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Straddling the line between the familiarity of Sweden and the excitement of America, Kirsten embodies a bravery that we can only hope to aspire to. Young readers looking for more thrilling stories of finding new homelands might enjoy the following books:

  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
    Set in the 1930s, this Pura Belpré award-winning book tells the story of Esperanza Ortega, who is forced by a tragic event to leave her home in Aguascalientes, Mexico and find a new one in a Californian farm camp with her mother. Their life in Great Depression-era California is a harsh one, characterized by…

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As a beloved historical fiction novel that tackles a difficult and important aspect of American history, and that is often taught in schools, there’s a lot of background information to dive into with this book.

The reasons behind the attempts, sometimes successfully, have been made to ban this book are a mixed bag. From concerned parents of Black students, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry continues to be a heatedly debated book. The title’s listing in the ALA Report of the Top 10 Banned Books from the 2000s states that it’s most often cited for its use of language.

Notably…


You didn’t think that we could not talk more about the covers, did you? As we mentioned, there have been quite a few editions of the Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry cover; from the most iconic (in our opinion) image of Cassie holding back her two youngest brothers on their front porch, to much more subtle and abstract covers, to the most recent 40th anniversary version illustrated by Kadir Nelson, this book has gone through a number of artistic revisions and updates. We owe a special thank you to booklistreader for helping us recognize just how many covers there…


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Finished the book and hunting for more incredible titles to check out? Whether you’re looking for more historical gems or a deeper discussion on the topics, here are some great picks for young readers who want more:

  • The Dear America Series
    Young readers who enjoyed learning about the different customs and traditions of Cassie Logan’s 1930s America will be interested to read titles in the Dear America series, a multi-book exploration into various moments in time written in diary form by fictional children.
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft
    While not a historical retelling, Craft’s Newbery-winning graphic novel touches on many of…

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn became a bestseller largely due to its appeal to American troops during WWII. The heart wrenching saga of the Nolan family reminded soldiers of home with its vivid sense of time and place. The book also depicted a nuanced and inherently American version of values and success — a family pulling itself up by the bootstraps to climb out of poverty to a more middle class lifestyle. Interestingly, demand for books such as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by American soldiers fueled the creation of a paperback market.

There was a lot of information to…


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Whether you loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the detailed dive into another time period or because Francie’s coming of age story resonated with you, these modern classics share the magic of rich historical world-building and a determined heroine. The following books can be enjoyed by young readers or adults:

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
    Jacqueline Woodson has cited A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as an inspiration for her, particularly for her book Another Brooklyn. Brown Girl Dreaming is a good pick for younger readers who love coming of age novels and who also want to be writers.

Lucien Waléry, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We chatted with Hannah Saloio, Adult Education Specialist from the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. for this episode to learn more about the role of women spies and how Harriet’s techniques held up.

Harriet is obsessed with Mata Hari, but a spy that Saloio recommends as possibly a better role model for Harriet is the incomparable Josephine Baker. As a world renowned performer, Baker’s successful career served as a powerful reminder that any skill set could be utilized by the right person. The National Women’s History Museum biography outlines how Baker used her performances as covers for covert activities.


Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

Did you love Harriet the Spy as a kid but are now looking for something with more spying and less… meanness? Maybe something a little more modern? Try out some of these books either for yourself or the young ones in your life:

  • City Spies by James Ponti
    If you want some actual, pretty cool spying. Teen hacker Sara Martinez secures a get of jail (or juvenile detention) free pass by agreeing to go to an MI6 connected spy school. Sara teams up with her fellow too-clever-for-their-own-good classmates on a mission, finding friendship and identity along the way.
  • Dork Diaries…

These Books Made Me

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped our childhoods. @PGCMLS

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