Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

Best Contemporary Historical Fiction YA/Middle-Grade

1. “The Disappeared” by Gloria Whelan

Dial Books, 2008

(set in 1977, Buenos Aires, Argentina, YA)

Here is what I thought about it:


And here is my interview with the author: https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/no-country-is-safe-from-totalitarianism-an-interview-with-author-gloria-whelan/

2. “When You Reach Me,” by Rebecca Stead, this year’s Newberry!

Wendy Lamb Books, Random House, 2009

(set in the 1970s New York City, Middle-Grade)

A magical, elegant read!

3. “The Countdown,” by Deborah Wiles

Scholastic, 2010

(1962, the height of the cold war, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. Middle-Grade)


Interview with the author:


4. “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

Viking, 2001

(1960s south)

A dramatic account of a fourteen-year-old white teen and a black servant on the run in the racially and politically charged 1960s south. In this novel you will find much hate and fear, but also friendship, love and yes, even a budding romance. A great – and important read! One of my all-time favorites.

5. “Neil Armstrong is My Uncle, and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me,” by Nan Marino (don’t you just lo-ove the name – Muscle Man McGinty? You’ll love it even more when you meet the character!)

Roaring Book Press, 2009

(summer of 1969, a small town in New York State)

Somehow, we are transformed into a very specific time, and a very specific place, without feeling like we are being hit over the head with a HISTORY LESSON. This spare novel is all in the voice, and in the gritty sport of kickball, and in the bitter mix of feelings that keep torturing the mean protagonist, Tammy, who we mostly hate, but also can’t help love by the end of the story.

Interview with Nan Marino: https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2010/06/04/dreaming-big-in-1969-interview-with-author-nan-marino/

6. “The Wednesday Wars,” by Gary D. Schmidt

Clarion Books, 2007

A fun and insightful read for boys and girls, a well-deserved Newberry honor 1960s-set suburban novel, that dwells less on the Vietnam War and more on what it was like being a Presbyterian 13-year-old kid stuck between two big religions.

7. “All The Broken Pieces,” by Ann E. Burg

Scholastic, 2010



8. “A Corner of the Universe,” by Ann M. Martin

Scholastic Press, 2002

In the afterword to this amazing book, Ann Martin says the character of Adam is based on her own uncle whom she had never had the chance to meet. But, Ann Martin says, since she had never gotten to know him, this fictional character is probably totally different – an invention. Well, I am sorry, Ms. Martin, but I say he was real, because when I read your book, he was alive to me. This is one of those magical middle-grade stories that hold you by the heart, and remind you of what’s real and what’s important. I can’t resist quoting the book’s beautiful words that sum it all up better than anything I could possibly say here.

It’s all about changing what’s handed to you, about poking around a little, lifting the corners, seeing what’s underneath, poking that. Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t, but at least you’re exploring. And life is always more interesting that way.

9. “The Red Umbrella,” by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

10. “One Crazy Summer,” by Rita Williams-Garcia

Amistad (HarperCollins, 2010)


11. “Bitter Melon,” by Cara Chow

Egmont USA, 2011

Set in 1989-1991, the story follows a Chinese-American daughter of a cruel, overbearing mother. Teenage Fei Ting is trying to find the courage to seek happiness on her own terms. A total page-turner!


12. “Inside Out and Back Again,” by Thanhha Lai

Harper, 2011

The last year of the Vietnam War turns out to be a turbulent one for ten-year-old Ha — a spunky girl from South Vietnam with a weakness of fresh papaya. In telling the story of Ha, the debut author mines her own memories of escaping from Vietnam to America and of her new life in Alabama. The lyrical and haunting novel in verse is a perfect find for middle-grade social studies teachers and their students!

12. “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” by Emily Danforth

Balzer & Bray, 2012

This one, I think, is the best of them all, so far. A coming-of-age novel set in the 1990s, it explores faith and identity, and really, human nature, through the eyes of a gay teenage girl, Cameron Post. Here is where I gush all about it: https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-miseducation-of-cameron-post-by-emily-danforth/


September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Book Impressions, Contemporary History, Lists | ,


  1. […]  There is so much to love in this unique YA story, I can only be glad that it happens to be set in 1989-1991, falling very neatly into the category of Recent Historical Fiction, which, of course, makes it a perfect candidate to be included on this list: https://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/best-contemporary-historical-fiction-yamiddle-grade/ […]

    Pingback by Another Title for My Awesome Recent Historicals List « MAGIC MIRROR | April 10, 2011 | Reply

  2. […] Book Award winner just happens to be another great find for my Best Contemporary Historical Novels list, and I couldn’t be more […]

    Pingback by “Inside Out and Back Again,” by Thanhha Lai « MAGIC MIRROR | December 2, 2011 | Reply

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