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September 17, 2009

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Adrian M

Thanks for the insight full post. We have an avid young reader in our family and I'll be looking up these books you recommended. I think she had read some of the American girl books. Thanks

mercedes

My favorite series was "Dear America," published by Scholastic.Although I am a repeat reader, and I reread the books I enjoyed, the ones I reread and reread were the Betsy Tacy books. Lovelace was a historical fiction author before she started writing her series based on her own idyllic life growing up in southern Minnesota. One of the things that brought me back to the books was the authenticity. Not only did the stories themselves ring true, but the historic details always did, too.

videonuizle

Hey Cat R. (comment above mine) I read all those Laura Ingalls WIlder books too! haha In fact I read Farmer Boy 3 times...I loved the vivid descriptions of the meals :-)

Motoko Kamigawa

What a walk down memory lane - thank you for this great piece :)

My mother used to read me the American Girl books... ohhhh brings back memories!

Thanks again.

Nancy Lee

Elementary school is such an important time to develop an interest in reading and for learning in general. It's tough for teachers to instill an interest in learning though with ever smaller budgets for book and materials that engage students. People that want to help teachers by providing a classroom grant can adopt a classroom at AdoptAClassroom.org

San Miguel Mom

I'm living in Mexico with my daughter and looking online for books that will teach solid values and help her stay connected with her heritage. Thanks for the suggestions... I never read the American Girl Collection when I was a growing up, but these sound just like what I've been looking for. Thank you!

T

Hey Cat R. (comment above mine) I read all those Laura Ingalls WIlder books too! haha In fact I read Farmer Boy 3 times...I loved the vivid descriptions of the meals :-)

Cat R.

I loved all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. What Katy Did... and also James Herriot's vet series. Slightly odd mixture, but it was what suited me.

Ann W.

My elementary school in Indiana was located directly across from our library, so we rarely bought books. When I was in 6th grade I started reading the "high school" books (where I went to find other books by Louisa Mae Alcott besides "Little Women") and I discovered that the four Betsy-Tacy books I read repeatedly from the juvenile lit shelf had sequels that carried the characters through high school. I was thrilled!

Although I am a repeat reader, and I reread the books I enjoyed, the ones I reread and reread were the Betsy Tacy books. My parents were from Minnesota, and Betsy was roughly the same age as my grandfather, whose stories I loved to listen to. Lovelace was a historical fiction author before she started writing her series based on her own idyllic life growing up in southern Minnesota. One of the things that brought me back to the books was the authenticity. Not only did the stories themselves ring true, but the historic details always did, too. Betsy Tacy was the first chapter book I read to my daughters; now that this very age group, they are reading and rereading the last six books. I just bought a set of Harper Collins's reissue of the last six books (in three volumes of 2 books to a volume) because they're wearing out their copy.

What a fun discussion!

JuleRay

I read lots of historical fiction as a kid, and particularly loved series books. My favorites, hands down were the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, which I repeatedly checked out of the library when I was a kid.

Set in early 1900s Minnesota, the series, based on the author's childhood, followed Betsy, and her best friends, Tacy and Tib through childhood, through their teens, and into adulthood and the outbreak of WWI.

The books chronicle the friendships and coming of age of heroine Betsy Ray, and along the way lots of historical detail slips painlessly into the reader's mind. Charming books which I still reread today, many years later! They're worth checking out.

Homeschooling

It sounds like you had a delightful education. We did something similar with our kids and fed them a steady stream of literature growing up. They seemed to really thrive by learning history this way. It engaged their imaginations in a way that textbooks never did for me. Thanks for sharing and continuing to promote your passion for history!

Jenny

I’m so excited that there are other adults who still treasure their childhood historical fiction bookshelves. We built up a great conversation across Facebook and our blog, so here are some titles that came up in several comments or really rang a bell with me:
- Dear America series from Scholastic
- The American Girl series, with several folks especially noting their love for Samantha and Molly (As a sidenote, I recently had the honor of meeting Valerie Tripp. I can absolutely see her as the author of books that got so many of us excited about history.)
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
- The Betsy and Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace
- Streams to the River, River to the Sea- Now I’m asking myself how I forgot to recommend Scott O’Dell. I loved his books, which also covered a decent diversity of Americans.

Thank you all very much for your comments, enthusiasm, and suggestions for our bibliography. Happy Reading--Jenny

Megs

Reading the comments made me realize what the replacement for Samantha reminds me of - the All of a Kind family series by Sydney Taylor! I loved those books, even if the idea of having even more older sisters (I have one) was overwhelming. They were also completely different from my (small city, southern) childhood.

Egyptian Statue Lover

Jenny,

This brought back some nice memories for me. I read the American Girl books to my daughter now grown up and off to college. Her younger sister is just about getting old enough to start enjoying those books herself. I'll be searching through my "material culture" - i.e. my garage to see if I cand find any of those relics.

Take care.

Erin Adams

Jenny--Great post! I was blogging about something similar on my personal blog. I have gradually been rebuilding my childhood bookshelf. Those books got used hardcore, and were thrown away ages ago. The two worst that I cannot part with are The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Streams to the River, Rivers to the Sea. Pages are missing, torn, the cover of one is terribly creased and the WBP's covers are missing entirely. My Little House books--purchased as a boxed set--are so warped they won't fit into the box any more. I have a niece now, who loves books and being read to. The books are for her, or any other children who may come along and want to read them. And of course, I sneak a surrepitious glance at them now and again in between "bigger" books. Reading a "grown-up" historical account followed by a children's book of a similar topic can be a powerful exercise in journalism and life, in history and experience. I just finished Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering" and am looking forward to rereading Patricia Beatty's "Turn Homeward, Hannalee."

Thanks for posting!
~Erin Adams

Kim Moon

I just have two words: Betsy-Tacy! And they are the historical fiction from that age in my life that I am STILL reading as a middle-aged adult!

Chihiro

I just finished American Girl's new "Rebecca" series. It was like becoming re-acquainted with old friends. In my youth, I owned all of the dolls and all of the books. My favorites included "Samantha's Surprise", "Samantha Saves the Day" and "Molly Saves the Day". When I was in college, I pre-ordered the spin-offs "Samantha's Ocean Liner Adventure", "Molly's Route 66 Adventure" and "Kit's Railway Adventure" which were delightful travel-based books created in a style reminiscent Ahlberg's "Jolly Postman" series. But my most favorite AG book to date HAS to be "Good Luck Ivy". I had waited 15 years for an Asian American Girl. Ivy was the Chinese-American best friend of Julie Allbright of the "Julie" series who received her own spin-off book in 2007. I firmly believe it to be my most favorite piece of Asian Pacific American K-12 literature to date.

The "Dear America" series was also a favorite of mine. The books were excellent and the accompanying half-hour television series was very well made.

Other favorites included Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables" series, Lovelace's "Betsy-Tacy" series and of course Alcott's "Little Women".

VEN GETHENIAN

My favourite historical fiction book in middle school was "Lincoln" by Gore Vidal. A cinder block of a book for a kid that age, I know, but I loved it, since Lincoln was my hero and role model. I loved "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Number the Stars," and "The Man Who Was Poe" by Avi. I also seem to recall that the Johnny Dixon mysteries by John Bellairs seemed historical in nature to me, though I cannot remember if they dealt with any specific REAL history or were just Johnny and Professor Childermass bopping around very old places (in New England, if I recall correctly) mucking about with antiques and ghosts and abandoned houses. I loved those best, I think -- how fitting for my having gone into historic archaeology! Another fantastic favourite was "The King's Swift Rider" by Mollie Hunter, which tells the story of a young boy in the time of Robert the Bruce of Scotland.

As a side-note -- I sadly cannot think of any specific books right now, but when discussing historical fiction, I think it is necessary to include the stories that are part of history, that were told by our ancestors. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes all play an important role in who we are historically. Any search on culture-specific myths, legends, and folklore should turn up plenty of results.

Tami W

I'll always remember reading Indian Captive by Lois Lenski. It's a fictionalized (and slightly watered down) account of the captivity narrative of Mary Jemison, who was taken by the Seneca from the Pennsylvania frontier. The book really stuck with me. I'm now studying colonial America, especially Euro-Indian relationships, and wound up writing my undergraduate thesis on captivity narratives.

Oh, American Girl! My Molly and Samantha dolls and all are at my parents' house, but I loved reading all their stories! I just took a look at all the new historical dolls, and I'd love to get my hands on their books at least.

Megs

I remember when there were only three American girls - Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten. I like Molly because, like me, she had brown hair and bangs.

The historical novel that I most remember liking was "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" by Avi.

Casey

As a historical fiction loving kid, my favorite series was "Dear America," published by Scholastic.

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