Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chasing Secrets, by Gennifer Choldenko (ages 9-12): exciting historical fiction that explores many current issues

News broke last week that a California child was infected by the plague after visiting Yosemite National Park.  Naturally, this caused alarms among families visiting the mountains--what causes this? how common is it? will my family be infected? Today we know that this serious illness is transmitted by rodents (see this info sheet)--but what about 100 years ago?

Gennifer Choldenko's newest historical fiction, an exciting story set in San Francisco during 1900, explores many important issues we are still debating today: the spread of infectious diseases, opportunities that women have to pursue careers in sciences, and discrimination against California's Asian American community. On one hand, Chasing Secrets reads like exciting historical fiction, but on the other hand it provides an opportunity to talk about issues our society is still wrestling with today.
Chasing Secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Turn-of-the-century San Francisco comes to life for young readers as 13-year-old Lizzie Kennedy accompanies her father on medical house calls and wrestles with the realization that a strange new diseases is affecting many people, yet the authorities are reluctant to acknowledge its presence. Lizzie is a terrific character--thoughtful but headstrong, eager to explore but a bit naive, and determined to do the right thing.

Lizzie forms a friendship with Noah, the son of Jing, her family’s beloved cook, who is hiding in Jing's room in Lizzie's house. As she gets to know Noah, she grapples with the injustices that exist with gender, class and race. Young readers today will not only find Lizzie a compelling character, they too will reflect on these issues that affected San Francisco at the turn-of-the-century and impact us still today.

I particularly like the way my friend and excellent reviewer Brenda Kahn sums up her thoughts on Chasing Secrets:
"The San Francisco setting is particularly vivid, especially the juxtaposition of high society life and the poverty of Chinatown. Characters are well-drawn as well, with Lizzie being particularly appealing. There's humor, heightening suspense, and tragedy. While this is a work of historical fiction, thoughtful readers will make modern day connections to persistent problems of race, class, sexism and access to health care."
Bay Area author Gennifer Choldenko, who won the Newbery Honor for Al Capone Does My Shirts, creates a tender and gripping story of friendship, mystery and persistence.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Wendy Lamb/Penguin Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. I thought, "What a happy coincidence!" when your review popped up in my feed! We reviewed the same book on the same day! What a fun surprise to read the shout-out! Thanks!