that experience: unjust incarceration of civilians who had committed no crimes. Sandler relies on first-person accounts, but also draws the wider context of prejudice against Americans of Japanese descent even before the war and shows how the imprisonment affected Japanese Americans after they were released.