It’s hard to compete with history. There’s something compelling about a story that actually happened, real people, facing real odds, surviving, and sometimes not surviving. We can’t help but wonder about the untamed world our ancestors navigated, coming up against disasters, both natural and manmade. How did they do it? Could we do it? Here are a few samplings of historical tragedies in our American heritage.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Told from the perspective of a young girl who recounts the frequent struggles against the dust storms and the resulting crop failures that bring poverty to a land that is already in the midst of a Great Depression. Hope is met with despair at every turn, but ultimately she realizes that survival is a condition within all of us. It is not determined by external factors. Written in verse.
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Hattie, a 16-year-old, is willed a land claim by her unknown, deceased uncle, so she leaves her foster home in Iowa and heads to Montana. She arrives in the middle of winter to find little more than some land, a shack, a cow and a horse. She has until November to produce a crop that can pay off the claim or she risks losing the farm.
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Anna and Caleb lost their mother at a young age and Jacob, their father needs a wife to run the household. His advertisement is answered by Sarah who comes from Maine to the prairie for a trial run as a frontier wife. Both the children and their father fall head over heels for Sarah and hope she will stay.
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Excellent portrayal of life in New York City during the American Revolution. Told through the eyes of a slave girl who should have been freed per the wishes of her recently deceased owner, but instead is sold to a loyalist couple in New York City who dole out severe punishments for disobedience. She befriends a slave boy who she ultimately feels compelled to save at the risk of her own life.
Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
13-year-old Samuel returns from a hunting trip to find that his parents and neighbors have either been murdered or taken captive by British and Indian soldiers. Using his sleuthing skills he figures out that his parents were spared and sets out in pursuit of them. Along the way, he is hit in the head with a hatchet, saves a girl from death, encounters a civilian who risks his life to help Samuel and pulls of a daring rescue of his parents at a prisoner facility in New York City.
My Brother Sam is Dead by Sam Collier
During the American Revolution, many Americans sided with Britain. Tim’s father is a Loyalist who is crushed when Tim’s older brother, Sam, decides to fight with the Patriots. During the war, Tim grows emotionally into a man. He witnesses his father being kidnapped by cowboy bandits and later the execution of Sam when he is falsely accused of stealing his family’s own cattle.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
16-year-old Kit Tyler has just left her tropical, island home in Barbados to live with her Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut. As hard as she tries, she can’t embrace the harsh Puritan ways of the community. When she befriends a kind, old women who has been branded as a witch, she knows she is putting her own reputation at risk. She risks be accused of being a witch herself.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Yellow Fever epidemic has hit Philadelphia. There are so many bodies they must be deposited in mass graves. Mattie Cook hopes that her family will be spared, but no such luck. Now, she is in a desperate battle to save her family’s coffee shop and most importantly, her own life.
I Survived Series
The I Survived Series is one of the most popular series on the market. They are quick and easy, covering a wide range of historical events in American History. The number of wars, natural disasters and other human tragedies seems limitless. You will want every book in this series, because devoted fans will be chomping at the bit for the next release.