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.
Sometimes history gets the bad rap of being boring. If your kids think this, or if they think the opposite and LOVE history, I have an author for you to check out immediately.
Steve Sheinken used to write history textbooks, but don’t let that stop you from picking up one of his middle grade or young adult books. His first book King George: What Was His Problem? is filled with stories from the American Revolution they wouldn’t let him put in the history books. It has a cover that is anything but boring and might be the perfect way to help your kids dip their toes into the subject of history in a way that is not at all boring.
In one of Steve’s most recent books for elementary-school aged kids, Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, I found the following quote:
“‘Kids say [history] is… Abby lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘boring.’
‘Some shows are boring, some books,’ Mr. Douglass said. ‘But history is just stories. Surprising, sad, funny, gross stories. Set in all different times and places. What’s boring about that?’”
To me, this feels like the perfect description of what Steve accomplishes with his books. He finds and shares unique stories from history that have been overlooked or forgotten and shares them in an exciting and very readable way. His knack for creating historical books that read like suspenseful novels is legit.
Several years ago I set a goal to read all of the Newbery Medal and Honor books. I looked up and typed out the titles of all the winners over the years all the way back to 1922 when the award began.
If you don’t know what the Newbery award is, every year the ALA (American Library Association) will bestow the seal of the Newbery Medal on the children’s book they deem the most distinguished of the previous year. Named for an 18th century English bookseller, the Newbery Medal was the first children’s book award in the world. (If you are interested, you can read John Newbery’s story in the picture book Balderdash! by Michelle Markel.) While there is only one medal winner each year, the ALA always acknowledges additional books with the Newbery Honor award.
I don’t read the books in any particular order. Once I complete one, I head to my spreadsheet and change the color of the title from black to orange. While the orange is growing, there is a lot of black because there are a lot of books. Some I have loved, some I haven’t cared for, all I hope to share, eventually.
It’s Presidents day, which stands out to me mostly as a day of no school. But, as it was set up as a day to celebrate George Washington’s birthday (which is offically on February 22) and Lincoln’s too (February 12), I will support the decision to take off school, close down banks and give our postal workers a much deserved day of rest.
In honor of our first president and the many that followed, I have two fun books you might want to check out.
Set against the back drop of the American Revolution, Chains explores Isabel’s search for freedom along side of America’s fight for the same. The first book in the trilogy introduces us to Isabel and her sister Ruth. The second book, Forge, follows Curzon as he joins the Patriot army at Valley Forge. The third book, Ashes, brings Isabel and Curzon together as they search for Ruth and decide which side of the conflict is worth fighting for.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to accompany my daughter on a field trip to a Holocaust museum. As to be expected, it was a sobering experience. I remember our guide telling us there were three kinds of people participating in the events of that time; corroborators, bystanders, and up-standers. The corroborators aligned themselves with Hitler and helped him carry out his work. Bystanders, didn’t necessarily align themselves with Hitler, but they did nothing to stop him and nothing to help. Up-standers, on the other hand took a stand for what was right and worked in small or big ways to make a difference.
Over the past few months I have been reading a variety of books set against the backdrop of World War 2. The following list of book recommendations follow characters that experienced this historical period from many different perspectives and locations. These stories are filled with tales of up-standers. Some are more subtle than others, but all offer us lessons to learn from. In my opinion, lessons wrapped up in a good story oftentimes make the biggest impact, help us to remember, and maybe spur us on to make a difference in our own time and place.
If you are looking for Historical Fiction (plus one nonfiction) set against the backdrop of World War 2, below are eight-ish suggestions, separated by setting.