Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Redcliffe- The Adventures of Two Southern Girls by Kathryn B. Hauer

Having a best friend makes everything more fun! Join Caroline and Cassie as they chase down a runaway horse, rescue an orphan, teach hummingbirds to eat from their hands, visit a blind fortune-teller, unite star-crossed lovers, organize an elaborate Christmas pageant, and lose a little girl in a hide-and-seek game gone wrong. Sounds like fun any girl could have, doesn't it? Guess what - Caroline and Cassie live in South Carolina back in 1840, without cell phones, TVs, or cars. But living back then doesn't put the brakes on their crazy, fast-paced lives. Do you think that girls in history were dull and dutiful? Not these two partners in adventure...in a house where the grown-ups aren't paying much attention, Caroline and Cassie get in - and out - of their share of trouble. Redcliffe is a book-within-a-book where modern-day best friends Bailey and Bianca lead readers to our heroines. When Bailey and Bianca go to their teacher's wedding, a mean guest shocks them with unkind words. The stories their teacher tells them explain that racist comment and take the girls back into the antebellum South where they - and you - get to know Caroline and Cassie. Living on an immense Southern cotton plantation means plenty of excitement for two fun-loving girls. Can Caroline and Cassie manage to stay out of trouble for more than one chapter? Find out in this lively novel where girls like you have non-stop adventures.

I have reviewed many middle grade books here on my blog.  Most of them are fantasy or just plain fiction but not many of them have been historical fiction.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres so I was interested in seeing how this author brought the history of the south into middle grade fiction.

Middle grade books are tricky, I think.  It takes special care to get the voice right- not too old and not too young.  History is especially tricky because there has to be a balance of history and story so the reader stays engaged and not bogged down with facts.

I feel like this book captured the feel of the south in the 1800's through the eyes of two young girls.  The author did a good job of hitting on the hot topics of that day while keeping the focus on the happier side of things.  I never felt overwhelmed or burdened but I understood that there were underlying tensions.  I think the author does a good job of explaining her goal with this book.  She says, "Although Redcliffe is historically accurate, it is less historical fiction and more a story about two ‘tween girls who live in the mid-1800s.  Human nature today is not much different from the way it was in 1840 – people still feel love, jealousy, anger, and fear in 2014 in the same degree as they did in the past and will in the future.  As an English professor, I try to show my students that human emotions and basic behaviors remain unchanged despite the historical period in which the people live.  As in 1840, pre-teens today must cope with social norms, negotiate blended families, and manage conflicting messages of innocence and morality.  Cassie and Caroline also balance the secrets of their relationship against the accepted customs and morals of their era.

Redcliffe has a light, cheerful tone; although it doesn’t ignore the realities of life in the antebellum south, the story inspires its readers by maximizing the positive and minimizing the unpleasant."

I think the author accomplished her goal.  This was a gentle book, easy to read without anything gripping or climactic.  It definitely gave me a history lesson.  It was southern plantation living at it's best with two girls who were easy to like.  

The image above is linked to Amazon where you can purchase this book.

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