We’re thrilled to help kick-off the blog tour for Every Day After by author Laura Golden. If you like historical fiction, then this book is for you!
Trouble has rained down on Lizzie Hawkins. Her daddy has deserted the family, her mama is silent with sadness, and the bank is after their house.
Daddy always said Lizzie was born to succeed, but right now she can’t even hold on to her top grades or her best friend, Ben. Bratty newcomer Erin Sawyer has weaseled both away from Lizzie, but Erin won’t be satisfied until Lizzie is out of her hair for good, packed off straight to the nearest orphanage.
Still, Lizzie refuses to lose what’s left of her family. With the bank deadline fast approaching, Erin causing strife at every turn, and Mama and Ben slipping away from her, Lizzie finds comfort writing in her journal and looking at Daddy’s face in the heirloom locket he left her. She’s keeping her head high and holding onto hope that Daddy returns on her twelfth birthday. Still, she can’t help wondering: Why did Daddy have to leave? And can I save us if he doesn’t come home?
Times may be tough in Bittersweet, Alabama, but the unsinkable Lizzie Hawkins will inspire readers with her resilience and determination.
Laura has graciously written a guest post for us here at The Mixed-Up Files, so I hope you take the time to enjoy her thoughts on historical fiction.
The Importance of Historical Fiction
I know, I know. Kids (especially boys like my own two sons) typically have no interest in reading historical fiction. You attempt to hand them historical fiction and they proceed to stare up at you with pained puppy-dog eyes and moan: It’s boring. There’s not enough action. I’d rather read [insert here any title that is not historical fiction] instead. This saddens me. Sometimes I feel as though I’m fighting an uphill battle. They are missing out on a wonderful genre that has much to offer in terms of both reading pleasure and significant life meaning.
“Just try it,” I encourage. “I promise you’ll like it.”
“But I don’t like history,” they reply. “It doesn’t have anything to do with now.”
This response is what saddens me most. Kids (and many times adults) believe that history is not only boring, but that it is flat-out irrelevant. This breaks my heart. History can be boring, depending on how it’s presented, but it is never irrelevant.
You may or may not have seen this quote on my website’s home page:
“Study the past if you would divine the future.”—Confucius
I believe that wholeheartedly. And when all is said and done, I desperately want my children to believe that too. History is far too important to simply cast aside. The course of history should be permanently etched into our minds. Over the centuries, we humans have made far too many fatal mistakes and enacted far too many crimes against one another, and we should daily remember and learn from those mistakes and crimes. If we fail to respect history, what’s to prevent us from irreparably messing up the futures of our children and our children’s children?
I am in the midst of research for my second book, and I recently came across this article from 2009. It shocked and appalled me. Here is a short quote from the article posted by Haaretz Service:
Adolf Hitler was the manager of Germany’s national soccer team, and Auschwitz was a World War Two theme park, a poll released by the Daily Mail on Friday said, questioning U.K. children aged 9 to 15.
Just reading that knocks the breath from me. I don’t want to believe it’s true. How can any child, anywhere in the world, not know the slightest bit about one of the greatest tragedies to occur in the history of mankind? How can he or she not know what role Hitler played in world history, and further be taught about preventing racial injustice? How? This isn’t about history lessons, but life lessons. The article continues, also addressing how kids define the Holocaust, what they think is meant by the term D-Day, and so on. It was eye opening to say the least. The article in its entirety can be found here. I am still bothered by it.
So, what is the answer to our horrid disregard for the history books? Truthfully, I don’t have the complete answer, but I think we should start, as parents, authors, teachers, and librarians by modeling a true interest in history ourselves; by showing kids what history has to offer. Next, we should encourage (but not force) kids to read interesting and rich historical fiction. Contrary to what some believe, this does exist! Here are some of my personal favorites:
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Out of the Dust by Karen Cushman
There are many more, but I think these examples in particular show that historical fiction doesn’t have to be boring. It can be quite engaging with exceptional voice, great conflict, and completely relevant themes. In these books, history does not take center-stage, but is skillfully blended into the background to give the story depth. Readers aren’t bombarded with an overdose of historical facts, but acquire knowledge of historical events through the character’s experiences. This is the absolute best way to approach historical fiction, and it is how I attempted to approach the writing of it in Every Day After. Isn’t history after all one great ongoing story? If we love story, shouldn’t we love history? History is a story written in stone, and yet it’s meaning and course is ever changing. History is a story in which the main characters (humans) are given second, or even third, chances to correct our past mistakes and get it right.
So, let us always divine the future by studying our past. Let us never forget, and in so doing let our children never forget, that history matters. Can we change the past? No. Can we prevent history from repeating itself? Yes, but only if we choose to learn from it.
Thanks for an insightful post, Laura! But I have to ask one really important question…. Aliens or zombies?
Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression. It released on June 11 from Delacorte Press/RHCB and can be purchased through your favorite independent bookseller or online retailer. Find out more about Laura and EVERY DAY AFTER by visiting her blog, website or following her on Twitter and Facebook.
What would a book launch be without a giveaway? So we’ve got just that! One lucky winner will receive a SIGNED copy of Every Day After as well as a bookmark to go with it!