10 Engaging Works of Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Fiction has a way of turning boring history lessons into thrilling adventures. Reading books set in the past can show kids what life was like in different eras, and some young readers may get curious and be inspired to learn more about history. If you have a child in your life who loves to read, check out these ten fantastic works of historical fiction. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Historical Novels For Young Readers: Our 10 Picks

Title Author Setting
1. Tucson Jo Carol Matas Wild West
2. The Curse of the Buttons Anne Ylvisaker Civil War
3. The Night Diary Veera Hiranandani Newly Independent India
4. The Warden’s Daughter Jerry Spinelli Civil Rights Era
5. The Orphan Band of Springdale Anne Nesbet World War II
6. Lucky Strikes Louis Bayard Great Depression
7. The Lightning Queen Laura Resau 1950s
8. The Button War Avi World War I
9. The Eureka Key Sarah L. Thomson Early America
10. Unbound Ann E. Burg Antebellum South

8 Great Family-Friendly Historical Films

  1. The Sound of Music (1965)
  2. Amelia (2009)
  3. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
  4. Hidden Figures (2016)
  5. Newsies (1992)
  6. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008)
  7. Pride (2007)
  8. Little Women (1994)

How to Encourage Kids to Read

A great way to start is to get a bookshelf for your child's room. If they have access to their own collection of books, it'll be easy for them to read at their own pace. And if they're looking at the shelf everyday, reading will always be on their mind. It's also important to give your kids a comfortable place to sit. This can be anything from a rocking chair to a couch to a dedicated reading nook. If they have a space that's just for them, it makes reading time all the more special. As they grow, your young ones will start to read more challenging books with words they don't know. Encourage them to look up unfamiliar terms in the dictionary so they can expand their vocabulary. Finally, if you're having trouble getting your kid interested in books in the first place, try bridging the gap between visual media and literature with graphic novels.

5 Real People Who Changed History

  1. Claudette Colvin: Teenage civil rights activist
  2. Rosalind Franklin: Made ground-breaking discoveries about DNA
  3. Nelson Mandela: Peace activist and President of South Africa
  4. Indira Gandhi: First female prime minister of India
  5. Alexander Hamilton: Profoundly shaped America's financial system

How to Teach History in the 21st Century

In Depth

Learning about history doesn't have to be dry and boring. In well-written novels about the past, kings, queens, and rebels come to life on the page. For young history buffs and curious readers, here, in no particular order, are some amazing middle-grade books that take their inspiration from history.

In the #1 spot is "Tucson Jo" by Carol Matas, which is set in Arizona in the year 1882. Some kids might be proud to have their father run for mayor. But fourteen-year-old Josephine has other plans, and they don't involve letting her independence take a backseat to the campaign. To make matters worse, Jo has to deal with anti-semitic attacks aimed at her father and herself. Based on the true story of Tucson's first Jewish mayor, this is a gripping tale about feminism, family, and identity.

For #2, we have Anne Ylvisaker's "The Curse of the Buttons." Keokuk, Iowa isn't the most thrilling place to live for adventurous young Ike Button. At least, not until the Civil War starts. Eleven-year-old Ike can't wait to join the army and fight for the Union, but being a kid means that he'll be stuck with the womenfolk for the duration, unless he can call on his ancestors to help him don a daring disguise that will bring him close to the action.

Keokuk, Iowa isn't the most thrilling place to live for adventurous young Ike Button.

At #3 is "The Night Diary" by Veera Hiranandani. Nisha is caught between worlds. In the newly-independent India of 1947, the half-Muslim, half-Hindu girl doesn't know who she is anymore. After the end of British rule, her homeland becomes the modern country of Pakistan. Suddenly, thousands of warring citizens are attempting a dangerous journey to reach the border. With only her family and her faith to guide her, Nisha has to get to safer territory before the violence catches up to her.

For #4, we get Jerry Spinelli's "The Warden's Daughter." Most kids wouldn't choose to spend their free time in a prison, but Cammie O'Reilly isn't most kids, and she's not hanging out in her dad's workplace for fun. It's almost her thirteenth birthday, and all the motherless Cammie wants is a mom to call her own. If she can find one in Hancock County Prison, her dream will finally come true.

Next, at #5, is "The Orphan Band of Springdale" by Anne Nesbet. In the midst of the Second World War, eleven-year-old Gusta is sent to live in her grandmother's orphanage after her father is forced to flee the country. There, she finds solace in playing the French horn with the small band she forms with her newfound friends. Gusta soon learns about her family's dark secret, causing her to face prejudice in the small community she lives in.

Gusta soon learns about her family's dark secret, causing her to face prejudice in the small community she lives in.

At #6 is Louis Bayard's "Lucky Strikes." At fourteen, Amelia finds herself the sole breadwinner of a family of three during the Great Depression. With a mother who's recently passed and a father who's never been in the picture, it's up to this orphan to keep the family gas station, and the family itself, afloat. When an oil tycoon blows into town, Amelia knows that she has to act fast to protect her assets. Luckily, thanks to a mysterious vagrant, she might have a way to protect her siblings and her legacy.

Coming in at #7 is "The Lightning Queen" by Laura Resau. In the 1950s, Mexico's remote Hill of Dust mountain range isn't much of a place to grow up. That's how eleven-year-old Teo feels about it, anyway. He's lost his mother and his sister, and has to tend the family goat herd by himself. Everything changes when Esma, a captivating young girl, rolls into town on a caravan and makes Teo her new best friend. Inspired by tales from old Mexico, this whimsical story is a colorful, enchanting read for kids of all ages.

For #8 we find Avi's "The Button War." Patryk doesn't remember what life was like before the Russians came to occupy his small Polish town. To the mischievous twelve-year-old, wartime life is the norm. His friend Jurek is always trying to have a little fun in the oppressed town. His favorite game? Stealing military buttons from the German soldiers who recently invaded the land. But as the boys keep at it, they start to realize that the seemingly harmless dare could get them in a lot of trouble. How far will Patryk go to stay in the game?

Stealing military buttons from the German soldiers who recently invaded the land.

At #9 is Sarah L. Thomson's "The Eureka Key." Sam and Martina didn't think their uncanny ability to crack codes and solve puzzles would bring them anything more than hours of entertainment. When the two are drafted into a larger conspiracy during a cross-country trip, however, they start to understand the incredible power of their gifts. Seven keys left by the Founding Fathers could lead them to a powerful weapon created by Benjamin Franklin himself. If they can find it in time, maybe they can save the world from total destruction.

Finally, at #10 is "Unbound" by Ann E. Burg. Grace knows that there's more to life than being a slave. After she transitions from the field to the main house to work directly under her master and mistress, she starts to see the true horrors of slavery unfold before her eyes. Humans are sold on auction blocks, families are being ripped apart, and grown men are treated like cattle. Grace decides she needs to try to live her own life before it's too late. Along with her family, she'll have to travel by night and face her darkest fears to get to freedom.