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Monday, June 20, 2011


I had the pleasure of hearing Laurie Halse Anderson talk about her historical fiction novel, Forge, the sequel to Chains (which was on my middle school reading list in 2009-10), at the Jan Paris Book Fest: Children’s & YA Conference in Corpus Christi last fall. In discussing her book, she explained the tremendous amount of research she did which included personally enduring some of the hardships that soldiers faced during the American Revolution. The short chapters clearly depict the battles waged by our forefathers making it appealing to both boys and reluctant readers. The story picks ups where Chains ended with Isabel having rescued Curzon from the Bridewell Prison (although you will not be lost if you didn’t read Chains first). The two go their separate ways when Curzon doesn’t agree to go with Isabel to find her sister in Charleston. Curzon soon finds himself entrenched with the rebels in a bloody fight against the Redcoats. Anderson successfully gets her readers to feel the cold, hunger, and hopelessness that many soldiers experienced during that time in history. Curzon will eventually meet up with Isabel, but her situation is even worse than before. How can Curzon help Isabel when the end result would be their master causing Isabel to suffer as punishment? I loved the true historical aspect which Anderson includes in the Appendix. My middle school has been fortunate to have Catherine Whiteman, a talented storyteller from the Dallas area, portray Sojourner Truth through narratives and song. In her portrayal of this strong woman in history, Ms. Whiteman has emotionally moved many of my students with her performances. Although Sojourner Truth(named Isabella) was born twenty years after the setting of Forge, she and other slaves at that time experienced hardships similar to Anderson's character, Isabella. Forge is going to be on my library's 2011-12 Reading List not only to enrich the 8th grade US History curriculum, but because it is a great story that will appeal to many middle school readers. Look for the next book in this series, Ashes, coming October 2, 2011. Other fantastic books by Laurie Halse Anderson include Speak (on my top 10 list), Fever, 1793 (historical fiction),and Wintergirls (8th+ - deals with eating disorders). Watch this video from Simon & Schuster of the author discussing her view of the American Revolution and what she says is her purpose in writing – hope it moves you as much as it moved me.

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