Title: Two Times a Traitor
Author: Karen Bass
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Lazare Berenger is very unhappy on his family vacation in Halifax. He still hasn’t forgiven his parents for moving from Ottawa to Boston while he was staying with his grandmother. He has big fights with his father too. After one of their big arguments, he runs into the ruins of a citadel, and falls into a tunnel, being knocked out. When he wakes up, he is taken as prisoner by sailors. At first he assumes it’s a camp his father has sent him to as punishment. But he soon learns that he has travelled back in time to 1745. The British assume he is a spy because he has a French name and a French accent. However, his French background also makes him a perfect spy for the British, so he can infiltrate their town without suspicion. Laz has to endure a lot on his time in the past until he can figure out how to return to 2017.
This is a great story. The historical aspects are really good for middle-grade students. Canadian history isn’t taught as much as it should be in school, so this story would be a great supplement for kids.
Though Canada’s 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year, this story demonstrates how Canada’s history goes far beyond 150 years.
The character of Laz is relateable to kids today because he sees things through modern eyes. For example, whenever something happens to him, he thinks of what he would text his best friend back home in 2017. This drifts off a little after he becomes more comfortable in 1745.
I wish we had seen the reunion of Laz and his parents at the end of the story. It would be interesting to see how Laz has changed in relation to his family. Also, I would have liked to see how his dad treats him after their many months apart.
This is a great story for middle grade readers!
Title: Seven Days in May
Author: Kim Izzo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Harper 360
Release Date: May 2, 2017
The year is 1915. Sydney is a fighter for women’s rights in New York. Her sister Brooke is focused on getting married so she will have a title. They inherited fortunes from their father. Brooke gets engaged to Edward Thorpe-Tracey, whose family owns an estate in England. However, the estate is falling apart so his family need a fortune to save it. Edward goes over to New York to escort the sisters to England for the wedding. Meanwhile in London, Isabel works in Room 40, deciphering messages pertaining to the war. She learns that the ship called the Lusitania is now a target for the Germans. But she also finds out that the First Lord Churchill wants to allow a ship with American passengers to be attacked so the Americans will join the war. Isabel is determined to stop this from happening. Just before Edward, Sydney, and Brooke board the Lusitania in New York, everyone sees an ad in the newspaper from the Germans that says the Lusitania is being targeted and warning them not to get on it. Despite this warning, the passengers get on. They all head out on the seven day journey across the Atlantic.
This story followed multiple perspectives: Sydney, Edward, and Isabel. I liked that two sides of the situation were demonstrated, the passengers and the English who were trying to prevent the attack.
All of the characters also had their own problems that they had to deal with as well as facing the problem of a possible attack from the Germans. This reflects the actual war, since everyone faced an imminent threat, but they still had to deal with their own lives.
This story is based on true events. Some of the characters were real people, though the main characters are fictional. I love when authors are able to blend fact and fiction to create a beautiful story. This author also has personal ties to the story which are revealed at the end.
I chose to read this book because I liked The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo. Though this novel is very different from that one because it is historical fiction, I really enjoyed it! I learned about an impactful attack in World War I that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Title: Jelly Bean Summer
Author: Joyce Magnin
Genre: Middle Grade
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Joyce Anne is an eleven-year-old girl who shares a bedroom with her older sister Elaine and Elaine’s pet guinea pig, Jelly Bean. Her older brother is missing in the Vietnam War. Her missing brother causes a lot of tension in her house. Elaine constantly claims to see UFOs in the sky. One day, Joyce gets sick of hearing about her sister’s UFO sightings and she decides to move to the roof. She brings a tent up along with some books and binoculars to keep an eye on the neighbours. As she watches the other houses, she sees a teenage boy standing on another roof, also looking through binoculars. They write on papers and hold them up to each other to communicate. When Joyce goes over to meet the boy, Brian, she learns that his brother died in the war. His mother also died long ago so he just lives with his father. But his father doesn’t want to take care of him anymore. He thinks Brian would be better off living with his aunt in Arizona. Brian is currently working on a car so that he can drive it to Arizona, but he needs money to finish the job. Joyce has the idea to create a miniature UFO and sell tickets for people to see it. The problem is that Joyce will need her sister’s help to build it. Can they put aside their differences to help the cute boy from down the street?
I liked the way this story demonstrated the effects of the Vietnam war on the families of the soldiers. It changed the way that Brian’s family and Joyce’s family lived. It also gave Joyce and Brian something in common (both having brothers who fought in the war), despite their age difference.
I didn’t feel a strong connection with the characters. They all seemed a little one-dimensional, including Joyce who is the main character and the narrator. She has a one-track mind, and only focuses on helping Brian get his car working.
I also struggled with the title of the book. I don’t think it is descriptive of what actually happens. Jelly Bean, the guinea pig, is only a small part of the story. I think the title could have told more about the plot of the novel.