Historical Novels for Middle Grade Readers
picture of Edie Hemingway

Edith Hemingway’s newest release, That Smudge of Smoke, spans the years from 1929 to 2015 in a middle grade novel about two 12-year-olds navigating crucial changes in their lives. The vital link between the characters and the time periods is a diary, hidden in a door for the intervening eighty-six years—a door salvaged from an old Chesapeake Bay steamboat. The diary, known as Dorie, takes on the unexpected role of narrator, a compelling character in itself. Fans of Lauren Wolk (Beyond the Bright Sea) and Natalie Babbit (Tuck Everlasting) will enjoy this multi-generational story of hope, friendship, family, and of the far-reaching influence of history and music.

For a sneak peek into the lives of Dorie, Piper, and Garrett, watch the trailer below…

     “That Smudge of Smoke beckons readers aboard a steamboat in 1929, (and teaches them plenty along the way!), while also connecting them, thanks to a very special diary named Dorie, to today. Edie Hemingway masterfully navigates the lives of two young people, showing us that while much changes in time, what pulses deepest in our hearts — love, grief, dreams, and hope — does not. It is a book that deftly shows how stories link us, and how being given a safe space to tell our stories can save us.” 

-Dana VanderLugt, author of Enemies in the Orchard, A World War 2 Novel in Verse

     “This heartwarming novel is rich with vivid historical detail, compelling 12-year-old voices (Piper and Garrett), and (my favorite) a diary named “Dorie,” bound together with priceless memories, loyalty, and love.  I wept and rejoiced with all three of these characters as they journeyed through grief and hope, sadness and joy.”  –DJ Brandon, author of Tell Me Why the Jack Pine Grows (from West 44 Books)

      “At its heart, THAT SMUDGE OF SMOKE is a story about friendship. The best secrets kept are usually kept in a diary. But what if that diary had a name and could talk? This is a tender-hearted story about loss, new connections, the power of family, and discovering one’s own true self. A book full of love and hope.  A memorable book for a young reader.”                –Edie Pagliasotti, author of the forthcoming Miles Ellis and the Forbidden Scrolls 

 “Edith Hemingway’s book That Smudge of Smoke is an engaging historical work of fiction with a twist. It has an unexpected narrator that gives this story a new dimension. Piper Sinclair keeps a diary of her life, which she calls Dorie. It sketches her life aboard her father’s steamboat circa 1929.  Dorie’s voice crosses the time boundary to another young narrator, Garrett who finds Piper’s diary years later (2015) in his grandparents’ home. Young and old alike will enjoy learning all the incredible details about the Steamboat Era on the Chesapeake Bay and her tributaries. Although one would assume that the magic element of a diary with a voice would make this book more of a fantasy, it is in truth a work of historical fiction. Hemingway does detailed research into the life and times of her characters.  Garrett falls in love with Piper by reading her story in the diary, and we do, too.  The voices are fresh and original and the characters face and overcome enormous challenges which keeps your interest throughout the entire read.”  –Catherine Coundjeris, Volunteer ESL Coordinator for Literacy Council of Frederick County

     “Mix together a spunky girl, a grieving father, a companionable cat and a secret diary, and you have the recipe for a compelling middle grade novel, That Smudge of Smoke. Edie Hemingway sets her story in the Chesapeake Bay where steamboats carried passengers and freight during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The captain of the SS City of Atlanta finds himself widowed and responsible for his daughter Piper, who takes readers along as she explores the steamboat, snacks in the galley, befriends a stevedore, and observes the phases of the moon and birds of the Chesapeake. Piper’s adventures end abruptly with a smudge and zig-zag in her diary. What happened to Piper, her father, the cat and the diary? A young clarinetist will tell you the rest…”   –Connie Green, Professor Emeritus Appalachian State University

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Cover of book That Smudge of Smoke photo of Edie surrounded by students in a classroom photo of Edie Kayaking