Friday, April 28, 2006

3K's Save the Day! (copy)

As you may guess, I read plenty of books, combining work and pleasure. With the abundance also comes confusion, they tend to meld together and I need tricks to tell them apart. One trick I would like to share helps me remember the basics of juvenile historical fiction. When I refer to the word juvenile, I mean a reading level appropriate for fourth through eighth graders.

Everyone knows ABCs, 123s, and the three Rs (reading, writing, & arithmetic) refer to the basics for learning. The three Ks (Karen Hesse, Karen Cushman & Katherine Paterson) remind me of the basics of juvenile historical fiction. The three Ks are excellent authors who will hook any child, with a taste for the past, into reading. However, the Ks are not an inclusive list, just an entry point for the novice reader.

Karen Hesse and Katherine Paterson are extremely important to the three Ks for they include books to entice young male readers. Karen Hesse has written a sea-faring tale based on the logbooks of Captain Cook titled Stowaway.

Eleven-year-old Nicholas stows away on Captain Cook’s vessel Endeavor, living with the livestock until his discovery. To far from shore to send him swimming, Nicholas becomes the lowest member of the crew. The story, complete with sea charts and based in fact, will have your reader saying, “Aye-Aye.”

Katherine Paterson’s Jip begins in the pre-civil war north sympathetic to runaway slaves. Young Jip’s earliest memory is falling from a moving horse cart, resulting in amnesia. Unsure who his parents are or where he is from, Jip becomes a farm hand. Then one day a stranger rides into town and claims Jip as his very own and the real trouble begins.

It is fair to say Karen Cushman has found her niche in historical fiction, from the independent minded female perspective. The main characters in Catherine, Called Birdy, Midwife’s Apprentice, and Rodzina are so well developed you not only live the historical eras but also sigh when the books end. No mindless girls for Cushman, she fills her characters with vim and vigor. These are perfect for that sassy daughter seeking adventure.

Other historical books by the three Ks include Preacher’s Boy, Lyddie, and Out of the Dust. Caution, these authors also write realistic fiction: so consult a librarian or salesperson if you have questions. By remembering the three Ks, you won’t go wrong recommending them to young history buffs.

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