Best of Children's 2010 - Historical Fiction


View the Complete List of Best of Children's 2010 - Historical Fiction


Capturing Pablo Neruda

by Erika Rohrbach on November 15, 2010 | Children's

Printed in a warm shade of evergreen and illuminated by Peter Sís’ signature spare quasi-pointillist pen-and-ink drawings, Pam Muñoz Ryan’s achingly beautiful fictionalized account of the childhood of Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto—better known to the world as Pablo Neruda—employs a dazzling array of forms to capture the genesis of her subject’s poetic genius and budding political activism in The Dreamer.

Thin, sickly, stuttering and shy, Ryan’s young Neftalí is dogged by two opposing forces that wish to direct his life—the imaginative lure of poetic expression and his domineering father. Kirkus asked Ryan and Sís about the challenges and interpretive choices involved in rendering so famous a figure’s life, especially for young readers.

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The Summer of ’68

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's

In the summer of 1968, Louis Gaither decides that it’s time for his three girls to spend some time with the mother who walked out on them a half-dozen years ago. With Delphine in charge, the sisters fly from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Oakland, Calif., to be met by Cecile Johnson, a woman who’d rather they spend their days at a Black Panthers’ summer camp than at home getting to know their mother. Here, we talk with Rita Williams-Garcia about her book One Crazy Summer, a story that is "energetically told with writing that snaps off the page," according to its Kirkus starred review.

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History, Retold through ‘Gutsy Girls’

by Jessie Grearson on November 15, 2010 | Children's

At 49, Karen Cushman started writing about “gutsy girls figuring out who they are,” and she says she has no plans to stop until she’s at least 100. A winner of the Newbery Award for 1995’s The Midwife’s Apprentice, Cushman says that writing for this audience lets her entertain “the child in me who likes to imagine other people and other lives…I can sit in my chair with the cat on my lap and make things up.” Here the author talks about her seventh novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann.

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2010 Children's Best: Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Preus

by Clayton Moore on November 15, 2010 | Children's

In a novel that Kirkus praised as "a highly entertaining page-turner," Margi Preus (The Peace Bell, 2008) returns to Japan to tell the rousing story of 14-year-old Manjiro, the first Japanese person to set foot in America. When asked what inspired her to translate his adventure as a novel, Preus says, "All that salty adventure!" Inspired by reading Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian to her sons, Preus became fascinated by the differences between Japan and the New World. In 2009, she traveled to Japan. "It was great to meet all the bright, curious and independent-thinking people who live in Manjiro's village of Nakanohama," says Preus. "I caught the smell of the ocean, seaweed, fish and this sweet smoke, and I suddenly realized how it must have been for him to catch that first scent of home." The book is complemented by Manjiro's own drawings and other archival materials, as well as Jillian Tamaki's original drawings.

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2010 Children's Best: Zora and Me, by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

by Jenny Brown on November 15, 2010 | Children's
First-time authors Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon vividly imagine the childhood of Zora Neale Hurston. Fourth grader Carrie narrates the events of one pivotal summer with her best friend, Zora, when an encounter with the giant gator Ghost stirs up strange doings in their all-black community of Eatonville, Fla. When Carrie and Zora try to solve the mystery of a traveling “singing man” who turns up dead, they grow up quickly—as they gain exposure to a wider, more divided world outside their town’s borders. “Anthropology and storytelling went hand-in-hand for Zora Neale Hurston in a way that deepened her affection for humanity when it could just as easily have made her a misanthrope,” says executive editor Mary Lee Donovan.

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