Realistic Historical Fiction, or Just Another Made Up Genre
In today’s edition of Heavy Medal I present the newest Emily made up genre: realistic historical fiction! (Otherwise known as books I read and assumed they were set in present day and then realize WAIT Emily the Port Chicago disaster was in the 40’s and that the 80’s are you know… the 80’s.
Without further ado let’s get to two fabulous titles- one leading the nominations tally with twelve nods and the other on the lower end with two nods… RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE AND FINDING CLEM.
Both of these titles I struggled with on first read, but upon the second I really appreciated their quality.
Let’s start with RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani Larocca– who I just checked and she had FIVE books published in 2021 (two chapter books and three picture books). It’s interesting because a big rule of Newbery discussion is to not talk about yourself, but only the quality of the book. However sometimes individual experiences help a critic truly determine the authenticity of the story. I found that in RWW and am able to say that the realistic descriptions of leukemia, chemotherapy and white blood counts and how Reha separates life “before and after” her mother’s illness is spot on. Pair that with the strong cadence and metaphor-rich poems and I may start crying again if this doesn’t get a shiny sticker!
And then we’ll move on to a title I go back and forth on- BEING CLEM by Lesa Cline-Ransome. There is no question that this book is phenomenal. The main and supporting characters shine so well with multiple scenes leading to a re-read so I could just picture it again. Clem’s mother after his dad passed away, Clem unable to put his head in the water at swim lessons and Clarisse opening up about her fears.
My problem with this title? It’s advertised as a companion but also the third in the series with FINDING LANGSTON AND LEAVING LYMON and even though it’s a stand-alone title I think it depends too much on the others. My previous friendships with Langston and Lymon, knowledge of their stories, and perspectives of the same situation from made it impossible to separate this book from the others and thus not a “self contained entity.”
But that’s just my opinion, now I want to hear yours!
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Emily Mroczek-Bayci
Emily Mroczek (Bayci) is a freelance children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She served on the 2019 Newbery committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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