As readers, we develop a deeper understanding of history when we read historical fiction books with compelling characters, interesting settings, and rewarding adventures. These new book choices do just that –vividly show a time in history. Enjoy!
Vivid Historical Fiction Choices for Kids
The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats (middle grade 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.
The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan by Patricia Bailey (middle grade 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.
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose (middle grade 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 interesting history and appealing characters with gumption.
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson (middle grade ages 8 – 12)
You might ask yourself, why read one more book about the unjust life for African Americans in the southern United States. Here’s why: 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.
Calico Girl by Jerdine Nolen (middle grade ages 8 – 12)
Learn about an little known part of history at the beginning of the Civil War when Fort Sumter became a safe refuge for slaves, dubbed “Freedom’s Fortress” in this story about Callie, a slave slave with a freeman father who learns that Fort Sumter will take them and they’ll be free. Callie and her family flee their plantation home for the Fort. There, the family loses her little brother to sickness yet manages to make themselves a new home. Callie even goes to school for the first time.
Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden (YA ages 13+)
Mariah and her brother Zeke are slaves who join Sherman’s amy 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.
These titles have been added to my master lists:
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!