Alice Mead had a hit in my library with Adem's Cross, set in Kosovo in 1991. Boys like war books for some bizarre reason, so I try to get them books that do not in any way glorify war. Mead's Dawn and Dusk is another winner. Set in Iran in 1987, it involves a Kurdish boy whose father is an informer. This slim volume will appeal to many students, and the description of what it is like to have war as a part of your daily life makes it seem definitely unglamorous. I will check the other titles by this author.
Deborah Hopkinson's Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 (and the title really does help-- I won't have teacher questioning whether or not it is historical!) was great. Several good things going for it-- the title, the cover, and the first couple of lines:
"Hey, kid. Get back here and empty your pockets."
Nicholas Dray whirled to see a burly policeman pointing a black club right at him. He froze in astonishment. This should not be happening.
Yes! This will make a child pick up the book! There is some discussion of how Nick got to San Francisco, having run away from the cotton fields after his grandmother died, but it's done in flashbacks that are interspersed with the excitement of San Francisco. Have several students in mind for this and can't wait to get a copy! This author also did Shutting Out the Sky:Life in the Tenements of New York which I liked. I'll have to check for others!