Browsing Tag

historical fiction

Books We Love: My Brigadista Year

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Did you know that in 1961, 100,000 Cuban youth between the ages of 10 and 19 left school and moved to the countryside to serve as literacy teachers? Did you know that their work raised the literacy rate in Cuba from between 60% and 76% to 96%?

I didn’t, either.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but in taking a closer look at the books I’ve read, most of my historical fiction reads tend to be about American history or European history. I was so excited to read the Katherine Paterson’s latest title, which takes place in Cuba in the 1960s.

Lora, a thirteen-year-old from Havana, decides to leave the only place she’s ever called home in order to serve as a literacy teacher in the countryside. Her journey requires leaving the comforts of home behind in exchange for demanding physical labor and no electricity access. While in the country, she lives with two host parents and their three children. Luis Santana, the father, simply wants to learn to write his own name so he no longer has to sign with an “x.” Having a brigadista in the household, however, may bring danger to the Santana family and to Lora herself.

While the Cuban Literacy Campaign came about under the rule of communist politician Fidel Castro, whose administration oversaw numerous human-rights abuses, the mission of the brigadistas was to bring education to everyone regardless of class. The experiences of the main character in the book represent the experiences of tens of thousands of volunteers who left their homes in order to serve their country and the ideals they held true.

I learned so much about Cuban history from My Brigadista Year, and I am sure this book will drive interest in a fascinating time period of Cuban history.

Classroom Connections

This middle grade title discusses the transfer of power before the administration of Fidel Castro. It may pair well with The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! and other tales from Carmen Agra Deedy. Deedy is a children’s book author who arrived in the U.S. as a Cuban refugee in 1964, just three years after the events of My Brigadista Year.


My Brigadista Year will be released in October 2017 by Penguin Random House.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Genevieve’s War

Books We Love

If you’re a longtime reader of Miss Magee’s Reads, you know love historical fiction. From children’s books like Number the Stars and The Invention of Hugo Cabret to historical fiction novels like All the Light We Cannot See, I love being immersed in a different time and place. One of my favorite reads of the past year was Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life, which explored the experiences of the evacuated children of London during World War II.

Genevieve’s War, from acclaimed children’s author Patricia Reilly Giff, explores World War II from the perspective of an American girl visiting her grandmother in France. When Genevieve has the chance to leave France and return to the safety of her home in America, she’s faced with a difficult decision: should she return home, or stay to support her grandmother? If she stays, will she be part of the resistance? Genevieve’s War explores themes of bravery, kindness, and courage in the face of adversity.

I highly recommend this book to upper middle grade readers who can’t get enough historical fiction. It’s a good fit for readers who are eagerly anticipating the release of The War I Finally Won this fall!

Friday Five: Can’t Miss Historical Fiction

Friday Five

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When I was a kid, I used to love how books could transport me to so many different time periods. I loved spending an afternoon with Samantha (from the American Girl Series) in 1904, then spending the evening back in 1999. As I’ve grown older, I’ve still found historical fiction to be one of my favorite genres. For today’s Friday Five, I’d like to share with you five of my favorite historical fiction books. Some are for kids, some are for adults, but all of them help us imagine life in a different time period, and often use it to understand our lives today.


Wonderstruck
by Brian Selznick

A unique read given that the pictures take place in the 1920s and the words take place in the 1970s, Wonderstruck isn’t your typical historical fiction read. Instead of relying on the current events of a given time period to drive the story, what matters in this book is the separation in time between the 1920s and the 1970s, with the reader wondering how the story of one connects to the other. In the 1920s, we meet a deaf girl named Rose who idolizes a famous actress named Lillian Mayhew. In the 1970s, we meet Ben, a boy who is deaf in one ear and runs away to New York in an attempt to learn about a father he never knew after his mother passes away. Both the 1920s and 1970s are portrayed brilliantly through visual representations and written descriptions. This book is a great read for 4th-6th graders and adults alike.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

When I was only about 10% of the way into this book, I was telling everyone I knew that it was one of my top reads of 2014. Doerr’s incredible use of language to describe the settings really takes the reader back to the World War II era in which this book takes place. You will fall in love with the two main characters: Marie, a blind girl living with her locksmith father in Paris, and Werner, an orphaned boy living in Nazi Germany. The way in which they cross paths is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

Taking place in World War II-era Copenhagen, Number the Stars tells the story of two friends whose bond is threatened by the Holocaust. One of the friends is Jewish while the other is Christian, and the Christian friend and her family work tirelessly to protect the young Jewish girl from the Nazis. This is a beautiful depiction of the ways the Danish people saved thousands of lives during World War II.

The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd

Before the Civil War, many people in the United States were fighting for freedom in more ways than one. The Invention of Wings explores the meaning of the friendship between a slave and her owner. When both girls were young, one was given to the other – and the owner has spent her whole life since then working to bring freedom to both slaves and women in the United States.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

I usually wouldn’t include two books by the same author on one list, but Brian Selznick has truly mastered how to portray different parts of history in middle grade literature. The pictures in Hugo Cabret give us a vision of a time gone by: where trains were the main form of travel and train stations were a microcosm of life. Hugo is an orphaned boy who is trying to make sense of the things his father left behind, and he meets some amazing people who help him along the way.


Do you have a favorite historical fiction read that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!