Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth
by Ilene Cooper
First published April 15, 2012 (Booklist).
The magic of historical fiction is that it can take you back in time, where the experiences of another era seem real, yet the characters’ feelings are the same as the reader’s. These 10 titles do just that, whether the setting is a small southern town, Soviet Russia, or a ship at sea. —Ilene Cooper
A Month of Sundays. By Ruth White. 2011. Farrar, $16.99 (9780374399122). Gr. 6–8.
In 1950s Black Rock, Virginia, Garnet, 14, gets dumped with her father’s relatives, none of whom she’s met (not even her father for that matter.) But Aunt June treats her like a daughter, and they become close while visiting a new church each week to see if June’s cancer can be cured.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose. By Eugene Yelchin. Illus. by the author. 2011. Holt, $15.99 (9780805092165). Gr. 6–9.
Growing up under Stalin, Sasha wants to be just like his father, working for the secret police. Then his dad is arrested, and Sasha must learn about spying, torture, and what people do to survive.
City of Orphans. By Avi. Illus. by Greg Ruth. 2011. Simon & Schuster/Richard Jackson, $16.99 (9781416971023). Gr. 6–9.
Dickensian street action comes to the Lower East Side in this gripping story set in 1804. Newsboy Maks must save his sister, who has been unjustly accused of theft. Fast-moving plotlines twist with social realism.
Five 4ths of July. By Pat Raccio Hughes. 2011. Viking, $16.99 (9780670012077). Gr. 8–10.
A cocky teen in 1770s Connecticut, Jake is sure of the Patriot cause. Then the war comes and interrupts his easy assumptions. A memorable adventure.
Heroes of the Surf. By Elisa Carbone. Illus. by Nancy Carpenter. 2012. Viking, $16.99 (9780679963123). K–Gr. 3.
A ship is in trouble; this time it’s not the Titanic. In 1882, a steamship runs aground in New Jersey, and two boys aboard are among the rescued.
Life: An Exploded Diagram.By Mal Peet. 2011. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763652272). Gr. 9–12.
This arresting novel begins in the destruction of WWII and ends in the explosive devastation of 9/11. Peet creates an explosive Cold War world, where two teens find each other amid a backdrop of chaos.
Lions of Little Rock. By Kristin Levine. 2012. Putnam, $16.99 (9780399256448). Gr. 5–8.
Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958, is the setting for this story of two girls trying to forge a friendship while politicians rage for and against the struggle to integrate public schools.
Okay for Now. By Gary D. Schmidt. 2011. Clarion, $16.99 (9780547152608). Gr. 6–9.
This companion to the Newbery Honor Book The Wednesday Wars (2007) is set in the late 1960s. Doug comes from a troubled family, but his introduction to Audubon’s paintings of birds provides a cultural awakening and a path to a new life.
The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic. By Allan Wolf. 2011. Candlewick, $21.99 (9780763637033). Gr. 9–12.
Using free-form poems from the point of view of two dozen travelers on the Titanic, Wolf’s multi-octave chorus of voices is spirited, frightened, angry, and mournful.
With a Name like Love. By Tess Hilmo. 2011. Farrar/Margaret Ferguson, $16.99 (9780374384654) Gr. 6–9.
Set in 1957, this thoughtful story follows 13-year-old Ollie, whose father is an itinerant preacher. When the family pulls into Blinder, Arkansas, they don’t intend to stay until they meet a boy who needs their help.
Click here for the original online list.