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Monday, September 28, 2015

Oh Those Sixties!

Yes, the 1960s were turbulent, colorful, musical, scary, exciting, and almost any other word you can come up with. 

Also fodder for quite a few novels that examine the time period from varying lenses. And really, the 60s were not only about the civil rights movement, the Cuban missile crisis also took over the news, and we landed a man on the moon. Oh, yeah, the Beatles and Elvis. I could go on and on.

To borrow a quote from a new book written about a slightly earlier time in our history: 
"History is memory researched. 
Historical fiction is memory brought to life."
(Avi, from his Author's Note to Catch You Later, Traitor)

At least two of these authors do write from memory, and readily admit that's what inspired them.

First up? Jackson native Taylor Kitchings', debut middle-grade novel,  
YARD WAR, set in 1964 Mississippi. Published this summer from Wendy Lamb Books/ Random House, the book is filled with memories and research from the 1960s, of boys being boys and often not thinking, of things never said out loud, of people who may have been ignored and overlooked while trying their best during very difficult days.

CLICK HERE for an excellent interview with Mr. Kitchings.

Much as I love the cover image, this book is about so much more than football.

There's a lot of truth in this interview question and this quote from the book.

Trip’s parents’ attitudes change greatly by the end of the book, as they ponder if they should give up on living in Mississippi. Trip’s father explains it like this: “Trip, it’s like one day God took the best of what’s good and the worst of what’s bad, stirred it all up, and dumped it between Memphis and New Orleans. You can’t move away from a place like that. You have to help keep the good in the mix.” Please explain that thought. 

Mississippi is so complex and mysterious, I think you have to grow up here to understand it at all. I don’t claim to understand it, I just know it’s essential to me. “The best of what’s good” goes beyond the food and the music and the sports and everything of which Mississippians are justly proud; it’s the way people care about each other. We know what it is to feel with, and a person doesn’t have to be our best friend in order for us to feel it. Even when it’s formal or fairly surface, it is well-intentioned and the prevalent inclination to be kind here adds a sweetness to life that I do think is rare. For the “worst of what’s bad,” check the latest statistics.

Order this novel from all the usual suspects or you can go right to Lemuria and get a signed copy.  
HERE's the link: 

 But wait, my list runneth over! Or is it runneths?

FULL CICADA MOON, Marilyn Hilton's newest novel (Penguin Random House, September 2015), is a delight. Told in free verse poems, this novel explores both the civil rights history of the 60s and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. 

Beautifully written, strong characterization, a lovely novel in every way. The narrator, Mimi Yoshiko Oliver is smart and wise, a fierce female character in a time when it wasn't easy to be. I especially love the act of civil disobedience involving shop class.

This School Library Journal starred review highly recommends the book. I heartily concur. 


COLD WAR ON MAPLEWOOD STREET (Putnam, 2015) by Gayle Rosengren is obviously- and truthfully as explained in the Author's Note- a story pulled from a strong memory. The Cuban missile crisis is most likely unfamiliar to young readers. This new novel feels very authentic to the days surrounding that event. 

I absolutely adore this cover image. Hats off to the book designers here. 

I also just reviewed THE SEVENTH MOST IMPORTANT THING for the Christian Science Monitor. You can read all about it. Set in the 60s but a very fresh story that could take place any time, and such good writing.

For more middle-grade book reviews, giveaways, and all sorts of goodies, check out the links every Monday on Shannon Messenger's blog: MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY, right here. 

For my own Pinterest board and possible inclusion in future presentation handouts, I'm compiling a list of middle-grade novels set during the 1960s. What are your favorites?


Greg Pattridge said...

Great choices and I can't wait to read all of these. My favorite 60's MG books are DEAD END IN NORVELT, TWERP, and FINDING THE WORM. Also welcome to MMGM!

SA Larsenッ said...

They all sounds wonderful, but you had me at YARD WARS. I'm thinking this will bring back loads of my own childhood memories. :)

Augusta Scattergood said...

Thanks for the comments. A lot of my own memories, too!

Greg- I love Dead End in Norvelt. Will check out the others. And I'm happy to be included with the cool kids on MMGM.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great shout outs for these books. They all look terrific!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Oh, I just reviewed THE SEVENTH MOST IMPORTANT THING last week myself! And I just finished reading FULL CICADA MOON (and I plan to review it in October), and I have to agree. It's just beautiful. I'm not familiar with YARD WAR, but it sounds intriguing.

Rosi said...

Wow, three for the price of one on reviews! All sound interesting, but I think Full Cicada Moon with its subject matter and that gorgeous cover is going right on my TBR list. Thanks for the post.