The Best Historical Fiction Chapter Books for Kids

affiliate
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter

Historical fiction books show kids a glimpse of the past through the relatable eyes of a story. Kids learn so much about history when reading these types of chapter books.

Discover well-written favorites that kids can’t put down for beginning readers in first grade up to more advanced readers in middle school and high school.

For historical fiction books only written by OwnVoices, visit this post.

Beginning Chapter Books: Historical Fiction

 Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Magic Tree House 
by Mary Pope Osborne (ages 6 – 9)
A MUST-READ series for all kids! These combine mystery, history, magic, and adventure as siblings Jack and Annie adventure through time.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
I Survived
 by Lauren Tarshis (ages 7 – 10)
Excellent, fast-paced adventures set during significant historical events! Your kids will zip through these fascinating adventures. The books always are about a young boy trying to survive a historically important, life-changing event. GREAT for reluctant readers since these are easier to read than the other books on this list.


Charlotte Spies for Justice A Civil War Survival Story (Girls Survive)
by Nikki Shannon Smith (ages 7 – 10)
Based on the true story of a courageous female spy in the South during the Civil War. Charlotte is a servant girl in Elizabeth Van Lew’s house, who becomes a spy for the Union. Readable, compelling, and interesting.

Secrets of the Manor Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Secrets of the Manor:  Claire’s Story, 1910
 by Adele Whitby  (ages 7 – 10)
A captivating story about an orphan girl who moves to France to live with friends of her family. She befriends a servant and they discover mysteries that must be answered — like what happened to the daughter of the manor and why did her parents send her to this family.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner, illustrated by Kelley McMorris  (ages 6 – 9)
Ranger, a golden retriever trained for search-and-rescue, travels back to the Oregon Trail to help a family in need. It’s a simple story that introduces the ups and downs of traveling on the Oregon Trail. The pacing is a bit slow but I’d still give it a chance.

John Lincoln Clem Civil War Drummer Boy historical fiction books for kids
John Lincoln Clem Civil War Drummer Boy: Based on a True Story
 by E.F. Abbott (ages 7 – 10)
Johnny leads home at age 9 to fight in the Civil War. He begins as a drummer boy and later fights. This is such an exciting, well-written story made even more interesting because it’s based on a real story. This is the only book I have read in the series thus far — and it was a great choice.


I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 (Graphic Novel)
by Lauren Tarshis, Georgina Ball, illustrated by Haus Studio (ages 7 – 10)
Retold in a graphic novel format, this graphic novel version tells the story of a boy on the Titanic who is traveling with his mom and sister to reunite with his father in the United States. If you have a reader who prefers graphic novels, give this historical fiction book a try. Personally, although I love graphic novels usually, I prefer the narrative version because it hooked me into the action and tension of the story better.


Escape This Book Tombs of Egypt
by Bill Doyle, illustrated by Sarah Sax & You (ages 7 -10)
Interactive, educational, and fun! This book is an enticing doodle, activity, first-person choose-your-own-adventure book that will make you an expert on ancient Egypt.

Middle-Grade Chapter Books: Historical Fiction


Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park (ages 8 – 12)
Park writes a wonderfully touching multilayered story about a young half-Asian girl’s life during western expansion, frontier times. After Hana’s mother dies, her father moves the two of them to a small midwestern town. Park sets the scene with care and you’ll see a realistic portrayal of life in the 1880s from the point of view from someone who is experiencing racism. Despite many unfair things, Hana stays resilient and determined to graduate from school and help her father in his shop.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ages 9 – 12)
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows and all three regain something lost – hope and love. “I slipped my hand into hers. A strange and unfamiliar feeling rand through me. It felt like the ocean, like sunlight, like horses. Like love. I searched my mind and found the name for it. Joy.” I can’t recommend this book enough, it just touched my heart at such a deep level.

 

historical fiction chapter book list for elementary and middle school kids
The War I Finally Won
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (ages 8 – 12)
Following the first book, The War That Saved My Life, this captivating story continues during the War. Ada and her brother live with their new guardian, Susan. After Susan’s home is bombed, they move to a small cottage that they share with Lady Thorton and a German Jewish girl named Ruth. It’s not an ideal situation. Partly because Lady Thorton doesn’t understand how to help around the house and she’s prejudiced against Ruth. But we realize that in hard times, complicated people do the best they can. It’s a bittersweet and profoundly moving story of loss and healing. 
 
 

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Forced to flee a dangerous situation in Mexico, Esperanza and her mother arrive in California and start working as migrant farmworkers. The back-breaking work is only part of their new, challenging life. In this beautifully written, soulful novel, Esperanza learns to thrive no matter what her circumstances.
 
historical fiction chapter books for middle school
Mad Wolf’s Daughter
by Diane Magras  (ages 9 – 12)
Set in medieval Scotland, this is an action-packed adventure of a strong female protagonist, medieval and mythical elements, plus an exciting plot. When Drest’s war-band family is kidnapped by knights she sets off in pursuit, taking a wounded soldier hostage. Throughout their travels, the two develop a complicated friendship and Drest learns many uncomfortable truths about her family. First of all, I love when a girl rescues boys from death! You won’t be able to put this excellent story down — I highly recommend it and the sequel, The Hunt for Mad Wolf’s Daughter.
 
 
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier (ages 9 – 12)
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem which illuminates the horrifying lives of chimney sweep kids as well as the world’s anti-semitism. Nan works for a cruel chimney sweep. When another sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem, formerly a piece of charcoal left to her by her adopted father Sweep, comes to life to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. It’s an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster.
 
 

Allies
by Alan Gratz (ages 9 – 12)
Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning. and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) We hear from an American teenager soldier who was born in Germany, a French Algerian girl whose mom is a recently captured spy,  a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent and disheartening yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies. What an incredible retelling of this day, appropriate for middle-grade readers.
 

A Place to Hang the Moon
by Kate Albus (ages 9 – 12)
An absolutely wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find their forever home. (If you like the Vanderbeekers, you’ll love this book, too!) Three siblings join the groups of children leaving London during WWII for safety. But in their case, their neglectful grandmother has recently died and they need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. What’s worse, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. However, when things go from bad to worse and their latest home, the children demand to live with the librarian no matter what.
 

The Blackbird Girls
by Anne Blankman (ages 8 – 12)
This story explores what happens after Chernobyl explodes in 1986; it’s about Russia, friendship, family, and prejudice. When Jewish Valentina and her enemy Oksana are forced to leave town together after the meltdown, we learn why Oksana acts the way she does, because of fear and abuse from her father. Once she gets away, she starts to think for herself and finds that Jews are not bad but actually very kind. The girls end up in Leningrad with Valentina’s grandmother and the months there are a healing time with unconditional love. Interspersed with this story is another story of a Jewish girl named Rifka who flees her home when the German army arrives in 1941. 
 

Words on Fire
by Jennifer A. Nielsen  (ages 9 – 12)
Nielsen deftly captures the history of Lithuania’s book smugglers, showing how books keep alive a language, culture, and identity, no matter how hard someone tries to erase it. Audra doesn’t know her parents are book smugglers until they are arrested by the Cossacks. She flees to their contact’s house, soon learning that her parents were part of a network of Lithuanian’s who fought against the Russians by smuggling books. This is an inspiring story of a little country of farmers who managed to keep their culture alive even after the Russians banned their language and their books. Highly recommended!
 
Diverse Historical Fiction Chapter Books Written by #OwnVoices
Indian No More
by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Indian No More is an emotional, important story about when the U.S. government arbitrarily made certain Native American tribes no longer tribes without reservations or legal rights. It also shows the historical landscape of prejudice and stereotypes towards people of color. I love the close-knit, loving family based on the author’s own life, a family who values each other and their survival. This book is a must-read and must-own for all schools and libraries and would make an excellent book club selection. Also on OwnVoices Historical Fiction Chapter Books.
 
Brothers Keeper by Julie Lee
HISTORICAL FICTION / #OWNVOICES
Based on her grandmother’s escape from North Korea, this historical fiction is a powerful read that captures the fearful culture of North Korea, the marginalization of females, and the bond between siblings. As war erupts with South Korea, Sora and her family decide to flee from North Korea while they might still have a chance. Sora and her little brother are separated from their family yet continue on to the south. They experience death, kidnapping, starvation, killings, winter’s brutal cold, all the while the Red Army marches right behind them, and her brother, Youngsoo gets sicker and sicker. The siblings’ journey is interspersed with memories of her childhood including her mother’s disdain and criticism and how she was forced to leave school to care for her little brothers. Amazingly, the two make it to the south where they’re reunited with the rest of their family but it’s a bittersweet ending.
 

Show Me a Sign
by Ann Clare LeZotte
This mesmerizing historical fiction story takes place in the community of Chilmark with a high percentage of deaf individuals. Mary’s a smart girl who speaks in sign language. She’s easily able to communicate with other islanders because everyone signs. She struggles with her friend Nancy’s prejudice against the “Indians” and notices the injustice of how the Native Americans are treated. Then, a researcher arrives with preconceived notations of the “infirmity” of deaf people and he kidnaps Mary as a live specimen. For months she’s imprisoned and forced to work, then locked in a room and studied. Eventually, she escapes and is reunited with her family. This is an eye-opening, must-read story about the historical treatment and prejudice towards the deaf and, echoing that, the Wampanoag.
 
 
 

Gold Rush Girl
by Avi (ages 8 – 12)
14-year-old Victoria sneaks aboard a ship with her father and younger brother bound for stinky, muddy San Francisco and the hope of gold. She’s surrounded by mostly men and no other kids and soon realizes that no one is getting rich but ships and people keep pouring in. Their dad leaves them in a tent for months while he searches for gold. Victoria makes the best of it but her 10-year-old brother doesn’t. Then he gets kidnapped and sold and Victoria and two friends race to rescue him. It’s an interesting, exciting story that gives readers a strong sense of setting and historical perspective.
 

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and A Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson  (ages 9 – 12)
Wow. I not only learned a TON from this historical fiction novel, but it was thoroughly mesmerizing! Eel’s an orphan who turns one of his odd jobs into saving live when he helps a real historical person, Dr. Snow, determine if the water pump in Eel’s neighborhood is the source of deadly cholera.

 Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy  (ages 8 – 12)
I highly recommend this powerful story of two maltreated girls who hope for a better future. The narrator is a white girl in the south who is nothing more than a slave to her family, she doesn’t even have a name. She meets and joins a runaway slave who is escaping the horrific brutality of slavery and separation from her family. Together they find kindness and hope with a Quaker family. 
 
Action-packed from the first page, this is one historical fiction novel you don’t want to miss. Oliver wakes to find his house flooded and his father missing. After being thrown in the poorhouse for orphans, he manages to escape with stolen money only to be accosted by a highwayman. It’s one misfortune after another but Oliver is determined to find his father and sister in London. Somehow.
 
good historical fiction chapter books
Refugee
by Alan Gratz (ages 8 – 12)
Wow. This book is a tween must-read book. Not only are the stories compelling, it’s vitally important for kids to learn what it’s like to be an immigrant, particularly a refugee. Follow three distinct, alternating stories to experience being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
 

Ground Zero
by Alan Gratz (ages 8 – 12) 

Disturbing. This first-person story of a boy named Brandon who was at the towers during 9/11 with his dad shows the confusion, fear, and horror. Sensitive readers, be aware that this book does include events like the wall of fire and the people jumping off the building and yet, shows a complete stranger taking responsibility and care of Brandon ultimately getting him to safety even though Brandon’s father doesn’t make it. Simultaneously, we read a first-person story about a girl in Afghanistan. I didn’t love how disjointed the stories felt alternating back and forth but liked the way that Gratz tied them together and left us with the message of not us against the world but us working for each other.
 
historical fiction chapter books for kids
Ahisma
by Supriya Kelkar (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Not only did I learn a lot (a lot!!) about Indian history during the time of Gandhi, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this incredible, passion-filled story. Anjali’s parents join the freedom movement against the British government. Through her parents, Anjali begins to see her world differently including the poverty-stricken caste of many people call “the Untouchables”. Other Indian families do not like the changes her family is making. Then, Anjali’s mom is thrown in jail! I couldn’t put this book down.
 

Starting from Seneca Falls
by Karen Schwabach (ages 8 – 12)
Bridie is an Irish girl who gets indentured to cruel abusive man. She runs away and befriends colored girl who helps her get a job with Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Santon. There, Bridie is exposed to radical ideas about a women’s rights to earn and keep wages as well as a woman’s right to vote, abolition, and daring to dream. An interesting glimpse into this historical time when both women’s rights advocates and abolitionists worked together.
 

Echo Mountain
by Lauren Wolk (ages 8 – 12)
When Ellie’s family loses everything in the Great Depression, they move to a Maine mountain. She loves the mountain and their new hard-scrabble life but a terrible accident leaves her father in a coma and it’s harder than ever. She takes the blame for the accident, works hard to find food, and tries to get along with her mother and siblings. A mangy dog leads her to the “hag”, an older woman who is very ill. She helps the woman’s grandson with remedies which gives her ideas to help her father. Echo Mountain is a heartfelt story about survival, finding and accepting yourself, healing emotionally and physically, kindness to animals and strangers with rich character development.
 
good historical fiction chapter books
The Player King
by Avi (ages 8 – 12)
It’s England in the 1400s with a usurper king on the throne, King Henry VII. When a friar spots kitchen boy Lambert Simnel, he tells him that Lambert is really the next in line to the throne, that he is the missing Prince Edward. So begins Lambert’s journey from poor pauper to heir-in-hiding. Based on true events, Avi skillfully weaves a believable story of this little-known historical event. Fascinating.
 
historical fiction books for kids
Betty Before X
by Ilyasha Shabazz and Renee Watson (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
I devoured this compelling, well-written story about a year in the teen life of Betty who later became well known for being the wife of Malcolm X. Betty’s mother seemed to despise her but Betty had good friends and younger siblings who loved her. Eventually, kind church friends took her in and adopted Betty. During this period of her life, we see the importance of church, counting her blessings, the activist housewives group she belonged to, and how a family is what you make it. Reading this account made me want to know more about the rest of her life! Excellent!!!
 
historical fiction chapter books for kids
Dactyl Hill Squad
by Daniel Jose Older  (ages 9 – 12)
Take a thrilling ride through Civil War history — with DINOSAURS! In this exciting adventure with diversity, slavers kidnap most of the orphans in NYC’s Colored Orphan Asylum but the small group of kids that escapes to join with the Vigilance Committee to fight back and rescue their kidnapped friends. What I LOVE about this book:
* action-packed plot
* both reimagined & actual history
* the diversity of the main characters
* that dinosaurs and dactyls still exist!! — and are used as air, land, and sea transportation * couldn’t put it down!
 

Cub
by Cynthia L. Copeland
Excellent! In this historical, graphic memoir, Cynthia Copeland shares about the time in her life when she got to be a “cub” reporter when middle school was composed of predators and prey (she was prey), and she discovered her own strength. While mentor reporter helps Cynthia become interested in local and national politics and events like equal rights for women and Watergate, we also see Cynthia going “steady” with a boy and making new friends when her best friend dumped her. Wise, relatable, and thoroughly enjoyable to read, I loved this life snapshot of a girl coming into her own. (*Sensitive readers, this book includes the word cr*p.)
 
historical fiction books for kids
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Written in a diary as letters to her Mama, Nisha shares how her life is turned upside down when the British rule of India ends in 1947, splitting the country into two — the Muslim north where she lives becomes Pakistan and the Hindu south remains India. Even though Nisha’s mom was Muslim, Nisha, her brother, her doctor Papa and her grandmother are forced to leave their home in the north because they are Hindu. There’s violence everywhere; nowhere is safe, not even the trains. It’s a harrowing journey and confusing time. This story, filled with historical significance, is masterfully told. You won’t want to put this one down.
 
history books for kids
Escape from Aleppo
by N.H. Senzai (age 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
There’s nothing that illuminates a situation more than reading a story about someone who is living it. The story alternates between when the 2010 violence erupted in Syria and the “present” time in 2013 when Nadia’s home is bombed and she escapes. Only her family accidentally thinks she’s dead and leaves her behind. Nadia meets an old man and two orphans. They navigate through the checkpoints and bombings, seeing that the old man has many identities and even though he’s sick, he’s trying to rescue historical artifacts from the war. It’s a powerful story about a country and people in crisis.
 
good historical fiction chapter books
Anne of Green Gables (A Graphic Novel)
adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler (ages 8 – 12)
Having just watched this series on Netflix (“Anne with an E”) with my daughter, we liked this graphic novel adaptation of orphan Anne’s life in Canada at Green Gables but longed for the details that only the show or, even better, the actual novel could provide. However, this is a great introduction to the series and hopefully, the stories selected in this graphic novel will inspire kids to read the original books by L.M. Montgomery.
 

Journey of the Pale Bear
by Susan Fletcher  (ages 9 – 12)
Arthur Welsh is a poor homeless Norwegian boy who works for passage on a ship to England as the caretaker of a captive polar bear, a gift for the King Henry of England. The conditions for the polar bear are worse than the boys, both being victims of their circumstances, powerless and captive. It’s a physical and emotional journey of survival and friendship. The two survive a pirate attack, escape in the wild, and a new life in England. I hated the captivity of the bear but I loved this story and the bond of friendship between animal and man.
 

The Boy Who Became a Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story
by Jim Di Bartolo
You don’t have to love martial arts to enjoy this engaging graphic biography about the martial artist and movie star legend Bruce Lee. From his birth in San Francisco to life in Hong Kong during and after Japanese occupation, then his move back to the U.S., you’ll meet a troubled kid who gets into lots of trouble yet ends up becoming a famous movie star. Lee’s life is fascinating and the author does a great job with all the historical references.
 

The Story That Cannot Be Told
by J. Kasper Kramer
Do you know about Romania’s brutal history? Our complex, likable story-loving heroine Ileana lives in Romania under a real-life, evil leader named Ceausescu. During his totalitarian regime, spies were everywhere. Ileana is an ordinary girl who finds joy and solace in stories, especially the folktales her father tells her and the ones she writes and rewrites in her journal.
 
Paper Wishes historical fiction books for kids
Paper Wishes
 by Lois Sepahban (ages 9 – 12)
It would be hard as an author not to vilify this country for sending thousands of Japanese Americans to prison camps. But this author doesn’t. She just skillfully shares the evocative story of 10-year old Manami of Washington State, who is sent with her family to a dusty camp, leaving behind her beloved dog, Yujiin, and everything else they owned. Devastated, Manami stops speaking. Her story is painful, sprinkled with hope, and all too real. Please read this with your kids– it’s important.
 
historical fiction book list for kids  historical fiction book list for kids   historical fiction book list for kids
ChainsForge, Ashes
(Seeds of America)
by Laurie Halse Anderson (ages 10+)
I’m writing this after just closing Ashes, the final book of this historical fiction series about the time of the Revolutionary War as experienced through the eyes of an African-American girl named Isabel and her friend, Cuzon. Enslaved, escaped, or enlisted, these two are determined survivors. The writing is amazing and the stories, captivating. I love and highly recommend these books!
 
Edie’s mom is an adopted Native American who can’t trace her heritage. When Edie unexpectedly finds a box of photos and letters, it prompts a journey to discover the truth of her heritage. And the truth is not what she expects but it opens her eyes (and ours) to the unjust but common practices that happened throughout U.S. history of taking Native kids away from their birth parents; parents whose only crime was being Native. An important, heartfelt story about growing up, family, and finding your identity.
 
good historical fiction chapter books
It All Comes Down to This
by Karen English (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Experience the 60s in Los Angeles, a turbulent time of racism and burgeoning activism, from the perspective of Sophie, a sweet black girl who lives in an all-white neighborhood. Her parents’ marriage is in trouble, her sister is about to leave for college, and her best (white) friend has moved on. Surprisingly, Sophie’s strict, disapproving housekeeper becomes an ally, something Sophie needs during the challenges of life and growing up. Well-crafted story and characters.
 
historical fiction
Lifeboat 12
by Susan Hood (ages 8 – 12)
Thinking Hitler will invade England next, Ken’s family sends him to safety in Canada. But, Ken’s ship is torpedoed and sunk only days into the journey. Written in verse, this is a moving account of bravery as Ken, several other kids, a priest, the ship’s only woman, and members of the crew spend weeks adrift at sea in an ill-stocked lifeboat. You’ll read about their swollen feet, dehydration, and starvation as well as the stories and songs that helped keep the kids distracted and somewhat hopeful. Ultimately, you’ll be left with a sense of amazement at the resiliency of the human spirit.
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby (ages 8 – 12)
The wild west plus fantastical elements combine in this marvelous adventure of an expedition to find the lost people of the Welsh Prince Madoc. This is the wild west like you’ve never imagined. And you’ll love it.
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett (ages 8 – 12)
Tissue alert — this story made me weep. A lot. Racking sobs, I’m not kidding. It’s a breathtaking story; a fable about life set in Nazi Germany. We follow three Gypsy siblings who have witnessed the capture of their family and friends. While walking and searching for food, they find an abandoned zoo, with talking animals. That’s all I’ll reveal. You NEED to read this beautiful story. It will change your life.
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy  (ages 8 – 12)
The girl-centric history is really interesting (and empowering), the characters are so well-developed you feel as if you know them, and the plot is a grand adventure! The author imagines a friendship between Ada Byron, genius daughter of Lord Byron and the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Shelley, the world’s first science-fiction author. Mary joins Ada to study with Ada’s tutor and the two girls form a detective agency. In this first adventure, Mary and Ada learn about another historical figure who invented hypnotism and solve the case of a stolen heirloom.
 

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Girl in the Torch
 by Robert Sharenow  (ages 8 – 12)
The Girl in the Torch is a touching middle-grade historical fiction novel that follows an orphaned girl’s journey to America. For a while, she hides out in the Statue of Liberty, then the watchman finds her and lets her stay at his boarding house. This is very well-written and shows a glimpse into the history of immigrants. I didn’t want to put it down once!

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III, illustrated by James Mark  Yellowhawk  (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Jimmy McClean’s grandfather takes him on a road trip where he shares the stories of Crazy Horse — his life and battles up to his death. They travel from the Dakotas (home of the Lakota) to Wyoming and other places significant to Crazy Horse’s life. I thought that following the duo traveling to the sites and then hearing the grandfather’s mesmerizing stories made this book easy to follow and very interesting. I actually wish they had included a map so I could picture it in my head and maybe take my own kids. It’s a sobering true story and one that will stick with me.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Echo
 
by Pam Munoz Ryan  (ages 9 – 12)
The writing, plot development, and characterization are masterfully done. It’s broken up into three shorter stories because the three stories tie together at the end but wow it was long — almost 600 pages. That being said, this book takes place during different years around the second world wartime period. The thread that ties the characters together is a most magical harmonica. 

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow  (ages 9 – 12)
American-raised Wendy’s Nazi-spy mom takes her to live in Germany during World War II. Wendy doesn’t even speak the language and feels overwhelmed with her mother’s zeal for Hitler. When Wendy starts working at Lebensborn, the place where only Aryan children live — many who were forcibly removed from their parents — she learns from her new friend about standing up for what’s right.

 

historical fiction books for kids
The Watson’s Go to Birmingham
by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
The Watson family drives from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama to visit relatives in the 1960s where they hope to set Bryon straight. The car trip builds up to the deeply disturbing church bombing where Grandma goes to church. This is a moving story filled with hope and humor. Newbery Award Winner.

historical fiction books for kids
One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Sent to live with the mother that abandoned them, the sisters are in Oakland, California for the summer where they go to a Black Panther day camp and try to connect with their mother. Newbery Honor Book.

 
best historical fiction chapter books for kids
Midnight Without a Moon
by Linda Williams Jackson (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
This author has her own story, her own style of writing, and masterfully brings the two together in a story that makes the history of the 1950s in Mississippi come to life through her compelling characters. Rose Lee Carter is a girl who is raised by her grandma and father, works in the cotton fields, and is best friends with the preacher’s son. She dreams of leaving Mississippi for the north like her mom and aunt, especially after the white men who killed Emmett Till are found not-guilty in a real-life historical trial.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Dagger Quick by Brian Eames  (ages 8 – 12)
Set in 17th century England, Kitto must travel with his pirate uncle after his dad is murdered. The story is suspenseful as Kitto tries to discover his family’s secret history and survive life among pirates. Tons of great action! 

Number the Stars historical fiction for kids
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (ages 8 – 12)
Lowry does an excellent job at writing about WWII in a way that isn’t too scary or inappropriate for kids. Annemarie’s best friend hides Annemarie’s Jewish family. The tension is high as the Nazis are everywhere looking for Jews or Jewish sympathizers. It’s challenging to hide knowing that every day you could be caught and sent to a death camp. Finally, the family escapes to Sweden where they will be safe from the Nazis.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Quilt
Walk by Sandra Dallas (ages 8 – 12)
The story follows Emmy and her parents’ trip from Illinois to Colorado by covered wagon. Dallas does a great job of character development, so we become just as concerned as Emmy when we see a fellow traveler being mistreated by her husband. We worry when Emmy finds a dog – and hope her father lets her keep it. 

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
A Night Divided
 by Jennifer A. Nielsen  (ages 9 – 12)
Overnight a fence with armed guards divides Berlin. Gerta is stuck on the east side with her brother and mother while their father and another brother escape to the west. Greta’s father gets her a message that set her on a course to dig a tunnel under the wall. It’s dangerous but Greta’s determined. Interesting!

historical fiction for kids
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly (ages 8 – 12)
This is a wonderful adventure, fantasy, mystery, historical story of three children in medieval France who are being hunted by the King.  The storytelling is brilliant & it tackles big issues such as faith, God, prejudice, friendship, and family. The writing, the story, the characters, and the themes all pack a big punch adding up to a compelling novel that will make you think deeply and leave you better for reading it.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Midnight Tunnel: A Suzanna Snow Mystery
 by Angie Frazier  (ages 8 – 12)
My 12-year old says this is a GREAT mystery. Set in 1905 in New Brunswick, Suzanna works at her family’s inn. When a young guest disappears, Suzanna’s detective uncle arrives for the search. But, Zanna finds clues of her own that lead her to think there is more than one mystery going on.

Some Kind of Courage Historical Fiction Middle Grade Chapter Book Reviews and Recommendations
Some Kind of Courage
 by Dan Gemeinhart (ages 8 – 12)
After losing his entire family, he also loses his horse when it’s sold without his permission. Joseph begins a journey to find and buy back his beloved horse. Along the way, he develops a friendship with a Chinese boy who speaks no English, wins a horse race, helps deliver a baby, and fights an outlaw. Excellent writing — I couldn’t put this book down. Plus, I grew up where this story takes place, right near Yakima, Washington, so it held special meaning for me.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Gladiator School Book 1 Blood Oath
 by Dan Scott  (ages 8 – 12)
This is an ancient Roman historical fiction adventure (and mystery) about a young boy named Lucius whose father is accused of a crime. When the family loses everything, the oldest brother decides to be a gladiator — which is equivalent to slave status and a good way to die young. 
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Gone Crazy in Alabama
 
by Rita Williams Garcia  (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
It’s a typical southern summer in Alabama 1969 and Delphine and her two sisters are visiting their extended family. Daily life means minding their grandmother, Big Ma, a crotchety matriarch, getting extra loving from their much sweeter great-grandma, Ma Charles, hanging out with neighbor, JimmyTrotter, and working at the tricky business of growing up. No matter what happens, a Vonetta-stealing tornado included, this is a strong family that loves each other and God with all they’ve got. 
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Detective’s Assistant
 
by Kate Hannigan  (ages 8 – 12)
Neil’s Aunt Kate, based on a real historical figure, works as the first female detective for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. She has no interest in letting newly orphaned Neil stay with her so Neil determines to become invaluable to Kate. The history, as well as the intrigue of each new case, kept me highly entertained.
 

Catherine’s War
by Julia Billet, illustrated by Claire Fauvel (ages 9 – 12) GRAPHIC NOVEL
When World War II comes to France, Rachel, a Jewish girl, must change her name and go into hiding. She moves frequently to avoid Germans but one thing stays the same, her love for photography. Using her camera, she documents the war from her perspective. Based on the author’s mother’s life, this is a beautiful story of WWII that focuses on growing up, the kindness of strangers, and art.
 
Best New Middle Grade Books to Read, January 2018
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein
by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil (ages 8 – 12)
Based on Ali Fadhil’s life experience, this story captures Iraq during Operation Desert Storm — an experience Fadhil likens to watching a video game of explosions. Readers feel like they are there with Ali and his family who are at the mercy of their twisted ruler, Saddam Hussein, bombs from the US, food shortages, and danger in the city. Plus, they fear they’ll never see their father again. This book is very well-written and appropriate for middle-grade readers to learn about this not-so-distant past event. Readers will be satisfied to see what the author gets to do several years later, at the end of the story– interpret for Saddam’s trial!
 

Kira-Kira
by Cynthia Kadohata
This book is so sad and beautiful! Katie’s sister, Lynn, helps her make sense of the prejudice and challenges their Japanese-American family faces in Georgia in the 1950s. When Lynn gets very ill, Katie tries to emulate her sister’s positive outlook.

historical fiction books for kids
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson (ages 8 – 12)
Written in verse, Woodson shares her experience of growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s. Newbery Honor Book.


Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier
by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks (ages 8 – 12) GRAPHIC NOVEL
What a fascinating, informative look at the difficult road American women faced in their journey to become astronauts! While faced with so many misogynistic men and some women, American women persisted in their quest to become astronauts. Meanwhile, the Russians started a female space program and launched a woman astronaut long before the U.S. Eventually the U.S. caught up and you’ll be inspired by read the stories of these American and Russian trailblazers.

historical fiction books for kids
Glory Be
by Augusta Scattergood (ages 8 – 12)
It’s the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. Glory’s older sister ignores her, things are awkward with her best friend, Frankie, and the town is in an uproar about the segregated pool, closing it down for “repairs”.

 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier by Ying Chang Compestine and Vinson Composting   (ages 8 – 12)
If your kids aren’t interested in Chinese history, they will be after reading this novel. Ming lives in rural communist China with his father, who finds artifacts for the museum. A discovered terra-cotta soldier who comes to life and befriends Ming. They must work together to protect the soldiers and Emperor Qin’s tomb. I like how the authors wove in historical photos and information. It sounds like a silly premise for a story but it worked — and was very good.
 
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel
 by Gigi Amateau  (ages 8 – 12)
Based on the true story of a plantation slave named Gabriel, this story imagines his childhood growing up with the master’s son, learning the blacksmith trade, and later planning a rebellion. It gives readers a glimpse into the grim realities of slavery and growing up in the most difficult of circumstances.
 
 

Under the Broken Sky
by Mariko Nagai (ages 9 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Written in verse this historical novel tells a poignant story of survival, family, and refugees. It’s set in China when Japan had conquered a northern section of the land. Natsu’s father and sister are Japanese settlers under constant threat from the Chinese and Russians. And when they’re attacked, they’re forced to flee on foot for miles and miles, eventually finding overcrowded shelter where sickness and disease eliminate many of them, including Natsu’s auntie.
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen
 by Eve Yohalem  (ages 8 – 12)
Petra escapes her abusive Dutch father by disguising herself as a boy and stowing away on a merchant ship. She’s befriended by a boy but soon discovered. The adventure of the two friends set amidst history is absolutely fascinating. It’s a great book!
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus  (ages 8 – 12)
An award-winning historical fiction adventure set in the late 1800s about Manjiro, a shipwrecked 14-year old Japanese boy who is rescued and adopted by an American ship’s captain. Americans are very prejudiced against the Japanese but when he returns to Japan, he’s rejected as an outsider there and imprisoned. Excellent.

historical fiction books for kids
The Lions of Little Rock
by Kristin Levine (ages 8 – 12)
Two good friends are separated by segregation in 1958 Arkansas. But their friendship is becoming dangerous with the KKK, phone threats, and a police force that does nothing.

Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
P.K. Pinkerton and the Petrified Man
 by Caroline Lawrence  (ages 8 – 12)
12-year old P.K., a private-eye, lives in the wild west and is a brilliant individual who is hired to solve the murder. P.K.’s characteristics will make adults think of Aspergers – brilliant, prefers to be alone, collects cigars. It’s an entertaining mystery with a fun historical bent.
 

How High the Moon
by Karyn Parsons
Important history is shared in this tender-hearted, historical fiction story that shows the dichotomy of a childhood that is both happy and sad with local events that are both fair and unfair. (Mostly unfair.) Ella lives with her grandparents but she’s always wanted to be with her singer-mom in Chicago. She gets to for a short time but is sent back when her mom gets a singing job in New York. Even though it’s not always the perfect happy ever after, Ella is glad to be back with her cousins, too. Then, their classmate is arrested and executed for the murder of two white girls without evidence and the town’s black community feels shock, sadness, and anger. 
 
best historical fiction chapter books for kids
The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan
by Patricia Bailey (ages 8 – 12)
13-year-old Kit is angry about everything. It’s 1905 in a Nevada gold mining town, her mother’s just died of the flu, her classmates and teachers mock her, and her dad gets murdered by his mining boss. Kit is determined to bring Mr. Granger, the mine boss, to justice. Her grit lands her a job at a newspaper where she can investigate more about the mine and Mr. Granger’s misdeeds. The author skillfully sets the historical stage with interesting details like the only motor car’s constant flat tires. Smart writing, an interesting plot, plus a compelling main character combine to make this a great read.
 

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong,
USA by Brenda Woods (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Mr. Meriwether Hunter saves Gabriel from the path of an oncoming car. That begins a relationship between a young white boy and a black WWI vet. Gabriel’s eyes become slowly opened to the discrimination that his new friend and his family face — including why he doesn’t talk about being a soldier. It’s a realistic, historical narrative that introduces kids to the south’s prejudices as well as the treatment of soldiers after WWII.
 
historical fiction chapter books for kids
Finding Langston
by Lesa Cline-Ransome (ages 8 – 12) (#OwnVoices)
Langston is a former country boy who moves with his dad to Chicago in the 1940s after his mother passes. It’s a hard transition yet when he discovers the library, he also discovers himself through the poetry of Langston Hughes. This is a beautiful story of redemption, healing, and the power of words.
 
best historical fiction chapter books for kids
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine
by Caroline Starr Rose (ages 8 – 12)
Jasper chases after his older brother Melvin who is sailing to Alaska for the Klondike Gold Rush. The brothers, once reunited, start out with nothing except determination. Their goal is to figure out the clues to a sure-thing gold mine. But nothing is easy, danger from the harsh Alaskan climate and other miners surround them, not to mention the constant hunger and worry. This is a worthwhile adventure with an interesting history and appealing characters with gumption.
 
Wild Boy Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Wild Boy and the Black Terror
 by Rob Lloyd Jones (ages 8 – 12)
London, 1842. This second book in the series makes me so eager to read the first book — it’s really a fascinating story with it’s absolutely excellent character development and an intriguing plot. Wild Boy is literally covered in fur — yes, literally. He now lives with the Gentlemen who rescued he and his best friend, Clarissa, from the circus and the crazed Londoners who believed him to be a dangerous murderer. The Queen of England ask Wild Boy to solve the mystery of a most frightening terror that scares people to death — again, seemingly literally. Is is a really a demon’s curse or something more human at work?
 
good historical fiction chapter books
The Dollmaker of Krakow
by Rachael Romero
A magical, live doll and a Polish magician toy store owner during WWII develop a beautiful friendship. Later, a friendship develops between the doll, the magician, a Jewish father, and his daughter. When the Nazis force the Jews into a ghetto, the doll encourages the magician to save as many children as he can by turning them into dolls for a short time. We only get a glimpse of the actual WWII horror; the story instead focuses on the relationships. The ending is heart-breaking but also life-affirming as we see the power of love and friendship.
 
best historical fiction chapter books for kids
The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats  (ages 8 – 12)
Jane’s haughty stepmom drags Jane and her younger brother on a ship traveling from the East coast to Washington Territory in search of a new, rich husband. Only the muddy street outpost of Seattle is not what they expected, nor are the men. Fortunately for Jane, her stepmom becomes desperate, marrying a kind man who welcomes the three of them into his small, rural home. It’s an uplifting story with a vivid historical setting.
 

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells
by Gail Carson Levine
There aren’t many (any?) children’s books written about this time period in Spain during the Spanish flu and the Spanish Inquisition when Jews were persecuted and forced out of the country or killed. Loma is a super-smart Jewish girl and a favorite of her abuelo who advises the monarchy, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Set in this dangerous time, we see Loma growing into herself while she’s abuelo’s traveling companion. I didn’t finish this book because the pacing was very sluggish but found the historical information very interesting.

Young Adult Chapter Books: Historical Fiction


The Last Cherry Blossom
by Kathleen Burkinshaw (ages 11+)
In this beautifully-written, eye-opening story, we follow the life of Yuriko, a Japanese girl who lives in Hiroshima during World War II. Initially, her life revolves around drama with her family and friends just like a typical child’s life in any country. But, in this recounting of Burkinshaw’s mother’s actual experience, her life is torn apart when the atomic bomb is dropped. Not to mention that it comes as a shock to learn that Japan has been losing the war. Yuriko’s life becomes a nightmare of survival and endurance.


Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution
by Ji-li Jiang (ages 11+)
Recognized for excellence in writing, this true story of 12-year-old Ji-li’s life in the 1960s shows readers personal destruction that China’s leader, Mao Ze-dong, inflicted on families with his Cultural Revolution. Ji-li believed in China’s Communist party until her family was persecuted and her father imprisoned. She struggles to make sense of her new reality. Soon, she’ll be forced to choose between her family and her country.

The Boy Who Dared Middle Grade Chapter Book Reviews and Recommendations
The Boy Who Dared
 by Susan Cambell Bartlett (ages 12+)
Based on a true story, this is about a Polish Morman boy who decided to stand up to the Nazis — he sneaks an illegal radio to listen to the BBC news and writes it up, distributing flyers. It’s sad but inspirational.

YA historical fiction graphic novel
They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, & Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker (ages 11+) (#OwnVoices)
Both history and memoir, this is an important story set during WWII when the US government declares war on Japan and subsequently all Japanese people, forcing anyone of Japanese descent, including children, into detention camps…George’s family leave behind a two-bedroom house in Los Angeles, taking only what they can carry. They are transported first to a cramped, smelly horse stable and then to a bare-bones, overcrowded barracks surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. George and his brother adapt well –mostly because they have amazing parents but this story also shows the reality for the adults in their new, unfair situation. It shows George’s parents’ resiliency and perseverance. Honestly, there are so many important details about what was happening politically as well as what daily life was like but too many to share in this review. When World War II ended, leaving the camps isn’t an easy, happy ending for any of the detained families.
 
Fever 1793 historical fiction novels
Fever 1793
by Laurie Halse Anderson (ages 12+)
This is a well-written story about a real-life event when Philadelphia was the U.S. capital city and yellow fever killed thousands of citizens. We follow Mattie, a brave young girl, who struggles to survive in an abandoned and diseased city. She’s lost her grandfather to looters and doesn’t know where her mother has gone but fortunately finds help from their coffeehouse’s former cook, Eliza.
 
Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation) best history books
Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand (ages 13+)
Louis Zamperini’s life is almost unbelievable — a hoodlum, an Olympic runner, an airman shot down, and above all, a man who has great strength of character (growth mindset) to persevere despite all of life’s challenges.  
 
 good books for teens Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
Under a Painted Sky
 by Stacey Lee  (ages 13+)
A slave girl and a Chinese immigrant girl flee west, disguising themselves as boys. Fortunately for them, three cowboys allow them to travel with them. We see the dangers of the Oregon Trail, racism, as well as the bonds of friendship in this beautiful historical book for young adults.
 
 
historial fiction YA books
Crossing Ebenezer Creek
by Tonya Bolden (ages 13+)
Mariah and her brother Zeke are slaves who join Sherman’s army as they march through Georgia. She meets a free man named Caleb and as the story progresses, they fall in love. I don’t want to spoil it for you but be prepared for an unexpected ending on a real-life, tragic historical event. It’s worth reading. You won’t forget any of this powerful story, not for a very long time.
 
Good Historical Fiction Books for Kids
The Agency 3: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee  (ages 13+)
Finally, a historical fiction – mystery SERIES to love! This third book in the stellar Mary Quinn mystery series is a delightful story. The premise is an orphan, Mary, is recruited by a clandestine detective agency of women, an agency who is very successful because no one would suspect women to be spies. Mary goes undercover in Queen Victoria’s palace while facing other issues – one of a love interest and one that her long-lost father isn’t so long lost after all.
 
Best Historical Fiction Chapter Books for Kids

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

Mystery Chapter Books for Kids

You Might Also Like

2 Responses

  1. Elizabeth says:

    What an amazing list! Well done! I am ordering some books from it as well as creating my own list as a guide for readers and parents as to which books we have to offer from which time periods. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • WELCOME

    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

    More About Me

  • STAY INFORMED
    Enter your email address to receive updates on all of our book reviews.