Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

There are so many great picture books to read with kids for Black History Month, but this year try this true story:


Viola Desmond was arrested in 1946 in Halifax for sitting on the main floor rather than the balcony in a theatre. Because she was a non-white patron, theatre employees insisted Desmond sit in the balcony. She refused and was taken away by the police. Viola Desmond’s face will now be printed on Canada’s ten dollar bill.  An essential library book.


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Over the winter break, I read some fantastic graphics. My favourite was Roller Girl, the tale of twelve year old Astrid who signs up for roller derby just as she is losing her best friend to clothes, crushes, ballet and the horrid Rachel. Astrid explores her evolving identity as she faces the uphill battle of learning roller derby and dealing with friendships. Nice first graphic by Victoria Jamieson. My ten year old read it straight through in one sitting.

Lumberjanes is an odd mash up of genres: girl gang, rebels, mystery detectives, fantasy with mythical creatures, adventures and girl friendships all wrapped up in a funny take on girl guides. When I offered it to a group of kids today, they collectively gasped, waving their hands around, asking to be the first to read it.

Nanjing: The Burning City is a powerful historical fiction story of a captain and one of his men that have remained in the city too long and are now surrounded by invading Japanese soldiers. Trying to escape to safety, the two soldiers must choose againa and again: help others or save themselves. For older students, this would make a great lit circle selection.

Space Dumplins is the entertaining story of Violet, who sets out with her two companions to save her father, who has gone missing during a secret mission.

Sugar Falls is a haunting and beautiful story of a young girl who is taken away from her family to an Indian Residential School. Based on a true story. A good lit circle selection for older students.

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Here are some of my favourite books to look at war and peace with children.

Six men seek a somewhere to live in peace. When thy finally find such a place, they farm and begin to accumulate wealth. The more success they had, the more their fears grew until they had soldiers and armies. A great war begins with tragic results.

An wordless story about a peaceful frog that somehow degenerates into a full scale war. Great for launching discussions with kids.

Rose Blanche is a stunning book. Powerful read aloud.

Even though I cry every time I read this book aloud to kids, it is one of my most favourite tales. Based ont eh true story of a young woman who finds a group of children that she feeds, cares for and hides in a concentration camp during the Holocaust in WWII.


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After working many years in British Columbia, Yang Hok is just about to board a ship back home to China, when his former lover appears, leaving their son in his care. Unwilling to bring home a half Chinese half Aboriginal child, Yang Hok searches for the boy’s mother. Will Yang find her before his ticket home expires?

Set in 1885, after the completion of the railway, A Superior Man depicts what life was like for early Chinese immigrants and migrant workers in British Columbia.

Well known for his gripping and often dark tales for kids, Paul Yee’s most recent novel is targeted at adults, and would be appropriate for older secondary school kids.

Also a fabulous storyteller, Paul Yee will be in town this fall doing several readings.

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Here are some beautiful and heart wrenching stories, several recommended by my colleague Annie Simard @annieteaches which I purchased for our library.

A whole town works together to help a family escape the Nazis in Denmark. Historical fiction.


gift enemy








The true story of Alter Weiner, holocaust survivor and a beautiful act of kindness.

Based on a true story, Mister Doctor is the story of dedicated Doctor Korczak, who cares for a large group of orphans as they move from orphanage to the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp.

A beautifully illustrated story of a family who escapes France for England.


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This is a gorgeous picture book about a young boy who is separated from his father during the Cultural revolution in China. I read this to a grade 2 class and they were riveted.

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For more than one hundred years, over 150,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their families and sent to residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is collecting the stories of people who worked in and survivors of residential schools. There are an estimated 80,ooo people still living who attended these schools. The Commission will collect historical information, complete a report, and create a national research centre.

Looking for a good read as an entry point into discussing this with your students? Here are my top picks:

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak

The true story of Margaret Pokiak’s experiences as a young Inuit girl in a Catholic residential school. Short chapter book. Would make an excellent read aloud or lit circle. Also good is the sequel A Stranger at Home, when Margaret returns to her community.

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak

The picture book version of Fatty Legs.


Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe by Nicola Campbell

Local author weaves a beautiful tale of a young girl’s last days at home. In the sequel, we follow her and her brother at residential school. Great book for reading aloud with kids of all ages.

As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larrie Loyie

Autobiographical story of Larry’s last summer before residential school.

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