Hi everyone, welcome to this first week of my favourite tween genres. Historical fiction!! Yes, I will be taking you on a journey back in time, to almost all corners of the globe to meet some brave, smart, and unique heroines. Hope you enjoy this selection of reads!!
So, the six I’ve included here are actually titles that I can safely say are sitting high in my favourites lists!!
To begin with, I’ll be taking you into the European Alps and to meet an inspiring young girl. The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson was one of the first historical tween reads I read. We meet young Annika in the beautiful Austrian capital of Vienna sometime during the first few years of the twentieth century. She is a maid in a grand house and loves the other servants as if they were her family. The only thing that Annika longs for is the mother who abandoned her when she was a baby. So when a beautiful aristocrat arrives to claim her, Annika finds herself whisked off to Northern Germany, into a new life. I have to tell you now, this is the book that helped me fall madly in love with Ibbotson’s style of writing!! If you enjoy those classic stories with an unlikely young heroine who captures your heart with their adventures, then this is definitely the one for you!! As someone who grew up reading Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, this story captivated me from start to finish just like those timeless novels!!
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a story that raised a few questions for me. We’re taken back to 1899, to a sleepy Texas town where Calpurnia Tate and her family are facing a hot summer. Along with her mother’s new wind machine, the only other option for Calpurnia to keep cool is cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. Calpurnia spends most of her time with her naturalist grandfather by the river. The questions I had came when Callie and her grandfather made an amazing discovery and her role in the discovery came into play. Callie wonders if she will ever find a way to take control of her own destiny when she’s expected to cook, clean, and sew. This book was one of the first I read that questioned the role of young girls during those years and showed their strength and perseverance to strive for more!! One of the elements I liked the most was the relationships she had with her brothers and the underlying scientific theme throughout the book.
Moving down towards South America during the 1970’s the next book introduces an eleven-year-old young girl from Chile in I lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin. Celeste Marconi is a dreamer and a collector of words. However, her beloved country of Chile has been taken over by a military dictatorship and Celeste’s parents must go into hiding to remain safe. Soon Celeste is sent thousands of miles away, to the coast of Maine, to another country. What follows is a poignant and heartwarming story of one girl’s courage as she faces an unknown future without her parents. To be honest I hadn’t known about this episode in Chile’s history until I read this book. Reading this, especially from a younger perspective, is always poignant and heartfelt. When an adult writes about it, it’s so sorrowful and painful but with a story written for a younger audience, despite the heartache you feel the hope and faith that she has for her family and her country. Agosin has created a masterpiece in this story!!
This next read takes us across the oceans to Vietnam. The Vietnam war has reached the home of ten-year-old Ha in Saigon. Inside out and back again by Thanha Lai is a uniquely gorgeous read that takes you on one young girl’s journey as she and her family flees their home aboard a ship to another country in search of hope. Written entirely in verse, Thanha Lai’s lyrical novel told of a turbulent past and the extent of human resilience and courage. This was the first novel I had encountered written in this style. To say I had tears in my eyes would be an understatement, they were pouring down. An amazing story that was semi-autobiographical and an award-winner!!
From Vietnam, around the same time, we traverse across the continent of Asia towards China. Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxuan tells the story of two young children who meet after a tragedy. Written in a third person narrative, we learn of the sequence of events that brings young Sunflower into the small village where Bronze and his family live. They take little Sunflower into their home and give her a future filled with happiness and laughter. Despite the hardship faced by these characters during the Chinese cultural revolution of the 60’s and 70’s, this story was often funny and moving at the same time. With its unique voice, it was an adorable read for me!!
And lastly we come back to New Zealand in the last book. The Telegram by Philippa Werry took me to those World War One years. Fourteen-year-old Beatrice Thomas lives in a small town with her mother and sister. Most of the local boys have gone away to fight including her friend Caleb. To help her mother, Beatrice takes a job in the Post and Telegraph office. A poignant read this was as it tells of those bleak years and the hardships faced by the women and girls left behind. Werry’s expert description and prose transports you to a harsh environment but shows the strength and resilience the young girls had back then. I really love war stories, especially if there is a good ending involved!!
The thing with historical reads is that it’s a bit like time-travel. You get to visit another era, see the landscape through the eyes of another, taste the different food, smell the odours, and maybe experience something that is bigger than whatever your life has in store for you now. I find myself learning something different with every book I read. And with historical reads, it gives an additional layer to those periods of time!!
I hope you enjoy this selection of my favourite historical reads!!
Stay safe and keep reading