Dear America series from American Girl
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
By Joyce Hansen
From 1865, Patsy writes her story as a freed slave post-American Civil War. I enjoyed this title a lot. The POV feels more like an adult than the narrator actually is (she’s supposed to be around 12 or 13,) but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book. The content is thoughtful and emotionally charged. I liked watching Patsy realize what she wanted for herself and gaining the confidence and courage to go after it. Of course, as a book documenting post-war and slavery time, this book deals with some pretty heavy topics: racism, ableism, hate crimes, and equality just to name a few. But, the book is written in a way that a young reader could understand Patsy’s experiences. The book is designed to open a window into her life, and it does so in a meaningful way.
Early Sunday Morning
By Barry Denenberg
Taking place in October, November, and December of 1941, Early Sunday Morning reads more like an account of what happened at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii by an adult pretending to be a child rather than a child who experienced that day. Amber Billows is supposed to be eleven years old in this story, and Early Sunday Morning is her diary of the months leading up to the attack on December 7, 1941. Overall, this was an okay historical account. The characters weren’t terrible interesting or well-rounded, and the setting was more vague than I’d have liked. I feel like the book relies on the reader already knowing the history at Pearl Harbor too much.
So Far From Home
By Barry Denenberg
In 1847, Mary Driscoll, an Irish girl, travels to aboard a ship to America. Her parents sent her away to escape the potato famine that gripped Ireland for five brutal years. This little book, written as the diary of Mary herself, gives a very good look into what factory work was like in the United States for women. The hours were long, and the work was difficult and dangerous. One thing I really liked about this book was it does not shy away from the grim reality of how factory workers were treated as a whole and the stark difference in how immigrant girls were treated versus the “Yankee” girls. So Far From Home’s look into reality is heartbreaking, but the history is so, so important to know and remember.