I have so many totally heart-tugging, can’t-stop-reading, phenomenal historical fiction middle grade books to tell you about!
Before I dive into the reviews, I want to mention that these are SOOOO good but even so, they may be books that kids don’t pick up and devour. However, I know that but they will genuinely LOVE the stories. Remember how important it is for all ages of children to have adults read aloud to them? Consider one of these books for your next bedtime read! (And if you haven’t done a bedtime book for awhile, start it up again.)
New Historical Fiction Books
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper HISTORICAL FICTION ages 9 – 13
Stella watches her father when he registers to vote and then votes. She watches her neighbor’s house burn for voting. She watches her classmates learn even as she struggles with writing down her thoughts. Draper skillfully shares this historical time from Stella’s 11-year old’s perspective. It’s understandable and not too overwhelming – we learn about the KKK but aren’t exposed to the horror that could have been included.
Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy HISTORICAL FICTION ages 9 – 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. “You just keep mending and darning, stichin and stichin. At first, things look all pieced together, but after a while, you don’t even notice the stitched-up spots everywhere; they just look all of a piece. Never like new, but all of a piece and good enough to last a life.”
The WAR That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley HISTORICAL FICTION 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.
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis HISTORICAL FICTION FANTASY ages 8 – 12
I picked this book for the cover – isn’t it fabulous? But, the inside was just as wonderful. Set in 19th-century Regency England, 12-year old Kat discovers she’s inherited her mother’s hidden talent for both magic and something else for which an “Order” is trying to recruit her. Not knowing who to trust nor daring to reveal her powers to a superstitious community, spunky Kat focuses on first saving her elder sister from marrying an evil suitor and then figuring out about her powers. A delightful adventure!
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy HISTORICAL FICTION MYSTERY ages 8 – 12
I LOVE this fantastically developed historical fiction story for several reasons – 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 who almost could have been friends in real life but for about a decade of years. Mary joins Ada to study with Ada’s tutor and the duo 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.
The Watcher by Joan Hiatt Harlow HISTORICAL FICTION ages 8 – 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. Her mom gives her a bracelet to symbolize “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” At first it seems to be a good plan considering all the horrible things that might be happening. But 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, a Jehovah Witness, that maybe this philosophy isn’t right and that you should stand up for what’s right. I couldn’t put this book down — it made my stomach hurt to learn about the Lebensborn, and wanted to know more because the author didn’t go into too much detail about the horror of this place, thankfully since it’s a children’s book. I really, really love this book for middle grade readers – it’s so good! (And don’t worry, Wendy escapes Germany for America in the end.)
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and A Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson HISTORICAL FICTION ages 10+
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 the deadly cholera.