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My Name is America is a children's historical fiction series and a welcome addition to the genre, as it is aimed at boys! Each book is written in the form of a journal of a fictional young man's life during an important event or time period in American history. The interest level of the books ranges widely, anywhere from fourth grade and up. However, most are in the 5th grade to 7th grade range.
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Wong Ming-Chung, aka "Runt", starts to keep a journal when his uncle leaves China for the gold to be found in America, and continues writing as he is sent by his family to join him there. He has a dangerous journey to get there, and finds hardship, violent racism, and many deaths in the rough mining camp. He also finds good friends and grows in self-worth, confidence, and self-reliance.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 650L / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8 / Guided Reading Level: U
Sean starts as a water carrier on the Union Pacific and then is promoted to the position of 'spiker'. In his journal, he writes of the arduous work, his co-workers, the ethnic prejudices, and the rough world of the boomtowns that sprout up along the newly-laid tracks. He becomes a man on this long, hard journey to build a railroad and make history.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 60 / Lexile Measure: 1060L / Grade Level Equiv: 5.7 / Guided Reading Level: W
After living in the Dust Bowl for years, C.J.'s family has decided to abandon their beloved farm and head west to find work in California. In his journal he writes about the discrimination, disappointment and hardship that his family and the other 'Oakies' endure--both on the journey and once they reach California. Yet despite the hardships, he remains hopeful for a better life for himself and his family.
Interest Level: Grade 4-7 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 1000L / Grade Level Equiv: 5.9 / Guided Reading Level: T
I'm a huge fan of this series and author Jim Murphy so it's no surprise that I liked this book! This title tells the story of a 16-year-old boy who serves as the 'company historian' for his Union army regiment. The record he creates (this book) is packed with small details of life as a Union soldier, and not just the blood and battles (although there is that!). He also captures the monotony and boredom that the soldiers faced and interactions with civilians (incl. a slave who hides him from Confederate soldiers.) School Library Journal called it "a solid addition to a popular series."
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 1070 / Grade Level Equiv: 6.8 / Guided Reading Level: V
Set at the turn of the 20th century, this My Name is America entry tells the story of Otto, a Finnish immigrant who expects America to provide a life of luxury, but soon realizes the truth. As a teenager, he endured the horrible journey across the Atlantic, and now he has to become a miner instead of attending school. He writes about conditions for immigrant, the miner's strike his father participates in, and the suffragette activities of his mother.
Interest Level: Grade 5-10 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 1010 / Grade Level Equiv: 6.1 / Guided Reading Level: V
A historical fiction journal 'written' by a half French, half Indian boy named Augustus Pelletier, 14, who wants to join Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery. He writes and travels parallel to the group without being seen, not revealing himself until he feels they will accept him as a member. As with all books in the series, a non-fiction section at the end provides details of the journey, maps, sketches, and more.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8
Ben Uchida spent his 12th and 13th years in an internment camp at desolate Mirror Lake, and records his experiences in this journal. At the camp, residents lived like prisoners, with barbed wire and armed guards everywhere. He writes about the sadness and frustrations of life in the camp, but also about some positive things, like playing on the camp baseball team. Historical notes and photographs are provided at the end.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 40 / Lexile Measure: 850 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.6 / Guided Reading Level: S
Jedediah's family has just drowned while trying to cross the Kaw River. They were part of an Oregon Trail wagon train heading west, and now a distraught Jedediah must continue on without them. He records the many new experiences, challenges and hardships en route in the journal his mother had been keeping before she died. "A solid adventure story." (Booklist) A "useful book for social studies units" on the Oregon Trail history. (School Library Journal)
Interest Level: Grade 4-7 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 760 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.5 / Guided Reading Level: U
In a series of well-written historical fiction novels, this title "is a standout in the series." Finn and his Irish-American family are recent immigrants and are struggling to get by in America. Finn works as a newsie, selling newspapers on the streets just like his friends Racetrack and Mush. But when the publishers raise the wholesale price of the papers, the boys decide to go on strike.
Interest Level: Grade 4-7 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 770 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.3 / Guided Reading Level: V
Private Scott Collins doesn't know the seriousness of what awaits him and the other young men waiting for D-Day. Scott does survive the day, but is no longer the naive high school graduate anymore. The hardships and horror of battle have transformed him from youth to manhood in the space of a few weeks, and the reader watches his transformation through the entries he makes in his journal.
Interest Level: Grade 7-10 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 810 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.3 / Guided Reading Level: T
Patrick's journal is an intense first-person record of four months at war under constant assault from the enemy, including the dreadful living conditions, the danger, the utter terror at watching a fellow soldier get blown up right in front of you... In time, readers can see how the experiences have worn on Patrick, causing him to question if they should even be there at all. (Note: While not overly graphic, this book does aim to depict the "reality of war".)
Interest Level: Grade 6-9 / DRA Level: 70 / Lexile Measure: 900 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8 / Guided Reading Level: Z
Young Douglas is an orphan who has been warmly accepted by a group of families heading west to California. Known as the Donner Party, the group is upbeat as they head out of Missouri. Douglas records their successes and challenges en route in his journal. He initially sees the journey as a grand adventure, but in time the days get more difficult and eventually the situation is dire, with families facing starvation. Based on the tragic true story.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 40 / Lexile Measure: 920L / Grade Level Equiv: 5.7 / Guided Reading Level: S
This "outstanding addition to the...series" (Booklist) covers the tragic Cherokee Trail of Tears as seen through the eyes of a 16 year old boy named Jesse. In addition to writing about the excruciating forced march, Jesse also writes about Cherokee daily life, beliefs and practices, and the political forces leading to the forced removal, making this journal a powerful window into the culture and the Trail of Tears.
Interest Level: Grade 4-6 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 880 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8 / Guided Reading Level: V
Acclaimed author Sid Hite brings the drama of the Civil War to life through the eyes of Rufus Rowe, a Confederate boy. Sixteen-year-old Rufus Rowe runs away from home, to escape his cruel stepfather. He finds work and shelter in Fredericksburg, Virginia, just as the Rebel troops begin to amass in preparation for a confrontation with the Union Army. Rufus befriends several Confederate officers, who do not believe the Confederate army can be beaten, and sensitively observes and records the gripping battle that takes place there.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 50 / Lexile Measure: 930 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8 / Guided Reading Level: VClick here to see this book listing on Amazon.com
Teenager Biddy Owens' 1948 journal about working for the Birmingham Black Barons includes the games and the players, racism the team faces from New Orleans to Chicago, and his family's resistance to his becoming a professional baseball player. Includes a historical note about the evolution of the Negro Leagues.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 40 / Lexile Measure: 920 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.8 / Guided Reading Level: S
Renowned historical fiction writer Ann Rinaldi presents the story of
Jasper, a 14-year-old Pilgrim who makes his mark at Plymouth by
establishing a friendship with the Nauset Indians. A great historical fiction kids chapter book for reading during early American history lessons or even around Thanksgiving time.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 40 / Lexile Measure: 680 / Grade Level Equiv: 6.5 / Guided Reading Level: S
In 1871, Joshua Loper, a sixteen-year-old black cowboy, records in his journal his experiences while making his first cattle drive under an unsympathetic trail boss, in an addition to a best-selling series composed by a Newbery Honor-winning author.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 60 / Lexile Measure: 1000 / Grade Level Equiv: 5.9 / Guided Reading Level: W
Click here to see this book on Amazon.com
William, a twelve-year-old orphan, writes of his experiences in
pre-Revolutionary War Boston where he joins the cause of the patriots
who are opposed to the British rule, in a boy-narrated companion to the
Dear America series.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / Lexile Measure: 950L
We are not quite finished with the summary / review of this book. Please check back soon. In the meantime, below are the reading levels and a link to learn more about the book.
Interest Level: Grade 5-8 / DRA Level: 60 / Lexile Measure: 970 / Grade Level Equiv: 6.4 / Guided Reading Level: W
Betsy, Cindy, and Virginia (the teachers/sisters behind this website)
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