Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

Many current social issues have long histories, and many teens are expressing interest in understanding the historical context of contemporary politics. To become better informed, teens might want to revisit these issues as they played out in history to gain a deeper understanding of modern day events and attitudes. As teens learn more and judge for themselves how the past compares to attitudes today, it could also inspire a deeper understanding of human rights and our responsibilities as humans in today’s modern society.


While this author is not an expert on these topics, she hopes it will encourage teens and teen advocates to understand the past and how this could foster discussion on our current societal issues. Continue reading Using History to Understand Current Social Issues

History Comes Alive in Graphic Novels!

I am loving all the graphic novels that are being published that focus on moments in history.  They are not just doing a textbook coverage of historical events, but they are personalizing the events and making them more real to readers.  Maybe that is the benefit of reading a graphic novel?  Things seem more real when they are represented both by text and by art.  Check out some of the graphic novels below that will take you on a trip, back in time!

Ancient History/Pre-Industrial Revolution (up to 1800s)

The cover to Evolution.

Evolution: the Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and others (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Industrial Revolution (1800-1900)


Around the World by Matt Phelan (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming (2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

American History (1700-1900)


Lewis & Clark by Nick Bertozzi

One Dead Spy: the Life, Times, and Last Words of Nathan Hale, America’s Most Famous Spy by Nathan Hale (2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

The United States Constitution: a Graphic Adaptation by Jonathan Hennessey, Aaron McConnell (2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Gettysburg: the Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer (2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Grant vs. Lee: the Graphic History of the Civil War’s Greatest Rivals During the Last Year of the War by Wayne Vansant

Best Shot in the West: the Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack Jr., Randy DuBurke

Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale (2014 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

Houdini: the Handcuff King by Jason Lutes, Nick Bertozzi (2008 Great Graphic Novels for TeensContinue reading History Comes Alive in Graphic Novels!

The Japanese American Incarceration in Youth Literature

"In biology class," by Ansel Adams at the Manzanar Relocation Center, obtained from
“In biology class,” by Ansel Adams at the Manzanar Relocation Center, obtained from

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 Dear Miss Breedimprisonment 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.

imprisonedImprisoned 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. Continue reading The Japanese American Incarceration in Youth Literature