Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

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I just finished Forge, the sequel to Laurie Halsen Anderson’s award winning-book, Chains, and I’ve already left a spot open on my shelves for Ashes, the final installment in Anderson’s Seeds of America trilogy. I may own a Nook, but this is a series I want to have lined up on my shelves so that I can be reminded of the power of good writing and the brilliance of Anderson’s accomplishment.

It occurred to me this morning that Martin Luther King Day is the perfect day to write about a series set during the American Revolution. Chains was told through the eyes of Isabel, a young black slave, and the action takes place in New York City. In Forge, her friend Curzon takes center stage and the reader follows his story as he moves between life as a Continental soldier and after he is captured, as a slave in a home for officers of the Continental Army.  At Valley Forge, Curzon argues with Eben, his white friend, about the purpose of the Revolution. Curzon tries to explain to his friend that personal liberty is as valuable as a country’s freedom.  Later, Eben says to him:  “I’ve been pondering the matter ever since we quarreled. You were right. If we’re gonna fight a war, it should make everybody free, not just some.” 

One of the accomplishments of these two novels is how well they weave historical information into the fictional story. I learned so much about Valley Forge in this book.  In fact, one of the new books in my “to read” pile is Russell Freedman’s book Washington at Valley Forge. It was Anderson’s story of Curzon and his fellow soldiers that gave me a new appreciation for the men who lived and died during that horrible winter.

And how cool is that title – Forge. Referring not only to Valley Forge, but to forging an identity and, by the end of the novel, Isabel and Curzon forging a relationship.  And, of course, since I finished reading Forge today, it makes me think of Martin Luther King and the bonds he forged between people.

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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

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I finished reading Laurie Halse Anderson’s new novel, Chains, this morning, and although a National Book Award finalist (and stacks of glowing reviews) certainly does not need my endorsement, I have to write about it. Thank goodness the last page announces that there will be a part two. I closed the book with one question: and then what? I know the revolutionary war period was chaotic and dirty, but through the eyes of Anderson’s main character, a slave named Isabel, it is a backdrop for a story about perseverance and power.

Isabel works for a wealthy loyalist family during the summer of 1776 when the British occupied New York. Her story is exciting and shocking and inspiring, and I can’t wait to read the next novel, Forge, which will be released in October.

Just add a blanket and a steaming mug of hot cocoa…

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Today’s topic: books for girls.  I know.  There’s no such thing as books for girls.  Books are books, right?  But…let’s be honest.  You just reach a time in your life when you have questions and there’s nothing like a good book to remind you that this road to adulthood is well traveled.  Here are ten books that I recommend to middle school girls when they need to remember that they are not alone:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow…10 Books for Middle School Boys