YA A to Z: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things, Historical Novels That Is . . . a guest post by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Zombies – I love them. I have never seen a single episode of Downton Abbey, though I remember how popular it was. And adding zombies to the mix is just the push I need to get me to explore 1920s England. This is not the first book this year to add zombies to a historical time period, Justina Ireland did it quite successfully in her look at the Civil War in Dread Nation (I’m reading this now and it’s challenging, fascinating and entertaining). These are both fun reads for zombie lovers like me, and an interesting tool to get readers exploring various concepts like slavery, racism, classism, and more. It’s historical fiction with an undead twist, or historical horror. And much like Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, I imagine there’s a little humor in there as well.
Historical Horror – Books where historical fiction is given the horror treatment. Entries into this genre include Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Graham-Smith, The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey (super creepy and fun), and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
Today as part of our YA A to Z series, Zombie Abbey author Lauren Baratz-Logsted is sharing with us a list of her favorite historical fiction for YA readers. And as someone who doesn’t read a lot of historical fiction, lists like these are one of the very reasons why we love the YA A to Z project.
I’ve had an eclectic career as a writer, having books published in multiple genres for multiple age groups, including ZOMBIE ABBEY, which is set in 1920 England. When it comes to reading, I’m the same. I’ll read just about anything, so long as it sounds good. One year, I set myself the goal of reading 365 books…just to see if I could! (Thank goodness it wasn’t a leap year.) It stands to reason, then, that I’d have strong opinions on my favorites within a particular genre. With no further ado, here are some of the Historical YA books that have given me the most pleasure:
THE WICKED AND THE JUST by J. Anderson Coats. That’s such a great title, I could love it for that alone. But it’s so much more. Set in 1293 (not a year typically covered in YA!) in Wales (not a setting I’d read before in YA!), it features Cecily, who suffers from the recognizably teenage injustice of: ‘My father is ruining my life!’ In her case, that means he’s moved them from their comfortable place in England to the recently conquered Wales. Her fish-out-of-water story is told side by side with that of Gwenhwyfar, a local servant girl. It’s gorgeously atmospheric writing, evoking a brutal world that is often wicked and occasionally – wait for it! – just.
THE MUSICIAN’S DAUGHTER by Susanne Dunlap. In Vienna in the 1700s, Theresa’s violinist father is murdered, leaving the 15-year-old girl to try to solve the crime while apprenticing with real-life conductor Franz Josef Haydn, who is losing his eyesight. Let’s just say that there are spies involved.
PHARAOH’S DAUGHTER by Julian Lester. Was there anything the prolific Mr. Lester couldn’t do? I was so sorry when he died a while back. In this novel, set in ancient Egypt, the author strips the Charlton Heston right out of Moses, depicting him as an awkward teen who must struggle to grow into his role as a leader of his people.
I WILL SEND RAIN by Rae Matthews. It’s possible that after reading Karen Hesse’s Newbery Medal Winner Out of the Dust a decade ago, readers thought, ‘Well, that’s me then, with the Dust Bowl checked off my list of things to read about,’ because it was that good. But readers will be cheating themselves if they don’t read this more recent offering, about a teenage girl in 1934 Oklahoma who battles the encroaching dust while entertaining dreams of a better existence, maybe even love.
THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf. If there were an Audacious Author Award, I’d be presenting it here. Mr. Wolf takes a story we all think we know – the sinking of the Titanic – and he explodes it wide open by adopting the novel-in-verse approach, taking on a vast array of points of view and voices: doomed Captain Smith; architect Bruce Ismay, director of the White Star Line; a young passenger looking for dragons; and on and on. Even the rats and the iceberg finally get their say.
THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. You don’t need me to tell you why this one is on the list, do you? Suffice it to say that I’m a tough old bird who rarely cries while reading novels anymore because the adult voice in my head taunts, ‘But it’s just fiction.’ And yet, about 40 pages before the end of this unique story of the Holocaust, the tears started and never really let up again until the end. It’s that moving.
Thanks for having me!
About Zombie Abbey
And the teenage Clarke sisters thought the entail was their biggest problem…
Lady Kate, the entitled eldest.
Lady Grace, lost in the middle and wishing she were braver.
Lady Lizzy, so endlessly sunny, it’s easy to underestimate her.
Then there’s Will Harvey, the proud, to-die-for—and possibly die with!—stable boy; Daniel Murray, the resourceful second footman with a secret; Raymond Allen, the unfortunate-looking young duke; and Fanny Rogers, the unsinkable kitchen maid.
Upstairs! Downstairs! Toss in some farmers and villagers!
None of them ever expected to work together for any reason.
But none of them had ever seen anything like this.
Meet Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Filed under: #YAAtoZ
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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