Friday, January 28, 2011

Historical Fiction - American History

This week I was travelling and chose to read a book that I've had on my "to-read" list, but had never tried. It is The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1, The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson. Quite a mouthful of a title. This book won a Printz Honor Award in 2007,and the National Book Award for Young People. The second volume also won a Printz Honor in 2009.

First, let me say that it was wonderful. It was also a book that took time. I read it on my new Nook, which has the capability of looking up words in a dictionary by placing your finger on a word that you want to check. I love this feature! I can see students using this technology and looking up words. It wasn't that I didn't understand the sentences, but Iwanted to check, to make sure I was correct. The Nook also gave me the derivation of the words, too. (Most were from Latin.)

This book is set in the pre-revolutionary Massachusetts colony. A group of subsidized scientists study an African-American slave in all ways to see what he is capble of learning, thinking, and accomplishing.

Octavian was born on a slave ship and purchased with his mother. He is the ultimate experiment. He and his mother are treated like guests or members of the household until funding for the scientists is changed and the revolutionary war looms closer. Octavian and his mother are then treated and worked as slaves. When Octavian's mother dies from small pox (given to her and all attending a "pox party"), Octavian is determined to have freedom.

Anderson has done a masterful job of writing in the style of the 18th C. It is high school level, but certainly not a problem for good readers of any age interested in American history. I can't wait to start volume 2!

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