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Historical Fiction
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Genre 5 Reviews 


Paulsen, Gary. 1993. NIGHTJOHN. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 0385308388

Gary Paulsen follows the characteristics of historical fiction in that it is set during the time period of slavery in the U.S. The events are true and actually happened, but there are variations in the character identifications.

Gary Paulsen shows the brutal hardships of being a slave during this time period. Slaves were inferior to their owners and therefore were not allowed to learn to read or write for fear of death. In this story the twelve-year old character Sarny has the desire to learn what the lettering on the sacks at the feed store mean. It's because of this desire to know more that a newly arrived slave offers to teach her how to read in exchange for some tobacco.

The book reveals all the hardships of being a slave. One being, what it is like for a twelve-year old girl and what she goes through when she gets her "trouble," this is when she becomes a woman and can now become a breeder. At the same time one learns about the closeness of family. Sarny's mother, who takes care of her because her birth mother was sold, takes the fall for Sarny learning to read and write. Sarny's mother steps in for Sarny even though she had warned Sarny that it would cause trouble for her.

NIGHTJOHN is an amazing story of bravery. Although Nightjohn knows the consequences of teaching children to read, he still does it secretively at night, henceforth the name Nightjohn. He knows how important it is to help these children get out of slavery. Not only for that reason but also to write down all the details of what the slaves of that time period went through.

Even though this is a short book, it is an easy read and packed with details of what happens when slaves try to break free. The consequences were deadly for some. Even though it shows the troubles that the slaves had to endure, there is hope at the end when Sarny herself becomes a teacher to the other children and in return learns the rest of her letters.


Curtis, Christopher Paul. 1999. BUD, NOT BUDDY. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 0385323069

It is hilarious how Curtis brings in humor to this book. It's as if he knows exactly what is going through a six year old mind. He describes Bud losing a tooth, although everyone says it is normal, for a six year old it is a pretty scary thing. For a six-year old not knowing what might come off next is a frightening thought. Maybe an arm or a leg will be next to fall off.

BUD, NOT BUDDY is an amusing story. Even though it is about an orphan and his search to find his father, the story keeps you laughing. One of the best parts in the book, are the rules that Bud has created for himself. Bud is a determined child and doesn't let anything set him back from finding his father.

Curtis keeps his reader on the edge of their seat creating ups and downs for the orphaned character by the name of Bud. He is being sent to a foster home where there is an older boy and Bud is not looking forward to it, he would rather trade places with Jerry, who will be living with three girls. Bud thinks it would be better to live with three girls instead of with an older boy that will probably want to fight him. Bud is taken from his home, the orphanage, and all his nightmares come true. He is tortured by a twelve-year-old boy and then sent to a shed to be tortured by bees.

Bud encounters all kinds of different characters on his search for his father. After getting separated from his friend, he has to live among unknown people. Then, he takes a ride from a man, trying to avoid the law because he is trying to pick up union meeting flyers, who gets him to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is his final destination, but he arrives only to find the man that he thought was his father was not; but instead he is his grandfather.

Although it is his lies that get him through the rough spots to obtain his goal of reaching his destination, it is his true words that help him reveal who his mom really is.

When Curtis makes the reader think that Bud will finally triumphant, he is set back one more time. Curtis constantly makes Bud's encounters positive with a twist of laughter. Even though Bud does not find his dad, he finds family and a new permanent home. This is great story about the underdog coming out on top and a definite happy ending.


Stanley, Diane. 2000. MICHELANGELO. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN: 0688150853

MICHELANGELO is a biographical account of the Renaissance artist, poet, sculptor and painter Michelangelo Buonarroti. Diane Stanley does a good job at setting the stage for this book. She explains the Renaissance period and that it lasted for two hundred years. It gives one a sense about what Italy was like during that time. Diane gives us great detail of all the events of Michelangelo's life during that period in time. Diane cleverly adds a map at the front of the book. This gives a real sense of where Michelangelo actually lived. The map is a good visual to show what Italy looked like during Michelangelo's time period.

The book has many factual accounts about Michelangelo's life as a young boy. At thirteen, he decided to quit school and become an artist's apprentice. Michelangelo's father was outraged that Michelangelo would choose such a low occupation. Ironically it was this occupation that made his name a world-renowned name. The book also tells of his life in Italy and how he became famous for painting on the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome.

Although the text is informative, it is told like a story with chapters of accounts of his life, from childhood to adulthood and then as an older man. The illustrations add to the story by giving realism to Michelangelo, who was so famous.

This book clears up some misconceptions about how Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. He did not paint lying down but in a position where he was bent back and looking up, which must have been uncomfortable. The LAST JUDGMENT Portrait is another painting he is famous for, but caused much controversy because of the naked bodies. After a few years the censors won and little draperies were painted over the "shameful" parts.

Diane Stanley uses watercolors, colored pencils and gouache on Arches watercolor paper. The pages that show Michelangelo's art were done on the computer using Adobe Photoshop. The photographic material on pages 32-33 and 41 were reproduced with the permission of the Photo Vatican Museums


Avi. 2002. CRISPIN THE CROSS OF LEAD. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0439690277

Avi grabs the reader's attention from the very beginning. The book begins with the death of Crispin's mother. Crispin is a poor thirteen-year-old peasant boy who no longer has any family. Then, to make matters worse, Crispin is accused of stealing and becomes a "wolf's head," which means he can be killed on sight. Then the only person he can trust is killed, but before his death father Quinel tells Crispin things about his mother that he cannot believe. The only thing to do is to head to the city Wexly or possibly England as father Quinel advised him to do. There is nothing left to do but flee and run for his freedom.

One of Crispin's many encounters is with a juggler named Bear. Bear forces Crispin to become his servant but as the story progresses, Crispin becomes more of a son to Bear. Thus, Bear motivates Crispin to use his wits and knowledge to escape his situation. Bear is making Crispin think about things he never thought and even making him learn how to think for himself because he cannot since he was never given the opportunity. Bear also promises to protect him from his pursuers. The adventure takes them both to Crispin's enemies' fortress where Crispin must face his greatest challenge to save their lives. The story develops Crispin's growth into a courageous character. As a young boy with no one to turn to, he learns to use his only resource, his head, to think his way out of threatening predicaments.

The book is set in fourteenth-century medieval England. It is important to keep in mind this period in time. During medieval times, it was common for young boys to be on their own and easy for them to fall pray to abuse. Avi has Crispin running through the English countryside fleeing his pursuers. This book is packed with action and leaves one on the edge of their seat and left wondering if Crispin will be caught. Avi writes with such descriptive language, that one feels as if they are running through the woods alongside Crispin.

Avi gives the reader much detail in the way he describes the characters and what they are wearing. One is able to create a picture in one's mind of what that character might have looked like.

In the end one knows that Crispin has grown into his own because he is wiling to give all his newly found wealth to buy Bear and his freedom.

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