Michelle Isenhoff, Author
Historical Fiction, 2011
Suitable for: Middle Grade
Book 1 of the Divided Decade Trilogy
Emily Preston is a spirited 12-year-old southern belle living on a plantation in Charleston, S.C. She is outspoken, sarcastic, mean and self-absorbed. Her parents are disturbed by her behavior and send her to Detroit to live with her uncle, Isaac Milford, who runs a hotel. Emily is horrified when she realizes that the employees are free slaves and she’s to join them in the daily work of running the hotel. She misbehaves, skips school and treats the employees with disdain, hoping that her uncle will send her back home. Her uncle sees his own reflection in Emily, and treats her with firmness and patience.
Detroit and the simplicity of her life begin to grow on Emily. She would never admit it. She befriends Malachi, the son of Julia, the hotel cook. She is shocked to learn he attends school, reads and writes and wants to be a doctor. As she settles into her new life, Emily is challenged to come to terms with her southern upbringing. While she develops relationships with the workers at the hotel, she begins to question everything she has known. It is a confusing time for Emily. Her bond with Uncle Isaac strengthens as he begins to teach and trust her. Emily stumbles upon her uncle’s secret and finds herself involved in events that will change her world forever. Emily transforms into a remarkable girl who listens with her heart.
Why I liked this book: The Candle Star is a brilliant work of historical fiction. Michelle Isenhoff offers a fresh new perspective on the differences between the north and south by focusing on those who risked their lives to help slaves find freedom, before the Civil War. The setting is Michigan, Michelle’s home state, and many of the characters are based on real people. Although Michigan wasn’t part of the battleground, it played a significant role in the Underground Railroad, with seven routes passing through Detroit. Kudos to the author for all the detailed research that went into this book and for teaching me something new. Her writing style is vivid, her plot strong and her characters are rich and memorable.
The Divided Decade Trilogy: The Candle Star is the first book in the Divided Decade Trilogy. All three books are stand-alone novels that shed light on the role Michigan families played to support the war effort and freedom for slaves. The second book Blood of Pioneers, is about Hannah, who tries to save the family farm when her father and brother go to war. The third book, Beneath the Slashings, was released August 2012. Grace wants her family to return to a normal life after the war, but finds her life uprooted when her father seeks work in a lumber camp in northern Michigan. Click here to visit Michelle Isenhoff’s website. Make sure you check out the teacher’s resources for each book. There also is an interesting “Author’s Note” at the end of each book detailing the historical information of that time in Michigan.