Historical Fiction: Great for Young Readers

Often, even young readers, can get caught in their favorite genre, re-reading a beloved series or never veering from one type of novel. It does any reader good to branch out into other worlds by introducing engaging and inspiring historical fiction.

These stories are best for children in fourth grade to sixth grade and can make great family read-alouds. These stories are sure to lead to rich dinnertime discussions about history and the lens of a child’s experience.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

This book tells the story of a young girl who shows courage and strength when she helps a Jewish friend during the German occupation of Denmark in World War II.  Lowry accomplishes a work about friendship through a very difficult time.

During WWII, the German military undertook a systematic “relocation” of Jews within Denmark.  Many non-Jews in the country risked their lives in both the Resistance and in assisting Jewish friends and neighbors either hide or escape to Sweden.

Number the Stars is an enduring tale of hope and the goodness of people during the darkest days of World War II.  The book certainly deserves the Newberry Award Lowry won for it in 1990.  Of course, Ms. Lowry has a body of work that is among the most celebrated in all of juvenile literature.  You can see all of her books here.


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Set during the Great Depression in the town of Flint, Michigan, this book tells the story of a young boy coming of age as he searches for his father.

The story is filled with moments where Bud faces and overcomes challenges; hunger, fatigue, mean strangers and more.  The story artfully depicts what America looked like during the Great Depression.  Curtis writes this view of the world through the eyes of a 10 year-old and it works very well.  Details that would likely be overlooked by adults will be interesting to young readers.

The richness of the story has been widely recognized.  The book won the Newberry Medal in 2000 and has successfully been adapted to a play.


Boston Jane: An Adventure by Jennifer Holm

The first book in a series about young Jane Peck’s adventures to the Pacific Northwest in the mid 1800s. Escaping the trappings of Philadelphia society, she works to find her way and her own strength in a rugged land.

This book is a great American story of westward movement and the people who left comfortable lives in the eastern United States to seek their fortune in the west.  A common mistake people like Jane made was underestimating the danger, discomfort and difficulty of going west.  This story captures a situation that repeated itself thousands of times through the experience of Jane Peck.

Holm is an accomplished author who captures the motivations and adversities of an emigrant in the 1850s.  This is a book that is bound to stir an interest in U.S. history with every reader.  Holm has written many popular novels and is the author of the BabyMouse series.  Click here to see all of her work.

Dear America series

The books in this series are an excellent source of information wrapped with a good story from times throughout history. As a bonus, each book includes photos from the time period discussed in the book.

Dear America covers a huge range of time periods and situations in American History.  From the Revolutionary War, Slavery and the Civil War to World War II and beyond.  This is the type series that many readers love and systematically read every edition.  Best of all, readers will get a good grasp of history and how it affects individuals as the read these great books.

If you are interested in these titles or more suggestions on historical fiction for young readers, you can see a long list of historical fiction titles here.