About SamiK

I'm a Library Director for a small(ish) Texas town with a desire to share my love of books and the library with my community.

Currently, I am working towards my MLS (Master of Library Science) from Texas Woman's University (my alma mater!).

When I'm not treading through a pile a school work and work work, I make precious memories with both my handsome men at home. Whether we are playing with the sand between our toes, making a campfire, or just taking in a movie at home, every moment is unique.

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November 12, 2015

LS5603 - Genre 5 - Historical Fiction


1. Bibliography

Gantos, Jack. 2011. Dead End in Norvelt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-37993-3

2. Plot Summary

    School's out and Jack is ready for an exciting vacation, until he becomes grounded for the entire summer. Allowed to help Miss Volker, the town's medical examiner, by typing obituaries, he soon finds is summer is more eventful than he could imagine.    

3. Critical Analysis

     Jack Gantos provides a different aspect of historical fiction than the other two books I reviewed for this genre. The book is set in historic Norvelt, Pennsylvania, where the wacky characters are abundant. The historical aspect of the novel, although present in the setting, is found more prevalent in the numerous literary and historical references throughout the book.
     What impressed me the most was the authenticity of the narrative. It is told from the perspective of 12 year old Jack. As zany as he was, it was easy to believe his character. From outrageous theories to his adolescent attitude, you can only sit back and enjoy the journey of this coming-of-age story like no other, in which learning from the past is central to the story.

4. Review Excerpts

  • Reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Wall Street Journal, SLJ, Horn Book Guide, and Publisher's Weekly. 
  • PW Best Children's Book in 2011
  • ALA Notable Books for Children in 2012
  • Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction in 2012
  • Newberry Medal in 2012.
  • "This is a richly layered semi-autobiographical tale, an ode to a time and place, to history and the power of reading.-" -HBG, 2012

5. Connections.

  • Have students identify and research 5 historical/literary references from the book and their importance to the story. .
  • Students create their own short story autobiography using their home town as the setting.
  • Display with other books by Jack Gantos.


1. Bibliography

Giff, Patricia Reilly. 2003. Maggie's Door. New York: Random House Children's Books. ISBN 0-385-90095-3

2. Plot Summary

In the sequel to Nora Ryan's Song, Nora and Sean escape the Potato Famine of the 1840s. Separated for the majority of novel, readers follow their journey from Ireland to America through alternating chapters.

3. Critical Analysis

      Giff does a wonderful job of centering her novel around perseverance and immigration. She brings attention of why people have immigrated to America, many for survival and without their families. Maggie's Door chronicles exactly this in a rough but accurate depiction.
     The story is personal for Giff. Her grandparents endured similar voyages to escape starvation due to the famine This personal connection holds her accountable for providing an authentic story.     

4. Review Excerpts

  • Reviews in Booklist, SLJ, Horn Book Guide, and Publisher's Weekly. 
  • Nominated for various state awards 2005-2007.
  • "Giff's descriptive language and detailed descriptions enable children to visualize the countryside and events along the way." School Library Journal, 2003             

5. Connections

  • Display with other Patricia Reilly Giff's books, such as the prequel Nora Ryan's Song, Lily's Crossing, and Water Street.
  • Begin a discussion of what would cause students to leave not only their homeland, but to leave without family.
  • Students create a piece of art to depict a part of the story, such as a model of the Samson or a drawing of the famine eaten countryside.


1. Bibliography

Sepetys, Ruta. 2012. Between Shades of Gray. New York: Penguin Publishing Group.  ISBN 978-0-14-242059-1

2. Plot Summary

One night, everything changed. Lina, along with her mother and younger brother, are arrested by Soviet officers and put on a train sending them to work camps. Separated from her father, will her family ever be together again, let alone survive?


3. Critical Analysis

      Inspired by her family history, Sepetys's first novel is an outstanding piece of work that has introduced readers to a part of World War II history not greatly recognized. Focused around courage, love, and patriotism, Between Shades of Gray, has brings awareness to the experiences of millions of Lithuanian survivors and victims of genocide.
      The characters are easy to relate to, from Lina's calm and strong mother to artistic and fearless Lina. The inclusion of culture specific terms and descriptions provide readers with an accurate depiction of the country and its people.
      Although written to share a specific dark time in history, the novel brings to light universal themes that anyone can identify with. This thought-provoking novel deserves its comparison to Anne Frank's diary. This authentic tale leaves readers questioning human nature with statements like "have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning my brother's was worth a pocket watch" (27). Disturbing but real, Sepetys has created a must read!

4. Review Excerpts

  • Reviews in VOYA, Booklist, WSJ, LA Times, Horn Book Guide, and SLJ
  • PW Best Children's Book, 2011.
  • SLJ Best Books of the Year, 2012.
  • ALA Notable Books for Children, 2012.
  • Golden Kite Award, 2012.
  • Carnegie Medal, Nominee 2012.
  • William C. Morris YA Debut Award, Nominee 2015.
  • "harrowing page-turner, made all the more so for its basis in historical fact, the novel illuminates the persecution suffered by Stalin's victims (20 million were killed), while presenting memorable characters who retain their will to survive even after more than a decade in exile"-  PW, 2011.
  • "Moving, edifying, and quietly beautiful, Sepetys's well-researched novel is an exquisite look at a devastating atrocity." - SLJ, 2011.

5. Connections

  • On a large map, track Lina's journey to depict the distance traveled..
  • Display with other historical novels about WWII, such as Number the Stars and Diary of a Young Girl.
  • Use to begin a discussion on the Holocaust.
  • Have student create their own handkerchief with drawings about their life. .

Rating System

IT WAS AMAZING!!!! You should be at the book store right now buying it! :)
I really liked it. You should def check it out and give it a shot
It was ok. At least read the synopsis on the back.
Eh....It was alright. It's borrow from a friend material.
Leave it on the shelf!!


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