Families Online Magazine: Novels with Heart and History

  • November 25, 2010
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by Barbara Bietz – Children’s Book Reviews

Several new novels written for older kids and teens have fascinating characters and compelling plots, involving significant events in history and contemporary issues facing society today.

From the civil rights movement to immigrant children during WWII, to the effects of war on soldiers and their families, these novels will help teen readers think about their world in new ways.

Is it Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman

When the Nazi’s evil makes its way to her family’s little town in Germany, Edith’s family must make quick decisions. Her parents will not leave her grandmother behind, and her older sister Betty has already settled in Chicago. Edith is stoic when her parents put her on a ship to America. Her sense of loss is palpable and any young reader will find her situation sympathetic. What if my parents didn’t come to America? What if they never got their passports and papers? What if I never saw them again? After meeting other children her age on the ship, Edith begins to hope for a good life in America. When she finally arrives in Chicago to live with her Uncle Jack and Aunt Mildred, Edith’s dream for a new life shatters. Aunt Mildred treats her like a servant, her cousin Dorothy scoffs at her, and her Uncle Jack seems too weak to stand up for her. Even worse, she barely sees her sister Betty who lives with another family an hour away, and brags on about her “new” sister. At school Edith is teased for being a foreigner. Edith finds solace in the library and finds determination and inner strength through her tribulations. Edith’s tragic story touches on the universal experience of many children who were sent to America during WWII. Their stories are not well-known. Is it Night or Day? is based on the true story of the author’s mother and sheds light on the devastating experiences of children who may have survived the war, but whose lives we were forever changed when they were forced to separate from their families.

My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandeis

Things A Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

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