Historical fiction requires extensive research by the author. Unlike “kidlit history,” the author has no direct memory of the events described. In my humble opinion, there are lots of historical fiction that work too hard at trying to teach rather than focusing on a good story and letting the history follow. These are some favorites that I’ve read don’t fall into that trap, in rough chronological order. Links to either my goodreads review or a fuller discussion on this blog are linked with the book’s title. Is there something I need to add to my to-read list? Let me know!
The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman. 1300s. Haven’t read this in years, so don’t feel comfortable giving a quick review. But it’s still on my bookshelf, whhich counts for a lot! Key words: women’s history, poverty
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: The Pox Party and Kingdom on the Waves by M. T. Anderson. 1770s Massachusetts. A very different perspective on slavery and the American Revolution. Key words: science, American revolution, slavery.
The Birchbark House. by Louise Erdrich. 1840s Minnesota. Coming of age tale from the Native American perspective. Key words: Native American, settlement.
Rodzina. by Karen Cushman. Goodreads review here. Set in 1880s. Orphan from Chicago forced onto the orphan trains. Key words: trains, orphans, Western settlements, women’s history.
Stop the Train! by Geraldine McCaughrean. Goodreads review here. Set in 1890s Oklahoma. A train could make or break a town–and it’s breaking this town. Key words: train, Oklahoma land rush, growth of communities, settling the West.
Fair Weather by Richard Peck. 1893. Okay, I admit it–I have a longstanding interest in World’s Fairs, so I was bound to like this book. But this one does a great job of explaining why a World’s Fair, especially this one, was such a Big Deal. Key words: Chicago, urban development, World’s Fairs, technology
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Set in 1899/1900. Key words: Texas, women’s history, science, coming-of-age.
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse. A story about the family that created the teddy bear–and the many sides to life as an immigrant in turn of the century New York. Key words: immigration, poverty, New York, urban life.
Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, and Marie Curie and Their Daughters by Jeannine Atkins. All three women featured were born in 1867, lived extraordinary lives and had complicated relationships with their equally extraordinary daughters. Key words: women’s history, science, African American history
The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts by Richard Peck. 1904 Indiana. Small towns and school–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Key words: school, farming community, changing technology.
Witness by Karen Hesse. 1924. Racism and the KKK weren’t just Southern problems. Powerful exploration of a community’s reaction. Key words: racism
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. 1930s Midwest. Wonderful story of jazz, the Great Depression, and a search for a father. Key words: jazz, race, orphans.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. 1930s Oklahoma. Powerful images of the Dust Bowl that I challenge you to get out of your head. Key words: agriculture
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. 1930s at Alcatraz. Funny and full of heart.
The Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages. Life at Los Alamos, as scientists work on the Bomb. Sequel deals with life after the War and the Bomb. Key words: World War II, post-war, science, atomic bomb, women’s history.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Three sisters travel to California to visit the mother that abandoned them years before. And mom sends them to Black Panther summer camp. Key words: Civil Rights movement, 1960s