Contributed by Aurora LaJambre, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
Historical fiction books for kids go where social studies and history text books often cannot.
They bring the past to life in a way that helps young readers imagine what it meant to live during the American Civil War, or as a pioneer on a western prairie. Some of the best work in children’s literature sits on this shelf.
Educational details and facts add weight to these stories, but it’s how these books portray often difficult and chaotic circumstances through the eyes of young characters that enables children to grasp the impact of historical events.
The top ten historical fiction books for kids will have you laughing one minute, and holding your breath the next.
10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Life in colonial America was bleak, but not without its dramas. The Witch of Blackbird Pond gives readers the perspective of outsider Katherine Tyler, Kit, who leaves Barbados to live with family in Connecticut. Kit’s new puritanical life is cold, uncomfortable and immersed in the superstitions of the religious community.
9. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Life before and after the American Revolution has its ups and down for the protagonist in Johnny Tremain. Readers get a front row seat as Johnny participates in the Boston Tea Party, aids Paul Revere on his famous ride and grows from an arrogant boy into a generous young man with passionate beliefs.
8. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Sarah, Plain and Tall begins with a young woman from Maine named Sarah who answers a widowed farmer’s ad for a mail-order bride. Sarah travels west to stay with the farmer and his two children for a month. Anna, the daughter, shares the story of their simple pioneer lives on an expansive prairie in the early 20th Century.
7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
First published in 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables begins at an orphanage in Nova Scotia, where Anne Shirley is mistakenly adopted by a woman who requested a boy. The story follows Anne into adolescence as she stumbles into friendships, mischief and a first crush. This imaginative story offers a realistic peak into what day-to-day life was like for children on Prince Edward Island in the early 20th Century.
6. Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is one historical fiction book for kids many mothers will recall reading themselves. It’s centered on the lives of four sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy, in Concord, Massachusetts, and their struggles to cope with financial struggles while their father is away, fighting in the Civil War. While enjoying the stories of love and friendship, children can learn a great deal about how far women have come from the outdated gender roles represented throughout.
5. Stowaway by Karen Hesse
Based on the real life of a boy named Nicholas Young, Stowaway is the tale of an educated boy who stows away on a voyage around the world. Little is known of the real boy other than that he really was the first to spot New Zealand from the ship and grew up to explore the Antarctic. The voyage takes place from 1768 to 1771, and gives a fictionalized eye witness account of life on the famous Endeavor.
4. White Star: A Dog on the Titanic by Marty Crisp
White Star: A Dog on the Titanic takes place in 1912 on the Titanic. Sam finds company by volunteering at the ship’s kennel, where he meets a dog named Star. Children will enjoy the accurate details of the ship and the true accounts by real-life survivors included.
3. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is an amusing historical fiction book for kids told from the view of a witty, young orphan. Readers sneak along with Homer as he follows his only brother, who was sold into the Union Army to fight in the Civil War. Homer’s love for his brother and natural cunning give him the courage to overcome impossible obstacles along the way.
2. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Set in 1899, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate introduces us to eleven year old Calpurnia Tate, who lives in a small Texas town. The book spans a year of Callie’s life as she develops a warm relationship with her granddaddy and cultivates a fascination with the natural world. It’s impossible not to love Callie’s spirit and inquisitive mind.
1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Educating children about the dark and overwhelming events of the Holocaust isn’t easy for any parent or teacher. Number the Stars is an accessible, historical book for kids about a Danish family coping with life under Nazi occupation. The main character is ten year old Ann Marie Johansen who, with her family, puts herself in danger to help conceal her best friend Ellen Rosen, and pass her off as a sister. Both young girls demonstrate bravery and strength in the face of danger. This is one of many fantastic historical fiction books for kids that deal with the holocaust.
Do you have a historical fiction book to add to our list?