An overview of the series including content, reading order, and publication order.
Please note that as of this writing I’ve only reread a few books in the series since starting this blog, so my understanding of some aspects might change as I read more.
Oh, the Logan Family Saga! Both the joy and the frustration of many a school librarian – because this series is excellent historical fiction, and because it’s rather difficult to get a handle on the series. Because I plan to review several, if not all, of the Logan Family books, it seems more expedient to make one post about the series order which can then be referred to in all future reviews.
“The dinner hour started, and Hon never came. Sitting next to Mother, Li ate her mushy rice and vegetables in silence. An uneasiness washed over her. It wasn’t like Hon to miss out on food.” page 45
Li on Angel Island (Smithsonian Historical Fiction) by Veeda Bybee, illustrated by Andrea Rossetto. Stone Arch Books, Capstone, North Mankato, Minnesota, 2021. Elementary chapter book historical fiction, 72 pages. Lexile: 600L . AR Level: 4.3 (worth 1.0 points) .
In 1921, a ten year old Chinese girl is traveling with her mother and brother to join their father in San Francisco.
I ordered this book for two reasons: I’m trying to read at least one book from a variety of historical fiction series for an upcoming project, and have been looking for more Asian American read alouds (we’ve been enjoying Laurence Yep, Grace Lin, and Andrea Cheng but would like more variety).
“We could have plenty of fun then, except that now we have two grown-ups telling us no instead of only one.” page 7
A Wave in Her Pocket: Stories From Trinidad by Lynn Joseph, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Clarion, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 1991. MG stories, 52 pages. Not leveled.
A collection of Trinidadan stories tied together by the narrator Amber, and her incredible Tantie who tells these tales to her and her cousins.
First I must make a note on the classification, because these books are the sort that would wake me in the middle of the night back when I did cataloging for school libraries. Joseph is retelling 6 different Trinidadan stories, but she uses the conceit of a first-person narrator, and formats them similarly to short stories. This method is very effective, but much like Kadir Nelson’s famous Heart and Soul, raises the question on where they should be shelved.
In fact, I am not the first librarian to feel conflicted by this dilemma, as the copyright page has the Library of Congress suggesting PZ for juvenile fiction, and a Dewey Decimal Classification of 398.2 under folklore. One can make a reasonable case for this book either way, so if you happen to be a librarian Googling, shelve this wherever you think it’s likely to circulate best, and don’t hesitate to recatalog if needed!
Luckily, I no longer have to worry about how to catalog these types of books and can shelve items wherever I please in my home library. This book contains fantasy, horror, and historical fiction within a realistic fiction framework, although most likely to appeal to students who like speculative fiction or mythology with some creepiness.
“The video shows me shot in the back. People knew. This is the first time the lawyer has said it, but everyone knew this moment would come.” page 131
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2018. Middle grade fiction, 214 pages. Lexile: HL360L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? ) AR Level: 3.0 (worth 3.0 points) . NOTE: this is a work of historical/fantasy fiction, not to be confused with the 2013 disability memoir Ghost Boy. Also, this review deviates somewhat from my usual style as I found this novel difficult to unpack.
Ostensibly the story of twelve-year-old Jerome, an unarmed Black boy shot in the back by a white police officer while playing with a toy gun – but really the story of Sarah, the police officer’s daughter and the only one who can see Jerome’s ghost. The ghost of Emmett Till also plays a peripheral role.
This is the fourth book by Jewell Parker Rhodes that I’ve read, and while each of the previous books I liked more than the last, unfortunately this one sorely disappointed me.Sugar was not my favorite on initial reading, but over the years has truly stuck with me and is now one I regularly recommend. The historical fantasy and ghosts of Ninth Ward wasn’t my cup of tea, but I adored Bayou Magic and included it on my first list of diverse middle grade fantasy novels. Ghost Boys returns to ghostly visitation, and I suppose I should have been prepared to dislike this given that her previous ghost story was my least favorite of her books.
“Tonight’s stranger had worn a suit like that, one of plain, darkest jet, but also unmistakably a uniform, along with smoked-glass spectacles. The sandy tone of his skin had been not quite the same as the tan burnish all sailors got from the sun. There had been something slightly off, slightly unnatural, about the way he’d moved.” page 41
The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Square Fish, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan, New York, 2016, my edition 2017. MG alternate world historical fantasy, 378 pages. Lexile: 810L . AR Level: 5.8 (worth 16.0 points) . NOTE: This book is a direct sequel to Bluecrowne and the review will necessarily contain spoilers for that plot.
Finally back to her ship even if unfortunate circumstances brought them there, Melusine Bluecrowne (call her Lucy, please) and family are on a particular mission of discovery for a young philosopher, but studying science in the midst of war is dangerous. Teen Maxwell Ault is that natural philosopher, determined to carry out his deceased father’s mission. Oliver Dexter is a new midshipman determined to prove his mettle on his first command… even though he’s only just turned twelve. As their three paths cross, well they be able to assemble the war-stopping engine? And if so, who will gain control of this dangerous weapon?
Well, we’re four books deep into the world of Greenglass house as far as blog reviews, and while the series as a whole continues to be more diverse-adjacent than diverse (with the exception of the twobooks on Milo), I’m sort of committed to reading them now and also happen to love interconnected novels that aren’t necessarily a series, so I suppose I’ll go on reviewing them.
I wrote a bit in my review of Bluecrowne about how I accidentally purchased and read this book first, not understanding that it is indeed a direct sequel to that book. The publisher has done their bit to confuse readers by trying to promote Bluecrowne as the third book in the Greenglass House series (when really it’s more of a prequel and stands separately from the Greenglass books), and then initially promoting Thief Knot as a standalone (when really it’s quite dependent on knowledge, characters, and such from the two Greenglass books and reads like a continuation of that series with a different protagonist and slightly different setting).
Returning to this particular volume, The Left-Handed Fate takes a different tack to any of the other books I’ve read so far. First, while they do make landfall at times, the majority of the book takes place on the boat where Lucy’s made her home most of her life. Second, it’s rather more historical than any of the other books. Bluecrowne also was set in the past, and Milo’s books delve into Nagaspeake’s history, but this book is set around the War of 1812, which is an actual historical event that gives the story a somewhat different feel.
“A man named Mr. Adams was the only one who didn’t shake Daddy’s and Mr. Tucker’s hands. I hoped he wasn’t about to spend the next six months hating us for being Negro.” page 31
Sarah Journeys West: An Oregon Trail Survival Story (Girls Survive) by Nikki Shannon Smith, illustrated by Alessia Trunfio. Stone Arch Books, Capstone, North Mankato, Minnesota, 2020. Elementary historical fiction, 112 pages including back matter. Lexile: 610L . AR Level: 3.9 (worth 2.0 points) .
During the California Gold Rush, twelve year old Sarah’s family is venturing West on first the Oregon Trail, and then the California trail. But the 1851 trail is difficult and hostile even without facing prejudice from other party members – can Sarah and her family survive the trip?
I like the premise of this as a series for elementary readers. With the title Girls Survive, we always know that at least the main character will make it through the difficult events, which keeps it from being too scary. That doesn’t mean these are necessarily great for sensitive readers, though – in the books from this series I’ve read so far, at least one side character always dies and many get into some life-threatening peril. The characters tend to be aged older but act a bit young, so it could also work for some middle grade readers too.
It’s also really nice to see this series working to use #ownvoice authors and highlight characters of color, which has been a problem with Capstone in the past. In this particular volume, I was also impressed by Shannon Smith’s sensitivity towards recognizing that westward expansion, even by settlers who have no desire to stop on tribal lands, was a negative for the peoples whose land they passed through (and eventually settled on after all).
“King Bheema was a kind and just ruler. Every day he held court at the palace. Rich or poor, tall or short, man or woman – anyone could walk in with a problem.” page 1
Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy.
My edition Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA, 2019.
MG fiction, 180 pages.
Lexile: 600L .
AR Level: 4.4 (worth 3.0) .
NOTE: this is a compilation of two books:
> A Dollop of Ghee and a Pot of Wisdom (2010)
> A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice (2016)
Prince Veera and his best friend Suku decide to hold court and resolve disputes when his father King Bheema is not available in this collection of eight interconnected short stories.
I came across this charming book looking for our next family read-alouds after we finished the Anna Hibiscus series. Since there are only two volumes, the American publisher has decided to combine them into one book. It was considerably cheaper to purchase the collected hardcover volume than to buy the two paperbacks separately, although I’m not sure how much that has to do with import costs.
“Samuel tried to remember what his father had told him about Indians. The Light of God was in them too. He struggled to keep that in his mind, but it did not ease his fear.” page 66
The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by James Watling. Puffin, Penguin Random House, New York, 1998. Historical fiction, 104 pages (including excerpts). Lexile: 810L . AR Level: 5.2 (worth 2.0 points) .
Set in 1777 and told in alternating views from the perspectives of Quaker boy Samuel Russell and Abenaki teen Stands Straight, this novel is based on real events during the American Revolution.
Joseph Bruchac, although not without error, is one of the handful of Native authors consistently writing historical fiction for children. (Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series is another notable example; Eric Gansworth and Tim Tingle have also written more than one book each. At the time of this writing, any others I know of only have one.) Also, I have so far been able to find only one work of children’s historical fiction by another Native author set before 1800. I hope others exist and are published set in all time frames, especially given the promising new Heartdrum imprint.
Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renee Watson. Square Fish, Macmillan, New York, 2018. MG historical fiction, 250 pages. Lexile: 810L . AR Level: 4.9 (worth 5.0 points) .
The life of one preteen girl in Detroit in 1945 – who later become the wife of Malcolm X. Betty wants nothing more than to be loved by her biological mother, but they disagree at every turn. She believes strongly in justice and fair treatment for all, but not everyone will stand with her.
So much is happening in this book yet all balanced very well. Reading the prologue introduces several of the issues that will become themes throughout. When just five pages in, first-person narrator Betty tells us about seeing a lynching as a young girl in Georgia, it is immediately clear that this book will be sensitive but not dishonest.
The fostering/adoption/kinship narratives are also handled well. The prologue briefly covers Betty’s early life. At one year old, she was taken from her teenaged mother by her grandmother, and raised lovingly by her aunt. After her aunt’s sudden death, she moved in with her biological mother and learned that she has three half-sisters and two step-brothers.
Her role ends up being more like a caretaker to the seven other members of her family; she constantly feels unappreciated and faces harsh punishments and constant misunderstandings. Church is a source of hope and light for Betty – her Christian faith and involvement with various activities at Bethel AME specifically are a major part of the book.
…and a (partial) list of his many works by genre and series.
These posts always tend to stem from a review that gets far too long and I just want to talk about something. In this case it’s my experience as a reader, educator, librarian, and finally just a reader again encountering Laurence Yep. In case you are new here (and how did you land on this post first, go read my reviews or booklists first, they’re better), I’ll mention that I do enjoy and often recommend his books, although they have sometimes caused me some hassle.
I have a long, often fraught relationship with the works of Mr. Yep. He has written a lot of books, and is probably best known for either his Golden Mountain historical fiction series or his fantasy novels. He worked with major publishers so his books could be found at the library. The major pre-internet problem we had, though, was that many of his historical fiction works have dragon in the title. And some of his magical books give no indication that they are magical. And he also has historical fantasy. And sometimes the books would randomly get retitled.