Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are You a History Buff?

(sigh) I never did well in History class. In fact, my first B in college was in American History. It isn't that I don't appreciate history, or don't find it interesting. I simply could never keep track of dates, places, or names. Unfortunately, I'm still like that today.

However, I do love to read historical novels. This week I've read two that I thoroughly enjoyed, even though they were rather heavy on the serious side.

Bread and Roses, Too, by Katherine Paterson, is a story of a young Italian girl during the Industrial Revolution. It also features a young boy whose path crosses with Rosa. Ms. Paterson paints a vivid picture of the hardships the children and their families faced during that time. She goes into explicit detail of the strikes in the mills of the Northeast, and the harsh results of those strikes.

Eventually, many of the parents decided that their children would be safer - and at least be fed - if they sent them off to be fostered in other towns and cities. Jake - the young boy who fortuitously crosses paths with Rosa, ends up on the wrong train, and he devises a plan to pass himself off as Rosa's brother. It results in a very uncomfortable situation for the young girl.

I liked the attention to detail that Ms. Paterson instilled in this work. She did an excellent job of making history interesting to me, which is an awesome accomplishment. Her characters were well-developed and I could almost taste the cabbage stew. Overall, it was a lovely story and I highly recommend it.

The other book I just finished is Storyteller, by Patricia Reilly Giff. Ms. Giff is a talented wordsmith, and this story had me captured from the very beginning.

Told in alternating viewpoints, Ms. Giff takes us from present day back to the eighteenth century. Elizabeth is sent to live with an aunt while her father goes to Australia on business. Elizabeth seems to do everything wrong, and things don't begin too well when she arrives at her aunt's house. Then she finds a drawing of a young girl who closely resembles  Elizabeth. 

The young girl is Zee - an ancestor who lived during the time of the American Revolution. As Zee tells her story, we discover that the two girls have many similarities in behavior. Zee was forever forgetting to close the gate on the goat pen, or leaving the hen house door unlatched. 

As the two stories unfold, Elizabeth finds a common bond with her aunt - they both want to find out what happened to Zee. They enlist the help of another relative, and he is the one who discovers Elizabeth's talent for storytelling. 

This is a touching story, and clearly portrays the pain that two young girls, separated by two hundred years of history, share and overcome. Both of these authors have a knack for bringing out the strengths in their characters, and revealing their weaknesses in realistic ways.

If you're interested in history, I highly recommend both of these books. 

Happy Reading!



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