Historical fiction for older readers is rich on many levels | NevadaAppeal.com

Historical fiction for older readers is rich on many levels

Kendal Rautzhan
For the Appeal

Historical fiction for older readers is rich on many levels

Well-written historical fiction offers more than meets the eye. Like any book that connects with a child, it must first be fast-paced to maintain the child’s attention. Historical fiction must also present facts in an interesting, fascinating way; not overdone, not dry, not unrelated to the main plot.

Through historical and fictional characters and events, the best writers know how to breathe life into their novel, allowing readers to learn “facts” while vicariously living through the book. Questions arise would I have been able to do that? How would I have reacted?

What a great way to impart information, critical thinking, wisdom, and an interest in reading and learning!

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

“Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’Dell, Houghton Mifflin, 184 pages

Read aloud: age 7-8 and older.

Read yourself: age 8-9 and older.

The girl and her people had lived on their island for as long as any of them could remember. One day they are visited by Aleuts who claim they have come to hunt sea otters, but the Aleuts are dishonest and a battle ensues leaving many of the girl’s people dead. With the departure of the Aleuts, the girl’s people decide they must find another place to live.

Departing on a white man’s ship, the girl sees that her little brother has been left behind. Jumping overboard, she swims to the island while the boat sails away. Not long thereafter, her brother is killed by a pack of wild dogs, and she is left alone. With difficulty, she learns to protect herself from the dogs and to find food and shelter, but her greatest challenge is to learn how to live without the fellowship of other people. To ease her loneliness, the girl befriends several animals, and they become her companions.

The girl’s trials, joys, fears and suffering are just some of what O’Dell offers readers in this outstanding novel based on facts about the real girl, known in history as “The Lost Woman of San Nicholas,” who lived alone on that island from 1835 to 1853.

Librarian’s Choice

Library: Silver City Volunteer Library, Silver City Volunteer Fire Dept., High Street, Silver City

Volunteer Librarian: Quest Lakes

Choices this week: “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”; “Collected Stories of Richard Scarry” by Richard Scarry; “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

“My Side of the Story: The Plague” by Philip Wooderson, Kingfisher. 2006, 188 pages, $7.95 paperback

Read aloud: age 9 and older.

Read yourself: age 9 -10 and older.

The year is 1665, and the plague has returned to London. Rachel’s neighbor’s house bears a cross painted in yellow, and underneath a scrap of paper is pinned that reads, “God have mercy on us.” The practice has recently become law to warn others of houses infected with the plague.

Fearing for their lives, her family secretly departs for Sussex where they hope the plague hasn’t reached. Rachel wants to go, but is worried about her cousin Robert, who has disappeared.

Robert’s disappearance is not intentional. Robert has enemies, and with war raging between the British and the Dutch, he becomes a victim of the press-gangs that kidnap young men to serve in the war.

Thoroughly engaging in every regard, this selection is made even more thought-provoking by providing two accounts to the plague that ravaged London in 1665. Begin with Rachel’s “Side of the Story” and then flip the book over and read Richard’s account. Fast-paced, riveting, and full of history, this choice excels.

“Blood on the River: James Town, 1607” by Elisa Carbone, Viking, 2006, 237 pages, $16.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 9-10 and older.

Read yourself: age 10-11 and older.

Young orphan Samuel Collier has recently become the page to Captain John Smith. Aboard the ship, Susan Constant, they are headed for the New World to Virginia. The expedition is sponsored by the Virginia Company of London, and the company’s goal is to have the men explore for gold, silver, jewels – all to make big profits for their investors.

Samuel quickly discovers that the New World isn’t anything like he expected. Captain John Smith is an honorable and fair man, but many of the others have different intentions, including the blatant removal of any native population that stands in their way. From terrible illness to starvation and attacks from the British and native tribes, it seems unlikely James Town can survive.

Well researched, this absorbing novel guarantees to leave readers well satisfied.

• Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children’s literature. She can be reached via e-mail: kendal@sunlink.net.