Into the Past
For women caught in war zones, there are choices to be made. Try to get by as best you can, protecting your family if you have one, or throw in with the men defending your country, risking your own life. The 15 women whose stories are told in Women Heroes of World War II, the Pacific Theater all made difficult choices. Even so, as much as they were able, they resisted the invaders who overran their countries.
March is Women’s History Month, so I am highlighting books about women and their roles in history and the world today. Though I hope that young readers are exposed to books about a variety of people and places all year long, the focus of a history month provides an opportunity to pay closer attention to groups of people who have been underrepresented in literature and the study of history. As usual, I had a hard time choosing my favorite books for this theme, so instead I’ve selected titles that exemplify a few of the ways women’s stories can be presented.
Books that contain a collection of profiles or short biographies can be a great way to learn a little bit about several people in a short amount of time and are also helpful in gaining a big-picture view of what that group of people have in common. Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, both by Kate Schatz, present short profiles of women from history and today who have made an impact in their professions, their countries, or the world. Some of the women, such as Sonia Sotomayor, Nellie Bly, and Malala Yousafzai, are fairly well-known, but many are not, a reminder to readers that women have often made significant contributions that have gone unrecognized.
Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Rappahannock Reads runs throughout the month of February and is an opportunity for everyone in the community to read and discuss the same book. CRRL’s 2017 Rappahannock Reads title is Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, which tells the true story of the African American female mathematicians who went to work as “human computers” at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in Hampton, Virginia, during World War II.
"I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas." (From The Big Sea, one of Hughes’ autobiographies)
The 2017 Youth Media Awards, announced in January, include several awards for teen literature. Read about the winners and honorable mentions below. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) also creates multiple booklists each year for young adults, that usually have a specific theme. Check them out and read some of the winners.
A mother's protection is a wondrous thing. When Rosemary felt her mother's powerful spell wrap around her so hard it forced her to the ground, she knew she had no reason to be worried for her own safety. But then it cut off as though cleaved with a sword, and Rosemary knew that something terrible had happened to her.
Why didn’t Cinderella’s father protect her from the “wicked” stepmother? And surely the prince wasn’t the first handsome boy she laid eyes on! Besides all that, do wishes magically happen? In Cameron Dokey’s Before Midnight, a reworking of the Cinderella story, all of these questions are wonderfully explored.
Cendrillon’s (Cinderella’s) father and mother had a legendary love. When her mother died just hours after she was born, Etienne de Brabant took it . . . badly. He cursed his late wife’s garden, swore that he never wanted to see their baby daughter, and took off for a divided court, leaving behind another baby—a boy whose identity he did not reveal.
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Elizabeth I, Red Rose of the House of Tudor by Kathryn Lasky
In a series of diary entries, Princess Elizabeth, the eleven-year-old daughter of King Henry VIII, celebrates holidays and birthdays, relives her mother's execution, revels in her studies, and agonizes over her father's health. (catalog summary)
Check out these other Royal Diaries titles:
Anacaona, Golden Flower by Edwidge Danticat
Beginning in 1490, Anacaona keeps a record of her life as a possible successor to the supreme chief of Xaragua, as wife of the chief of Maguana, and as a warrior battling the first white men to arrive in the West Indies, ravenous for gold. (catalog summary)
Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess by Kathryn Lasky
A novel in diary form in which the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II describes the privileged life her family led up until the time of World War I and the tragic events that befell them. (catalog summary)
What would you do to survive in wartime? What would you sacrifice? Whom would you sacrifice? Three refugees—all teens—are on the losing side of World War II. They are struggling through the German-Prussian countryside, heading for the same destination—a German evacuation camp of civilians and wounded soldiers on the Baltic Sea. They're hoping for some kind of safety from the Russians who, coming from one direction, will kill them and the Allied Forces, coming from another direction, who could do the same. But they are not even safe from their own countrymen, because all three also have secrets. Ones they are desperate to protect. Ones that could mean they are left behind in the snow by the others to die if they are not killed by the bombs first.