Lord Harold asks Jane Austen to keep an eye on Netley Lodge near the ruins of the ancient Netley Abbey. He fears there are French spies plotting mischief in the area. Jane takes her paint box and pretends to sketch the abbey ruins while keeping a close watch on all the comings and goings at the Lodge. But her watchfulness is in vain. A ship in the dockyards is set on fire and the shipwright is murdered. It is definitely the work of spies and traitors against the British crown.
Cindy and Jack are visiting a museum when they are magically transported through one of the displays into ancient Africa. In the middle of the jungle, the children meet a man with a beautiful flute who escorts them to the royal palace to meet the king of the Edo empire. There they find court intrigue and a royal secret.
I loved this fun story! The history is really interesting and we get to learn about the culture of the Edo empire (also called the Benin Kingdom) in ancient Nigeria. It was an amazing kingdom with roads and infrastructure and walled cities and trade. The king was called the Oba, and Cindy and Jack get to meet the Queen as well. I loved reading about the unique customs and manners of the people, their greetings and social hierarchy. Everything from the way they built their homes to the way they ate their food had a special organization to it.
The Illustrated Boatman’s Daughter by Tom Durwood (Goodreads Author) 2 out of 5 stars In 1860s Egypt, Salima helps her father with his ferryboat business, but she longs for more education and wants to travel and see the world. Hoping to make some money to pay for school, she applies for a clerk position with a company overseeing the construction of the Suez Canal. She becomes entangled with the corruption and danger surrounding the various European and Egyptian powers struggling for control of the new canal.
The writing style is really excellent, and made me care deeply about the characters. However, it could use a copy editor for little things like punctuation.
The plot was exciting, and the adventure was interesting. However, there were times when I couldn’t understand why the plot took the direction it did in some scenes. It wasn’t clear why the characters chose to do what they did, or how they got to a certain point, or how they gained particular knowledge. It was just some little things that didn’t quite add up, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the overall story.
In 1695, the Eddystone Reef off the coast of Cornwall is called the “Widow Maker” with more than 50 ships wrecking on the rocks each year. When Digory’s father is presumed lost at sea, Digory travels to Plymouth to inquire about any possible survivors from his ship, hoping to find his father alive. He becomes an apprentice to an eccentric inventor named Henry Winstanley, who is the architect of the new Eddystone Lighthouse.
I didn’t even realize that this is historical fiction until the end, when I read the blurb about history at the end of the book. I was pleasantly surprised and it gave the story so much more depth and meaning. Henry Winstanley really did design and build the first offshore lighthouse on Eddystone Reef, saving thousands of sailors’ lives each year.
I loved the writing style, the plot, the characters, and the wonderful themes of courage and family. The writing really draws the reader into this historic time and makes the setting feel immediate and real. The characters are colorful and interesting, and I really enjoyed the smart dialogue. Continue reading →
Jake and Peewee have a run-down country car garage that used to be a livery stable before the Model-T came roaring down the dirt roads of their little town. Jake loves to tinker with the newest automobiles, dreaming of building his own racecar someday, and Peewee is no slouch when it comes to repairing a brake line or patching up a punctured tire. When Irene, the new librarian, comes motoring along in beautiful clothes and an astonishing hat, Jake and Peewee’s lives will never be the same.
I fell in love with this book by the second chapter. I loved the plot, the classic 1910s setting, the kooky characters, the mysterious new librarian, and the hilarious antics of the farmers and rough-and-tumble country folk. Continue reading →
In 1743, Marguerite is an indentured servant to a colonial family settling in the middle of Indian territory on the coast of Maine. Because she is French, she is scorned and ridiculed by her English employers, and is expected to work hard to tend to the children of the family. During their first winter on the small farm, Marguerite and the family struggle to survive in the harsh conditions, and face the threat of an attack from local tribes.
I was so enchanted with this book! The plot is interesting, the history is fascinating, and the characters feel wonderfully real and honest. It’s no wonder that this book won a Newbery Honor Award! Continue reading →
This historical novel tells the story of Anna Comnena, daughter of Emperor Alexius I, Princess of the Byzantine Empire in 1083 AD. Anna is in line to inherit the throne and someday rule the entire empire, until her grandmother plots against her to undermine Anna’s right to rule and establish Anna’s little brother, John, as the next emperor.
Anna is incredibly intelligent and well-educated, spending hours pouring over history books in the palace library and learning from the scholars there. She also becomes very good at seeing to the heart of people’s character, using her emotional intelligence to understand their hidden motives.
There are so many manipulative people in the palace, using their words to influence Anna and secure their own futures. Since she is surrounded by lies, Anna becomes obsessed with cherishing the truth, seeking truth in religion and philosophy, and also finding truth in her books and manuscripts. Because others use words as their weapons, Anna learns to play a strategic game with her words, using her speech as a way to protect herself and assert her dominance and power in the political games. Continue reading →
Ælfwyn is a shy, bookish maiden in Anglo-Saxon England, caught in the middle of her uncle the king’s political plots. When the king forces her to choose between marrying an old man or becoming a nun, Ælfwyn runs away to become a singing bard on the open road. But circumstances drag her back into her uncle’s clutches, and desperate men try to use her position in the king’s family for their own political gain.
I really identified with Ælfwyn’s character, because she loves to read. She is shy, and is frightened to ride the large and powerful horse her mother gives her. For most of the book, she depends on other people to tell her what to do and where to go, but when it really matters, she makes her own decisions, discovering courage and resilience from deep inside.
I liked the writing style in this book. It really pulls you in to the story, painting a picture of Old England with a few settings, people, and events drawn from real history. I especially liked the scenes when Ælfwyn is on the road, singing her songs and telling stories from her books to entertain the common people. Continue reading →
This graphic novel gives an overview of the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, focusing on her courage and daring as a pilot, but also honoring her generous spirit and kindness to the poor.
I liked the cartoony artwork, but it sort of looked hastily drawn. It could have been a little more polished. But I liked the bright colors and energetic panels!
This is a good synopsis of Amelia Earhart’s life, from her childhood when she constructed her own roller coaster in her backyard, then through her education and early adulthood, through her growing fame as a pilot and many accomplishments, and following her final record-breaking flight until her disappearance. It does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and enthusiasm of Amelia, and inspiring the reader to do amazing things! Continue reading →
This graphic novel tells the history of Abraham Lincoln, from his childhood to his death, how he became president, his tragic family grief, and how he guided the American nation through the Civil War, and was ultimately assassinated.
I loved this overview of Lincoln’s life! The cartoony artwork is colorful and bright, with lots of funny details in the background that bring the story to life.
I think the writers did a wonderful job of condensing such a rich life story into so few pages, but still highlighting the most important and memorable aspects of Lincoln’s presidency and personal life. There were many details that I found interesting and engaging, as well as some cute jokes and anecdotes that were entertaining to read. Continue reading →