Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World

Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World by Douglas Wood and Barry Moser is a nominee for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Franklin and Winston: A Christmas That Changed the World tells of the Christmas of 1941 and Winston Churchill’s visit to the White House. During his stay, Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt both cemented their friendship and developed a framework that would take the Allied Powers through the war they were determined to win.

This book is a welcome addition to any library, whether its patrons are children or adults. Young readers will be able to use this book to fill in some gaps in what is present in their history textbooks, and older readers, like myself, may find that they never knew just how close Churchill and Roosevelt grew to be. Franklin and Winston is a perfect fit for many states’ social studies standards (in a number of grade levels), so it is also a good fit for classroom libraries. (I would even say that it would make an excellent Christmas gift for the history buff in your life.)

The artwork in this book, done in watercolors by Barry Moser, is wonderful, and much of it is based on actual photographs of Churchill’s visit to the White House during the Christmas of 1941. Readers may find it interesting to compare the illustrators renderings with the actual photos. (This may serve as a way to collaborate between art and social studies teachers.)

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

Mary Downing Hahn is known for her ghost stories.  My students at school know to go to the H section in fiction if they want a good spooky tale, and they’ve already begun to devour The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall, one of Hahn’s newest books.  This book, which takes place in the late 19th century, is one that will definitely appeal to children, especially those in 4th grade on up, who like their fiction with a bit of terror thrown in.

Florence Crutchfield, a twelve-year-old living in a London orphanage, gets the surprise of her life when she’s sent to live with her great-uncle at his country manor house, Crutchfield Hall.  Life at Crutchfield Hall is very different from Florence’s time at the orphanage.  She has a warm place to sleep, and there’s always enough food.  Florence’s uncle is happy to have her there, but her aunt seems to hate her on sight.  Why is there so much animosity from her aunt?  What could Florence have possibly done to deserve so much hatred?

Well, it seems that Florence’s aunt, a crazed and bitter woman, thinks Florence is trying to replace Sophia, Florence’s young cousin who died in a horrible accident nearly a year ago.  Aunt Eugenie makes Florence’s life miserable and constantly compares her to the seemingly perfect Sophia.  Florence is not even allowed to see James, her other cousin and Sophia’s younger brother.  (He grew very weak and sickly following Sophia’s death.)  Florence feels more alone now than she ever did at the orphanage, but she’s not alone…not at all.

Florence soon realizes Sophia is not entirely gone from Crutchfield Hall.  The ghost of her cousin is haunting Florence, James, and even members of the household staff.  Sophia has the power to make Florence do almost anything she wants…and that includes terrorizing those around her and finding a way to recreate her death so that someone else takes the fall that killed her.

Can Florence–and James–find a way to stop Sophia from wreaking havoc at Crutchfield Hall?  Can they banish her ghost forever?  Will Sophia ever really rest in peace?  Unravel the mystery when you read The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn, a nominee for the 2012-13 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall is the first book I’ve read by Mary Downing Hahn, but I can almost guarantee it won’t be the last.