Today I’m participating in the blog tour for Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen. Set on the high seas during the 1600s, Cast Off is a historical adventure tale sure to please both girls and boys. I have one copy to give away to a reader with a U.S. address.
For a chance to win, just leave a comment about what you like about historical fiction. Be sure to get your comment in before midnight (PDT), Monday, June 22. Please note: The giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Luis on winning.
Eve Yohalem’s first book was Escape Under the Forever Sky, which Booklist called “riveting.” She lives with her family in New York City. To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide for Cast Off, visit her website: eveyohalem.com.
Eve Yohalem on the Relevance of Historical Fiction for Modern Children
When Cindy asked me to write about the appeal and relevance of historical fiction for modern children, I got very happy (thank you, Cindy!). I don’t just write historical fiction, I love reading it, so I have a lot to say on this subject!
For me, the appeal of historical fiction begins with a burning need to answer the question What was it really like? Back in the 17th century, did pirates actually make people walk the plank? What did people use for toilet paper? How many minutes did it take to amputate a leg? And how long did it take to spin hemp into yarn, weave yarn into cloth, sew cloth into a shirt, get it from seamstress to market—and when you bought the shirt, did it feel super scratchy against your skin, or was your 17th century skin so used to scratchy that you didn’t even notice? When you read historical fiction, you find out the answers to questions like these.
Fiction is also one of my favorite ways to learn real history. We humans are storytellers. We process everything we see and experience by turning it into a story, from You’ll never believe what happened to me today! to Let me tell you how my great grandmother came here all the way from Poland with no shoes. Cast Off is an adventure story about two 17th century kids looking for their place in the world. But when you read it, you also see how goods were exported from Europe to Asia and you learn a lot about the truly disgusting medical practices of the day (like blistering, among other things!).
Historical fiction is relevant today because one of the ways we understand who we are is by understanding where we’re from. The Dutch colonized the New World for only forty years in the 1600s, and yet many of our most essential American values come from that time and culture: tolerance, meritocracy, and capitalism, to name just a few. But the thing that always strikes me most when reading stories about people who lived centuries before my own is that while the particulars of our lives may differ widely, our emotions are the same. People have always felt joy, grief, pride, shame, fear, and wonder, and we always will. I love that thrill of recognition, of being able to identify with someone who doesn’t wear underwear and rides a horse to work. Don’t you?