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Check It Out

Courier Article by Charles Sutton
Sunday, August 3, 2008

Historical fiction gives tales strong flavor of past

Do you have the back-to-school blues? Don't trouble yourself with the idea that homework, planning and extracurricular activities will hinder your leisure reading. Explore historical fiction.

Historical fiction is fiction based on real places, extraordinary people and/or significant events. It can enhance the curriculum and help a student find a topic. Simply, historical fiction can provide a pleasurable reading experience around anyone's interests.

Here are three recently published titles that fit the label of "historical fiction":

"Newes from the Dead" by Mary Hooper

1650, England

Anne Green is executed by hanging for infanticide in spite of her innocence.

Anne is surrounded by absolute darkness, unaware of whether she is dead or alive. At the same time, her body is being prepared for dissection.

Anne recalls the events that led up to her execution, while reasoning whether she's awaiting heaven or in purgatory. Robert Matthews, a scholar attending his first dissection, narrates the physician's actions.

"Newes from the Dead" introduces ideas of infanticide, human dissection and life after death, all set in 17th-century England. Included is a reprint of the original 1651 pamphlet of Anne Green's story along with a bibliography.

Not only is "Newes from the Dead" based on historical fact, it is a great read that shouldn't be missed.

"A Thousand Never Evers" by Shana Burg

1963, Mississippi

Addie Ann Pickett, a soon-to-be seventh-grade student at West Thunder Creek Junior High School looks up to her courageous brother, Elias, who follows the movement to get African-Americans their rights.

With Elias on the run and the injustice surrounding Old Man Adams' will, Addie must keep quiet, but "... the cost of silence is high!"

Words from the NAACP speaker resonate: "When it's your time, you'll know."

Addie must find the courage and speak up when it's her time.

"A Thousand Never Evers" concludes with a chronology of events and introduces readers to Medgar Evers, voting rights for African Americans and civil rights legislation. Watch the civil rights movement unfold with an interesting yet realistic twist.

"Airman" by Eoin Colfer

1878, Saltee Islands

Conor Broekhart was "born in the sky" and "indebted to liberty." After Conor witnessed the murder of King Nicholas and his instructor, Victor Vigney, Hugo Bonvilain labels him a traitor and co-conspirator, banishing him to the prison diamond mines of Little Saltee. To survive, Connor must use his scientific intelligence, his wit and martial training.

"Airman" is a page-turner from the start. It opens with Conor being born in an air balloon at the 1878 Paris World Fair and follows with his obsession for flight. Although light on historical fact, Airman introduces the Saltee Islands, the World's Fair and the early history of flight.

Follow Conor's life or death pursuit of flight, and by the end the depths of deception will be revealed.

Explore these stories and more. Historical fiction can be a fun way to read for pleasure while learning about an actual event, person or place in history.

Charles Sutton is a teen specialist for the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. Contact him at 428-8217. The opinions in this column are personal.