Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post - Is History Boring?

Author Michelle Isenhoff has several books for children and young adults to her credit. She's stopping by today to share her experience and wisdom in this wonderful guest post.

Michelle says,

"I write for kids.  In my books, you can expect adventure and substance, but I'll always respect the innocence of our children."  

I like that! I remember how challenging it could be to find good books for my kids when they were young. Michelle is currently conducting a blog tour for her latest book, Beneath the Slashings. It is specially priced at .99 for the month of August. (See links below.)

Windows to the Past

“History is boring.”

Oh, those words make me cringe! Especially when I hear kids say them. You see, I’m a teacher at heart. I haven’t taught in an official capacity, outside of homeschooling my own children, for a decade now, but that teacher in me never seems to go away. I’m stuck with it.

Maybe it’s the teacher, maybe it’s the writer, but I love traveling to historical sites. They are hotbeds for imagination. The individuals who once lived in those places call out to me, begging me to set them on paper, and that little story generator in my brain goes crazy. Often I’ll immerse myself completely in a place or an event so I can gather a real sense of what it was like, what people may have experienced or felt. I want kids to experience that sense of wonder!

This is how I came to write my very first novel, The Color of Freedom. My husband and I took a vacation to Boston, Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. I saw where the American Revolution began—I felt it—and I set that experience down in the story of Meadow MacKenna, a young indentured servant from Ireland who found herself caught in the tensions that tore the colonies apart. Meadow’s story is compelling in itself, but as a teacher and history buff, I love that it gives kids a window into the past. They get to experience history, though they hardly realize they’re learning.

A similar thing happened as I researched a vacation to Gettysburg. I came across a man by the name of Seymour Finney who owned a hotel in Detroit and manned a station on the Underground Railroad. While slave hunters were checked into his hotel, he escorted runaways to freedom. That story fueled my book The Candle Star. But one story began to feel rather narrow, so I expanded it to three, choosing to follow one state though the entire Civil War decade. The Divided Decade Trilogy was born.

I choose Michigan because it is my home state as well as Mr. Finney’s. It turned out to be an ideal setting. Though never the site of a battle, Michigan was an important participant in the events surrounding the war. Strongly pro-abolition, several of her counties were active in the Underground Railroad, with seven documented routes to freedom and two hundred safe houses (The Candle Star, book one). The Michigan home front was also vital to the war effort, supplying food, materials and men for the northern Cause. But unmanned farms created challenges all their own, and unscrupulous characters were ever ready to take advantage (Broken Ladders, book two). And after the war, families were left broken, and America needed to rebuild. The lumber camps of Michigan’s vast wilderness lured many who were looking for a new start (Beneath the Slashings, book three).

By creating three engaging adventures featuring three twelve-year-old girls, I was able to surround this period of history. The setting moves from city to farm to wilderness, viewing the war from different angles, immersing readers in different years, different challenges, different viewpoints. My goal, as always, is to create high-quality literature that provides an entertaining reading experience for children. I want to tell a great story. My hidden hope, however, is that my readers—young and old—might glean a little insight along the way.

I’ve just finished the final book of the trilogy, Beneath the Slashings. Within, young Grace is carted off to a lumber camp as soon as her father returns from the army. It’s frightening enough being the only girl in a camp full of men, but then a series of “accidents” prove intentional. Grace wants only to put the war behind her, but the camp doesn’t seem at all the sort of place where her family can heal.


Michelle Isenhoff is an elementary teacher and the author of several middle grade and young adult novels. Ever the teacher, she also likes to make classroom materials available to accompany her novels. They can be found on her blog

Stop by and see Michelle at her website, blog, on Facebook, or Twitter. She'd love to see you!

For more info or to purchase Beneath the Slashings, click on the following links:

Do you have any questions for Michelle? When you were in school, did you think history was boring? 

Have a great weekend,

P.S. Ann Gabhart's book giveaway ends tomorrow at midnight. Click here for details.

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


  1. History was a little boring in school, but I think that was partially the teacher's fault for not making it interesting. As an adult, I find it fascinating now.

  2. Lol, glad to hear it, Alex. Textbooks just don't do history justice.

    Thanks so much, Karen, for letting me guest post. I'm looking forward to interacting a bit with your readers.

  3. Alex,
    It was for me too in many ways. Like you though, I love it now. Thanks for coming by!

    It's a pleasure to have you here. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us. Wish you all the best with your books!

    Happy weekend,

  4. I loved history in school and I love it even more as an adult. I'm a museum junkie and my sister and I love to travel to historical places. As a historical fiction writer, I am living my passion for history. But I am concerned for the youth of this country who don't seem to care a bit about it. Our history books aren't relevant, nor do they stir the interest in history that you and I share! I'm writing about the Japanese American internment right now and I'm amazed at how few teens and even adult even know it happened. I guess that's another reason I write this genre - to bring the lost stories to life. Enjoyed this post. Thanks

  5. History was boring in school - but now I can't get enough of it! Good Morning.

  6. Great post. Thanks, Karen, for introducing me to Michelle and her books.


  7. Thanks for the interview, Karen. It's wonderful when an author brings history to life, especially for young readers! Susan

  8. Jan,
    I am sure your book will be a wonderful testimony to your love for history! I did not learn about internment camps until my Mom gave me the book Farewell to Manzanar when I was in school. I later read about it in Ann Tatlock's book; I think it's called All the Way Home. Best wishes on your book!

    I know, now why is that? Guess like Alex said, it could be the delivery. Either way, it's nice to share a love of history!

    Thank you! Have to give Michelle all the credit for this one! Good to see you. :)

    You are welcome. I agree, bringing history to life is a wonderful thing, for any age!

    Happy weekend,

  9. History boring? It's about life and people and conflict and survival. I enjoyed it as a kid and even more as a teen. (Took the social studies prize at graduation, in fact.)

    When I think boring, I think math. The same old numbers interacting in very predictable ways. Yawn.

  10. I've always been fascinated by history--and now that I'm over 60, I guess I'm part of it.

  11. Enjoyed learning about your process. I loved hearing where your ideas came from. As a child I visited all of those places, and unfortunately my imagination didn't soar -- I was bored. Had to grow up, I guess.

  12. Laurel,
    I am with you on the math thing! Although as an adult, I see more applications for algebra than I ever thought possible. Who knew? :)

    LOL! Well, I guess no matter your age, we all are part of history. Guess that can serve as a reminder to behave? :)

    Nice to meet you! Thanks for for coming by and commenting. My imagination seems more vivid as an adult sometimes. Not sure why. :)


  13. Karen, thanks for introducing me to Michelle.

    Michelle, I confess that as a kid, I found history boring too. But the right professor in college got me interested. I wound up getting my BA and MA in history. I've lived and taught in Cambridge, MA. You're right--it's great too be so close to event in the American Revolution.

    Good luck with your book!

  14. Michelle, your books sound fascinating. I love all things historical fiction--reading and writing. Thanks, Karen, for introducing us to Michelle--and to more HF books I want to read now :-)

  15. I didn't like history in school, but I love it now. I especially love historical fiction written for kids, so I'm off to download this book. :)

  16. I love history, have since I was young. Beneath the Slashings sounds great, Michelle. Best of luck.

  17. Theresa,
    You are welcome! It seems there is often a person or spark that causes us to get enthusiastic about something, isn't there? Hats off to good teachers at any level who do this!

    So we increased your tbr stack, did we? I think it sounds like a winner! :)

    Hope you enjoy it. I thought maybe you might like it since that is your specialty!

    Thanks for coming by! The title almost sounds like something you might write. :)

    Happy weekend,

  18. Thank you, everyone, for your compliments and well-wishes.

    Jan, we share a mission. Best of luck with your book!

    Laurel, I agree with you wholeheartedly on math, lol.

    Donna, that's funny! :)

    Theresa, thank God for good profs, eh? I can think of a few tremendously influential ones as well.

    Thank you Kendra and Joylene. And thank you, Linda, for downloading. I hope you enjoy!

    Karen, you have some wonderful readers. Thanks again for letting me contribute. :)

  19. I just saw Michelle's book over on Robyn's blog, but it's nice to hear a little bit more about her and her vacation inspirations. :-)

  20. I found history interesting. I even tried to major in it back in college. I seem to have passed the gene on to our son. He and I both love the Civil War era. Thank you, Karen for sharing Michelle with us.

  21. I'm glad Michelle likes to preserve the innocence of children when she writes. That's important to me, too.

    I read an old children's book about Michigan's lumber camps. It was great. There was nothing about the war in it. Her books sound very exciting. I think her three areas make it more interesting than just one.

  22. We'd love to visit certain historical sites someday. My husband is a huge history buff. Huge.

    I like the statement at the beginning about respecting the innocence of our children. I appreciate that and wish that more writers practiced that.

    Happy Friday to both of you!

  23. Jennifer,
    I know, Michelle is getting around, isn't she? Glad to see her blog tour is going well. :)

    I enjoy learning about the Civil War too. I recently found out that a relative (who's from PA) was killed in battle during the Civil War not far from where I live in KY. Small world!

    I know, I really respect that too. I've been hearing more about the Michigan lumber camps lately too. Interesting stuff!

    Traveling and learning is a good way to vacation. :) Perhaps for a certain anniversary?

    Happy weekend,

  24. I always loved history. Always read historical books like The Witch of Blackberry Pond. Not one bit boring!

  25. Thanks Karen and Michelle!
    I love historical sites, textbooks--not so much.

    How wonderful to have the main characters be 12 years old! Very nice choice.

    Bless you!

  26. Annie,
    Now there's a good book! My daughter and I read it when she was in school. I hadn't read it before that. I agree, not one bit boring. Made me feel bad for all those wrongly accused in the witch trials.

    You are welcome! Michelle has great things to share. I agree, textbooks can be dry sometimes. I think this fills a gap in books that are out there.


  27. History or boring?????
    No Way! I love to read about people or say Author's Autobiography and any origins. Just that I don't like to remember the dates. Haha!

    AND I LOVE ADVENTURE NOVEL. I came to know myself about this interest in adventure when I read, "The Coral Island' by R.M Ballantyne. It was so much fun learning about Islands which I was completely unaware of. :D

    Thanks for sharing this idea on history. I love reading histories!

  28. Karen, thank you for introducing us to Michelle and her work.

    History was one of my favorite subjects in school. I've enjoyed learning about people's circumstances and choices for as long as I can remember. It's no wonder I read so many biographies. ;-)

    Michelle, as a parent of preschoolers, I applaud you for noting that you respect the innocence of children.


  29. Hi Karen and Michelle .. how interesting and I'd love to read these books - they'd teach me something about American history from the stories of the land.

    I was not a good historian at school - so it's strange that so late in life .. I now love it. Though wonder if I could dream up characters and create a novel ... I think I'd take another approach.

    Great post and read - cheers Hilary

  30. I LOVE HISTORY! And my kids all love it too. Great post and I am so glad we're getting the word out about this talented writer pal. I love the first part. Adventure and substance. Exactly!!!! *waves to Karen*

  31. I hated history in high school. Did think it was boring. In college, my eyes were opened anew. I found American history very important. As an adult, I think history is fascinating. It's really true that if we do not pay attention to history, we will repeat the mistakes.

  32. Yeesi,
    I love your enthusiasm! There's something about reading where the world has been, isn't there?

    You are welcome! She's a great guest. :) I agree with you, I respect her desire to protect our future generations.

    Your blog reflects that love, too! It's a treasure trove of things old and new. :)

    Somehow I just knew that! And it adds so much to our writing, too, don't you think? :) Waving back!

    I agree with you, we need to pay attention to the past. Like fashion, things seems to cycle around in some ways, don't they?

    Happy reading and writing,

  33. History is not boring. I love reading history books! :) Well, I think it’s just that we have different preferences. Just like with the food we eat, or the movies we watch; we have different tastes when it comes to books as well. Some may prefer reading fiction or literature. There’s no problem with that for as long as you gain something from the book, and that’s already a good thing.

    Neil Poirer

  34. Neil,
    I agree; history is not boring! I wish I had appreciated it more when I was in school. You bring up a good point - the take away value. It's good to meet you; thanks for adding your two cents!
    Happy reading,


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!