History & Historical Fiction
In the 1860s, many people went west after the Civil War, looking for a fresh start and prosperity. Eleven-year-old Jane Deming really wants a new start, too. So, she is excited when a visionary—or is he a con man?—signs up her and her very young widowed stepmother to go on a voyage around South America to Seattle. There, young ladies and Civil War widows with families can marry the many bachelors who have gone on ahead, or in some other way contribute to the new city.
Beautiful, balmy Washington Territory, as described in Mr. Mercer’s “Reflections” pamphlet, is looking for people “with broad minds and sturdy constitutions,” and it sounds like paradise to Jane. A smart and determined girl, she had to give up her schooling to look after her baby brother Jer, while her widowed stepmother worked in a mill. A land full of possibilities sounded perfect to her.
Where has the summer gone? I feel like it has flown by, and I was starting to get a little down about that, but rather than think, “Oh, my gosh, it’s almost August!”, I decided to take a glass-half-full approach and tell myself, “There are still six weeks until Labor Day!” Plenty of time to enjoy all that summer has to offer. Six weeks of summer means plenty of time to still sign up for Summer Reading at the library, earn fun prizes, and become eligible for raffle drawings for other terrific prizes, including tablets, book bundles, and movie passes.
Caroline Herschel had a very hard life early on. Born into a family of royal musicians in what is now Germany, two childhood illnesses left her face pockmarked and her body stunted. Her mother treated her very much as a servant while worrying that no man would ever want to marry her. In the 1700s, this was a real concern, for it was hard for women to make enough money to survive on their own. Caroline's life was pretty miserable as she was expected to do exhausting housework, including knitting stockings for everyone, over and over again.
Fortunately, Caroline’s older brother William wanted to help her. He had moved to England where he was working as a choral conductor and piano teacher. William had the idea that Caroline could learn to sing and be paid for it, and that is exactly what she did. But that is not where her story ends.
Two armies faced each other in winter camps across the Rappahannock River. The fighting in December had gone very badly for the Union as they tried to take the Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. Friends and sometimes family had been killed, and the Southern town of Fredericksburg was largely left in ruins.
For months, these two enemy armies went about their business on opposite sides of the river. During those long days and nights, they weren’t firing cannons anymore, but they were sending out volleys of music to lift their soldiers’ spirits. Each side had its patriotic songs. Often they had the same tune but different words, and each side would sing and cheer their own bands.
On those winter nights, they might close with a special tune. One that everyone sang the same words to: “Home, Sweet Home.”
More than 150 years ago, life was turned upside-down for residents in our communities. Stafford County was occupied by Union troops. Fredericksburg changed hands many times between Union and Confederate and was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Spotsylvania County had the battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse, the Wilderness, and Chancellorsville. Thousands of men encamped and fought here. Many died here. Our state—even just our own area—has some of the most fought-over ground in the country.
William Shakespeare is considered to be one of the most influential playwrights in literature. Over four hundred years ago, he lit up the stage at the famous Globe Theater in 16th- and 17th-century England with his lavish histories, comedies, and tragedies.
What happens if no one speaks a language for nearly 2,000 years? Is it dead? Latin and ancient Greek are sometimes called “dead” languages because they are rarely spoken anymore. We still use both those languages, especially for worship services or studying science and literature, but most people do not talk to each other using either language every day.
It was the same for Hebrew, which has also been called “the language of the angels.” A Jewish scholar and father, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was one of many Jews living in Palestine (part of the Ottoman Empire) in the 19th century, and he wanted to give the Jewish people who had drawn together from across the world a shared language, a language that reflected their faith.
Are you looking for warm and classic stories to entrance little ones? Introduce them to Laura Ingalls and her family with My First Little House Books. The original Little House series has been beloved for generations, so why, fans of the chapter book series might ask, do we want to look at a series rewritten and freshly illustrated for small children? Why not just read the original?
My First Little House Books have a different intended audience and therefore a different method of telling the story of the pioneering Ingalls family, who move from territory to territory, looking for a better life and being willing to work hard for it—but also having fun.
Perfect for a lap-sit storytime, these 14 books joyfully recreate the atmosphere of the original Little House books, while Renée Graf’s glowing illustrations faithfully follow and enlarge upon original illustrator Garth Williams’ gentle style.
March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting books about women and their roles in history and the world today. Though I hope that young readers are exposed to books about a variety of people and places all year long, the focus of a history month provides an opportunity to pay closer attention to groups of people who have been underrepresented in literature and the study of history. As usual, I had a hard time choosing my favorite books for this theme, so instead I’ve selected titles that exemplify a few of the ways women’s stories can be presented.
Books that contain a collection of profiles or short biographies can be a great way to learn a little bit about several people in a short amount of time and are also helpful in gaining a big-picture view of what that group of people have in common. Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, both by Kate Schatz, present short profiles of women from history and today who have made an impact in their professions, their countries, or the world. Some of the women, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Nellie Bly, and Malala Yousafzai, are fairly well-known, but many are not, a reminder to readers that women have often made significant contributions that have gone unrecognized.