Historical Fiction Books for kids can help you get them truly fascinated and captivated by a subject that is really important. Fiction stories tend to be more exciting than non-fiction on their own. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, right? Your kids will love these books.
History is a fascinating topic, but it’s one that doesn’t always interest kids. In school, many think that history is a rather dry collection of facts and numbers – but those who love history know that there’s so much more to the subject. To get a child interested in history, they’ll need a good entry point. One such entryway is through historical fiction.
Children’s literature is full of great historical fiction. These books inspire and entertain, giving kids a view of the historical world in which the characters lived. Below are ten great historical fiction books for kids.
10 Historical Fiction Books for Kids
1. Johnny Tremain
Johnny Tremain is an American classic that has, for whatever reason, slowly fallen out of the US school curriculum. This book allows younger readers to view both pre-Revolutionary America and the War for Independence through the eyes of a peer, and the fantastic writing helps to bring the setting alive. This is a great book for encouraging students to learn more about the American Revolution.
2. The Book Thief
This book is less a look at World War 2 than it is a look at the life of a civilian who lives under the Nazi regime. While the book’s focus on reading and its power to help individuals endure is always a great message, the book is also incredibly dark and a bit of a brutal read. It is, however, an important novel that gives the reader a gateway into another period of time – one of the best functions of historical fiction books for kids.
3. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Certainly a book for older children, this is an unflinching view of both the Holocaust and childish naiveté. As the book moves towards its inevitable, tragic climax, the reader will begin to get sucked into the world of the Second World War and start asking himself or herself hard questions. This is a great book for older children who are beginning to learn about World War 2 and an important piece in the canon of historical fiction books for kids.
4. The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower
The Mayflower story has been repeated so many times that it’s memorized by rote by most children. To liven up the story, though, they can read this book. It’s based entirely on recorded historical fact and narrated by the person to whom these adventures happened. The book is a good look at not only the first year of the Pilgrim’s journey in the New World, but an interesting look at the life on an indentured servant. This is a great book that can help make the Pilgrims seem a bit more like real people.
5. Never Fall Down
The Khmer Rouge and the regime of Pol Pot aren’t given a lot of time in US classrooms or in historical fiction books for kids, so the setting of this book will be largely unfamiliar to most younger readers. The tale itself isn’t an easy read, nor is the time period particularly sanitized for children. Instead, it’s a very moving story about a horrific time in human history that also features a real triumph of the human spirit.
6. A Thousand Never Evers
The Civil Rights era can be hard for children to understand for numerous reasons. Luckily, this book features a young protagonist who can help younger readers understand some of the issues that were raised during the era as well as how those issues affected children their own age. While the book isn’t long on complexity, it does feature a very positive message and can help children connect with the era. Of the many historical fiction books for kids about the Civil Rights era, this is perhaps the best entry point for younger readers.
7. Bud, Not Buddy
Set in the Great Depression, this book’s strong themes of family and identity are sure to connect with many children. This is one rare Depression-era book not focused on either unemployment or riches-to-rags stories, but rather on one boy’s journey. Along the way, kids will learn a great deal about the US during the 1930s and pick up some fairly interesting information about the world of jazz music.
8. Da Vinci’s Tiger
Novels of the Italian Renaissance are fairly rare, at least in the world of historical fiction books for kids. Da Vinci’s Tiger plays a little loose with some of the historical fact, but the intriguing setting and focus on the philosophy and art of the era offer young readers a glimpse into a time that’s often called important without much explanation given. With a charming protagonist and a good story at its heart, this is a good look into a great period of time.
9. May B
Set in the land rush days of the American West, May B gives students a look into the hardship of the lives of homesteaders by providing them with a protagonist to whom they can relate. A fairly gripping tale of survival and growth, this novel will help students understand all that the settlers of the West had to do to survive – even if some of them were no older than the students reading the books.
10. Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials
While there is a great deal of fiction concerning the decisions of the adults during the Salem Witch Trials, Wicked Girls is primarily devoted to the psychological and social dynamics of the teenage girls in the middle of the historical event. This novel draws in teens by showing the parallels to their own lives and makes them question how they would act in a similar situation.
The ten books above span centuries and continents, but they all present history in a manner that’s a bit more exciting and a bit more accessible than that presented in many schools. If you’re looking to help a child spark a love for history or looking to help an interested reader learn more about the time period they are studying, these ten books are a great start. History is a living, breathing subject and the historical fiction books for kids above reinforce that fact in the mind of younger readers.
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