I loved this historical middle grade novel, The Year We Sailed the Sun (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015) by Theresa Nelson. It's set in the year 1912 and took me into a unfamiliar world of Catholic orphanages and Irish street gangs in St. Louis.
Eleven-year-old Julia Delaney and her almost fourteen-year-old sister are being sent to The House of Mercy. Their older brother Bill, only fifteen himself, promises it will just be for a short time. Mary's the good sister, so living with nuns won't be hard on her. But Julia, that's quite a different story. And you can tell so from the first sentence of Chapter One: "I suppose I will go to hell for biting the nun."
That made me laugh. Yet I found Julia a sympathetic character as well. The author was a Winner of the PEN/Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Working Writer Fellowship for this book. It's also a Junior Library Guild Selection.
The novel is a fascinating blend of fiction mixed with actual history. (Of course, I had to read the Author's Note at the end to know that.) On the book's page on Theresa Nelson's website there are great pictures of the time period, including one of the real Julia who inspired the story.
The author has a number of other books to put on my "to be read" list.