February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Historical Novels with Modern-Day Appeal | JLG’s Booktalks to Go Teen

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So many books, so little time. It’s hard to sell something you haven’t had time to read yet, so JLG’s Booktalks to Go Teen will provide you with ready to use booktalks on new releases for your teen readers. In addition you’ll find resources for teaching the titles, such as links to supportive websites, including lesson plans or media (when available). This month’s titles, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild, are historical novels that take your readers on a journey to the past, enlightening them along the way.

CASTOR, H. M. VIII. S & S. 2013. ISBN 9781442474185. JLG Level: HH : History – High School (Grades 10 & Up).

VIIIEveryone knows that Henry VIII had six wives, but do you know why? Castor spins the tale of young Henry, known to his family as Hal. The “spare” son, Hal is loved by his mother and ignored by his father. Without warning, his older brother dies, promoting Hal to favored son and king-to-be. Political influence and the need to produce an heir push Hal to become the notorious king we know him to be.

You may want to start with the book trailer on VIII. Less than two minutes in length, you’d think you were watching the coming attractions at your local movie theater. Castor’s website includes a Q&A on the story behind the writing of the fictional narrative. The book’s website contains videos and a book extract. Lesson plans abound on Tudor history, but you’ll find several that include media on PBS, TES Connect, and a teacher-created Prezi. Google Preview hosts a browsable excerpt of the opening chapter.

DUBOSARSKY, Ursula. The Golden Day. Candlewick. 2013. ISBN 9780763663995. JLG Level: Y : Young Adults (Grades 9 & Up).

The Golden DayNot everyone wanted to fight in the Vietnam War. Miss Renshaw’s love interest was among the conscientious objectors. Instead, he worked in a lovely garden near her school. In order to spend more time with him, the young woman takes her students on frequent field trips to write poetry among the flowers. After a class jaunt to a beach cave, their beloved teacher fails to reappear. Something sinister must have happened, but the girls refuse to offer any explanation. “It’s our little secret.” What they hide amongst themselves, changes everyone’s future.

For one-stop-shopping, The Golden Day has its own website. Not only can you learn about this Australian author, but she has created pages to support the use of the lyrical prose from art and music to history and settings. Highlights include information about the actual last man hanged in Australia, Ronald Ryan, to poetry referenced in the novel. Not especially obvious, however, is the link to Teacher’s Notes, a 16-page lesson plan with ideas for literature circles, discussion questions, background research for the writing of the work.

Osborne, William. Hitler’s Secret. Scholastic/Chicken House. 2013. ISBN 9780545496469. JLG Level: MM : Mystery/Adventure Middle & HS (Grades 7–11).

Hitler's SecretThey thought that after surviving the Holocaust they’d never go to Germany again, but Otto and Leni were just what the British Ministry of Defense needed. Who would guess that two teens traveling with a little girl would be undercover agents? Unknown to them, their mission involved the rescuing of the one person who could bring about the fall of Hitler. Who was this child?

Speculating on the “what ifs,” Osborne’s thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats while turning to research the actual facts of the WWII mystery. It will come as no surprise that the author worked on more than sixty movies, including The Mummy. The debut novelist includes historical notes in the back matter. For resources on the teaching of the Holocaust, visit the JLG LiveBinder, The Nazi Hunters.

Ross, Elizabeth. Belle Epoque. Delacorte. 2013. ISBN 9780375990052. JLG Level: HH : History – High School (Grades 10 & Up).

Belle EpoqueWhen you’re desperate, you’ll take any job. Maude, however, doesn’t realize that she’s applying for a job that will reward her for being ugly. The Durandeau Agency provides foils for the French elite―unattractive girls who make even the average debutante a beauty. Her plainness lands her a position as a companion to a fiery spirit who would rather attend the university and become a spinster. The client hired Maude to assist in the acquisition of a marriage proposal for the independent charge. Can the young girl protect the friendship she feels without losing the job she was hired to do?

A William C. Morris finalist, Ross’s debut novel is set at the height of bohemian Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Watch the book trailer for a peek into a time when women were obsessed with beauty. Listen to Emile Zola’s Les Repoussoirs which inspired the novel or read an interview with the author. Students may also want to know more about the Parisian controversy regarding the building of what is now a beloved icon, La Tour Eiffel. Did people expect it to be torn down? Was it snubbed by the locals? Finally, photography and art are key influences to the plot of the novel. Wonderopolis also has lesson plans on the monument. Pinterest has great resources for the fashions that Maude and her coworkers would have worn.

Additional Resources

In an effort to organize these links, I have created a LiveBinder. All websites will be posted within the LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources will be added. Simply go to JLG Booktalks to Go where you will see LiveBinder blue tabs. Each blue tab is a book title. Under each blue tab are gray subtabs with links to media, websites, and other related documents. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Please visit JLG’s new LiveBinder, JLG Booktalks to Go. For audio/video versions of these booktalks, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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