Historical Novels

Lord of the Mountain

The “big bang” of country music (1925 Bristol, Tennessee)

Ever since Nate Owens saw a needle glide across a 78-rpm record, he’s been fascinated by the science and beauty of music. Before long, he was devouring Popular Science magazines and making his own crystal set radio.

Now it’s the summer of 1927. Music producer Ralph Peer is coming to Nate’s hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, and there’s no way Nate is going to miss the chance to meet him. The problem is, Nate’s preacher father hates music—forbidding it in his home and his church. So when he finds out Nate’s been hanging around musicians like the Carter Family, he comes down hard.

Starred review in School Library Journal

Night on Fire

Freedom Riders (1961 Anniston, Alabama)

Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views.

The Year of the Bomb

Horror movies and McCarthyism (1955 Hollywood, California)

The year is 1955, and there’s nothing that Paul and his best friends Oz, Arnie, and Crank love more than horror movies. So when Invasion of the Body Snatchers starts filming in their small California town, they couldn’t be more excited. But when their acquaintance with Laura and Darryl, extras in the movie, leads to what may be an atomic spy, Paul is afraid they’re in too deep. It's not a horror movie anymore—this is real life.

On Beale Street

Elvis Presley, Sun Records, and the birth of rock ’n’ roll (1954 Memphis, Tennessee)

Living in Memphis in 1954, Johnny's world is completely segregated—until he starts sneaking out to Beale Street at night. Beale Street, with its music clubs, is on the wrong side of the tracks, but it’s the only place Johnny can hear the blues, which is all he cares about. It’s also near Sun Records, where Johnny finds himself working for Sam Phillips—and witnessing history in the making when an up-and-coming musician named Elvis records his first song. Nobody has heard anything like it.

Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial

The Scopes Monkey Trial (1925 Dayton, Tennessee)

When school lets out in sleepy Dayton, Tennessee, fifteen-year-old Frances Robinson has one thing on her mind—spending time with handsome schoolteacher Johnny Scopes. But when Frances’s father has Johnny arrested for teaching evolution, overnight Dayton becomes the center of the universe. Every bigwig, from Clarence Darrow to William Jennings Bryan to H.L. Mencken, is heading south. As the fire and brimstone heat up in court, Johnny begins to struggle. And Frances has never been more at odds with her father, or more in love with the teacher whose trial made the whole world stop and think.