10 Historical Fiction Picks Guaranteed to Enlighten and Entertain

Historical fiction helps us view the events of history in new and meaningful ways. The best novels teach us about our past while entertaining us in the present. With that in mind, today’s list contains ten historical fiction novels (for a variety of ages) that will inform and entertain your young reader. Specifically, the books on this list taught me about events in history I knew almost nothing about. Each one is a gem, well-written and worth the read.

  1. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Time and Place: 1947, India

In 1947, India became independent of British rule. Two countries were formed, India and Pakistan. Hindu’s fled to the newly formed India and Muslims to Pakistan. Many were killed as they tried to cross the border into these new countries. The Night Diary shares the story of one girl’s journey in the midst of this chaos and upheaval. Told through letters to her mother, Nisha who is half-Muslim and half-Hindu struggles to find out where she truly belongs.

Readers 8 and up

2. Winnie’s Great War by Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut

Time and Place: Word War 1, Canada and England

Winnie’s Great War tells the story of the bear who inspired the creation of Winnie-the-Pooh. The story begins in the woods of Canada, follows the bear as she travels overseas with a Veterinary Corps and ends as she finds her way to the London zoo. The book contains excerpts of Captain Harry Coleburn’s war-time diary and pictures from the Coleburn family archives.

Readers 8 and up

3. Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Time and Place: 1942, Poland, Ghettos

Resistance tells the story of Chaya and her fight against the Nazi’s along with the Jewish resistance in Poland during World War 2. Many of the characters in this story were real people. This book helps us remember their stories and their sacrifices in a powerful way.

Readers 10 and up

4. The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan

Time and Place: 1861, Chicago

The Detective’s Assistant tells the story of a young orphaned girl who goes to live with her aunt in Chicago. Her aunt just happens to be Kate Warne (a real person) who was the country’s first female detective to work for the famous Pinkerton agency. The cases they solve in the novel are based on real cases.

Readers 8 and up

5. A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

Time and Place: 1942, Internment Camp in Arizona

A Diamond in the Desert tells the story of 12-year old Tetsu as he and his family are forced to move to an internment camp after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Tetsu, who lived and breathed baseball before Pearl Harbor has to learn how to live without it until a man starts a baseball team for the boys in the camp. The chapters in this book are short making this a good choice for slower readers.

Readers 10 and up

6. The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats

Time and Place: 1864, Washington Territory

In The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, Jane finds herself, her baby brother and her widowed mother on Mr. Mercer’s boat to Washington Territory; a boat filled with civil war widows and unmarried girls heading west. This book gives a peak into frontier life in Washington territory and the people who settled there.

Readers 8 and up

7. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Time and Place: 1941, Louisiana

Flygirl tells the story of the WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilots and a young black girl (with lighter skin) who loves to fly and attempts to “pass for white” so she can fly for her country.

Readers 12 and up

8. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Time and Place: 1924, Mexico and California

Esperanza Rising tells the story of a young girl who is forced to flee with her family from Mexico to California. The only work available to her family is in a farm labor camp. It is the middle of the Great Depression and Esperanza has lost everything, but in the midst of the hard she discovers what is truly important.

Readers 8 and up

9. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick

Time and Place: Civil War, from Maine to Pennsylvania and the Battle of Gettysburg

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg follows 12-year-old orphan Homer P. Figg as he runs away to find his brother who has been forced to fight for the Union Army. His crazy adventures share bits of history from the Civil War and culminates in the Battle of Gettysburg and the heroic action of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top.

Readers 9 and up

10. Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Time and Place: 1920s, Soviet Union

Breaking Stalin’s Nose shares the story of a young Russian boy who is finally old enough to join the Young Pioneers. But, when his father is arrested he starts to see another side to the Communist party and his world begins to fall apart. Beautiful illustrations combine with great writing to tell this powerful story.

Readers 9 and up

What are some of you and your kids’ favorite books of historical fiction? I’d love to continue this list in the comments!

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