1900s

Grade Level Interest
M
: Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).
S: Senior High (defined as grades 9-12).
A/YA: Adult-marketed book recommended for teens.

 

Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian

The Armenian Holocaust forces 12 year-old orphan Vahan on the run, who survives by begging, pretending to be deaf and mute, dressing as a girl, hiding out in basements and outhouses, and doing whatever he can to stay alive. (M, S)

 

 

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

When Evie’s father returns home from World War II, the family falls back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just good war stories. When Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe’s company in postwar Austria, shows up, Evie is suddenly caught in a complicated web of lies that she only slowly recognizes. She finds herself falling for Peter, ignoring the secrets that surround him…until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family and breaks her life in two. (S)

 

Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers

What happens to Jacob Todd when he visits his grandfather’s grave at the annual commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem is paralleled in time by events of the dramatic day in World War II when retreating troops were sheltered by the family of Geertrui Van Riet. Geertrui, now an old lady, reveals secrets to Jacob in contemporary Amsterdam which completely overturn his view of himself and his country, and lead him to question his very place in the world. (S)

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Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

At first Hiram is excited to visit his hometown in Mississippi. But soon after he arrives, he crosses paths with Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who is also visiting for the summer, and Hiram sees firsthand how the local whites mistreat blacks who refuse to “know their place.” When Emmett’s tortured dead body is found floating in a river, Hiram is determined to find out who could do such a thing. But what will it cost him to know? (M)

 

The Divine Wind by Garry Disher

At any other time in the Australian town of Broome, Mitsy Sennosuke would be accepted as a welcome member of the noisy, multi-ethnic community, but in the dark days just before World War II, Mitsy, a Japanese-Australian girl, is anything but accepted, except by Hart Penrose, Mitsy’s best friend’s brother, who is in love with her. (S)

 

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace’s drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder. Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. (S)

 

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher

With her mother ill, it’s up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago’s poor Yards is a job in one of the meat packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer – paid to dance with the men who show up each night. Drawn ever deeper into the world of dance halls, jazz, and the mob, Ruby gradually realizes that the only one who can save her is herself. (S)

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Threads and Flames by Esther Friesner

It’s 1910, and Raisa has just traveled alone from a small Polish shtetl all the way to New York City. It’s overwhelming, awe-inspiring, and even dangerous, especially when she discovers that her sister has disappeared and she must now fend for herself. She finds work in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory sewing bodices on the popular shirtwaists. Raisa makes friends and even falls in love. But then 1911 dawns, and one March day a spark ignites in the factory. One of the city’s most harrowing tragedies unfolds, and Raisa’s life is forever changed… (M, S)

 

New Boy by Julian Houston

As a new sophomore – and the only black student – at an exclusive boarding school in the 1950s, a young man is witness to the bullying of another student and must decide whether to risk his own precarious social position by intervening. (S)

 

The Big Burn by Jeanette Ingold

Jarrett is sixteen – man enough to reject the railroad job his father wants him to take, man enough to court Lizbeth Whitcomb, man enough to join the fight against the forest fires that are destroying Idaho and Montana. But the flames are faster than anyone has dreamed, and soon the fire has come between Jarrett and his home, between Jarrett and Lizbeth, and thrown him into the company of a young black private named Seth, whose own plans to desert the army have been cut short by the disaster. (M, S)

 

Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr

Although conditions in Sherborn Women’s Prison are miserable, the inmates’ spirits soar when the new chaplain decides to stage a musical: Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. The show transforms the women, and no one is changed more than sixteen-year-old Libby Dodge, who discovers she’s a natural performer. But Libby is still bound by her prison sentence and shadowed by her murky past. Gilbert and Sullivan may make prison life more bearable, but can musical theater set her free? (M)

 

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages

It’s 1943, and Dewey Kerrigan is en route to New Mexico, to live with her mathematician father. Soon she arrives at a town that, officially, doesn’t exist. It’s called Los Alamos, and it is abuzz with activity, as scientists and mathematicians from all over America and Europe work on the biggest secret of all – “the gadget.” None of them—not J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project; not the mathematicians and scientists; and least of all, Dewey—know how much “the gadget” is about to change their lives. (M)

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Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie’s been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle’s homestead claim near Vida, Montana. There, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends – especially Charlie, fighting in France – through letters and articles for her hometown paper. (M, S)

 

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

It’s 1958 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Marlee doesn’t have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear – speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family. But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn’t matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families. (M)

 

Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl

Immediately compelling and action-packed, this carefully researched work of historical fiction introduces readers to the childhood of the famous yet elusive Beryl Markham, the first person to fly solo from England to North America. MacColl gives readers an unforgettable heroine and brings the backdrop of colonial British East Africa to life. (M, S)

 

A Higher Geometry by Sharelle Moranville

While grieving the death of her grandmother in 1959, teenager Anna is torn between her aspirations to study math in college and her family’s expectations that she will marry and become a homemaker after high school. (M)

 

Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lesley Namioka

The course of Ailin’s life changes when she refuses to have her feet bound, defying the traditions of upper class, early 20th century Chinese society. (M, S)

 

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Tamar by Mal Peet

In England in 1995, fifteen-year-old Tamar, grief-stricken by the puzzling death of her beloved grandfather, slowly begins to uncover the secrets of his life in the Dutch resistance during the last year of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, and the climactic events that forever cast a shadow on his life and that of his family. (S)

 

Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter

The early days of baseball, Babe Ruth and the major leagues is the backdrop for Luke’s story, in which the thirteen year-old must find a way to reconcile his changing beliefs and the loyalty he feels for his father. (M)

 

Dust by Arthur Slade

When Abram Harsich comes to Horshoe, a dust bowl farm town in Saskatchewan, with his Mirror of All Things and grand plans for a rain machine, the mesmerized residents forget their troubles – and their children who are mysteriously disappearing. Among the missing and quickly forgotten is seven-year-old Matthew. Only Matthew’s older brother Robert seems to be able to resist Abram’s spell, and to discover what happened to Matthew and the others. (M)

 

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flying, but being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. But when America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots—and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in thePacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing” – pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. (M, S)

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Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

A young boy with no real name but called many like “StopThief”, “Jew”, and “Gypsy”, lives alone on the streets of Warsaw and admires the Nazis for their warm clothes and full stomachs. When he makes friends with a group of Jewish children, he comes to understand the horrors of the Holocaust. (M)

 

A Sea So Far by Jean Thesman

After surviving the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires, two teenage girls, a wealthy semi-invalid and her hired companion, travel together to Ireland and discover they share much in common, from a love of romance novels to grief over the loss of their mothers. (M)

 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a choice: reveal her mission or face execution. As she weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wreck of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?  (S)

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Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn

Four sisters and their mother make their way from a spiritualist town in New York to London, becoming acquainted with journalist W. T. Stead, scientist Nikola Tesla, and industrialist John Jacob Astor. When they all find themselves on the Titanic, one of Tesla’s inventions dooms them…and one could save them. (M, S)

 

Parade of Shadows by Gloria Whelan

Sixteen-year-old Julia Hamilton is restless. Determined not to be left behind again – stuck in the cold house where her mother died ten years earlier – Julia begs her father to take her with him on his next expedition. When he unexpectedly agrees, Julia is intrigued. Will this be her chance at adventure and romance? Traveling across the sands of the ancient world known as the Levant, Julia meets a French antiques collector, a British horticulturist, and a dashing young student—each harboring secrets as elusive as a mirage. As she learns more about her companions and the dangerous world she’s in, Julia must decide whom she can trust…and what she is willing to fight for. (M, S)

 

And in the Morning by John Wilson

Fifteen-year-old Jim Hay cannot wait for his turn to fight in World War I. But as his father marches off to battle, Jim must be content to record his thoughts and dreams in his journal. Gradually, however, Jim’s simple life begins to unravel. His father is killed in action, his mother suffers a breakdown, and when he does at last join up, What he discovers in the trenches of France is enough to dispel any romantic view of the war. And while his longing for adventure is replaced by a basic need to survive, the final tragic outcome is one he never dreamed of. (S)

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of young book lover Liesel, her loving foster parents, and the Jew hiding in their basement. They struggle, along with their small, poor community, to endure the double-edged dangers of Nazi Germany. (S)

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