Looking for a middle grade or young adult historical novel? Check out these two new releases from Second Story Press.
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.
You may have never heard of Second Story Press before, so let me introduce you! I first discovered this Canadian imprint whilst looking for own-voices books by Native Americans. North of the border, people refer to indigenous groups as First Nations people. My students love The Mighty Muskrats mystery series. I’ve read both children’s and middle-grade books from Second Story Press, and this week’s review includes a Young Adult offering.
Second Story Press publishes books for children, teens, and adults that promote equality and social justice for all. If you’re looking for a source of socially responsible, diverse picture books, middle-grade novels, and young adult books, check out Second Story Press!
By Suzanne Meade, Second Story Press, September 2021, 208 pages, 9-12 year-olds.
Celia Matthews’ 13th birthday celebration starts with a bang. Pots and pans bang to the floor, the walls shake, and Mr. Matthews orders everyone outside before Celia and her little sister Winnie can even finish setting the table for supper.
It’s November 18, 1929, and no one in her small village in Newfoundland has ever felt an earthquake before. While the earthquake frightened everyone, what came next devastated the village. The seawater disappears from the harbor and sweeps back in as a powerful tsunami, destroying everything in its path.
The family dog saves Celia from drowning, and hours later village fishermen rescue Boomer and Celia from their freezing raft. With all the larger boats out of commission, the telephone destroyed, and the telegraph swept away, the village has no way to let the outside world know of their situation.
Only a few buildings remain, and the village must work together to survive with little food as winter sets in. Celia worries about her injured family members and what the future will hold.
What I Liked About This Book
Celia, the narrator, shares something in common with every 13-year-old girl—the struggle to transition from childhood to teen. Her big family brings her both comfort and provides a source of irritation. She must learn how to make do with less than usual. In addition, she learns how she can best help her family recover from the tragedy—even if it means giving up old dreams.
Teachers and librarians looking for a solid historical novel for middle-grade students will want to add this book to their collections.
By Jennifer Gold, Second Story Press, September 2021, 336 pages, 16 +.
Anna Krawitz lives in Warsaw, Poland with her father and her older sister, Lina. The family enjoys a comfortable life and Anna has plenty of time to read books about science and anatomy from her father’s bookshop. But when Hitler’s army invades Poland, life for the Krawitz family quickly changes.
Locked into the Warsaw Ghetto, each family member must learn how to survive and care for people thrust into the same horrible circumstances. When Lina and Anna end up custodians for a baby boy, Lina and her father make the difficult decision to send the two children to live with a Catholic family in the Polish countryside.
The woman who arranges the escape promises to write their old names and their new names on slips of paper and bury them inside a jar in her garden. The names in the jar are the only physical link tying the two sisters together as Hitler’s war on the Jews tears them apart.
Lina eventually ends up at the Treblinka death camp, where she discovers she had more courage than she ever imagined. Anna finds a haven with the baby in the home of a childless couple who love them like their own, but life turns out equally traumatic for her.
As the war draws to a close, both girls hope the names in a jar will lead them back to each other.
Why I Loved This Book
This is one of those books filled with a hard story (drawn from the pages of history) we all need to read lest we ever forget. The Holocaust shows what happens when good people do nothing to stand up against tyranny until it’s too late. Let us never forget.
I would hesitate to have a younger student read this book. The rape scene isn’t too graphic, but it could be traumatic for younger readers. The sheer violence perpetrated against the Jews boggles the mind. Once again, while not overly graphic, the reader may struggle to read through those scenes. The author strives to show how not all German soldiers were evil—and while many were, others struggled to survive by doing things that went against their conscience. References to lesbianism and premarital sex also earn it a rating for older students.
Ultimately, Names in a Jar is the story of resilience, survival, courage, family, forgiveness, and hope. I would read it WITH 12-15 year-olds, but not just hand it to them to read on their own.Outstanding historical novels from @_secondstory for Middle-Grade and Young Adult readers. #teacher #librarian #amreading Click To Tweet