Ten More Books for Middle Schoolers Who Love Historical Fiction
When I was younger I was not a big reader because I was a slow reader. No matter what though, my mother tried to encourage me to read by allowing me to read ANYTHING of interest to me. When I was in 6th grade, I picked up a book and read it and could not put it down. From that moment forward, I was on a search for books that I would enjoy reading and maybe also learn a little from as well. I loved books related to history and books about love stories. Becoming a teacher made me realize how important it is to find various types of books in order to address topics, meet various learning styles and help uncover student interests. I thought a great way to use what I have learned from my own past would be to share with other children who may be struggling to find something they like, need a book related to a particular topic or simply want to try something different. These books all have the theme of Historical Fiction. Below is another collection of books to keep you reading!
Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
Grade/Age: 3rd-7th/8-12 years
Book synopsis: This is a story of a young girl who takes on responsibilities that are far beyond her years. She becomes the matriarch of the house and sets out on a mission to do whatever she can to one day bring her family back together on their family farm.
My review: This book is a great story of hope and courage. It follows the life of Lyddie and all she goes through to try and keep her family together as well as become an independent woman. It takes place during factory life and industrialization and is a great resource for students to read related to this content.
Two Suns in the Sky by Miriam Bat-Ami
Grade/Age: 5th grade and up/10 and up
Book synopsis: This is a story that takes place during World War II. It is the story of a 15 year old Yugoslavian Jew who flees Europe with his family. They come to the United States and find refuge at a refugee camp in Oswego, New York. While at the camp the main character Adam, meets a girl, Chris, who lives in Oswego but comes from a Catholic family. She feels trapped, he is escapee fighting for his life and yet this book beautifully shows the strength of love and the need for companionship in order to navigate life’s lessons.
My review: This book is great for anyone who loves a good love story, but also is interested in history. It gives you a glimpse into the life of two teenagers growing up during one of the world’s most terrible times in history. It allows students to learn about the challenges we may face in life and how to navigate them. It is reminiscent of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. Once you start reading it, you cannot put it down.
The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor
Grade/Age: 4th-6th/9-11 years
Book synopsis: This is a story of a group of black children and an elderly black man. The black man and white store owner have a friendship that is tested when the ideas of racism begin to come more prominent in the South. The store owner expects to be addressed a certain way and the elderly black man expects to be treated as an equal, especially after what he had done to help the store owner.
My review: This book is a great source for students to see the challenges races faced during such a terrible time in our history. It is also one story in a short book, no chapters. This makes the story more fluid. This book is also part of a series of other stories with the same characters.
Days of Courage The Little Rock Story by Richard Kelso
Grade/Age: 4th-6th/9-11 years
Book synopsis: This book is written about the Little Rock Nine to be integrated into Little Rock Central High School. This story is however written from the view point of one of the girls and her experience being one of the nine girls to integrate into an all-white high school in 1957.
My review: This book is a great way to teach students about tolerance while using language that is easy for students to understand. It also allows for students to relate to one character who may be close in age with themselves.
Dear America: Dreams in the Golden Country, The Diary of Zipporah Feldman a Jewish Immigrant Girl, New York City, 1903 by Kathryn Lasky
Grade/Age: 4th -8th/9-14 years
Book synopsis: The story is written from a young Russian girl’s point of view. The story is written in diary format as Zipporah keeps track of her family and life. She discusses what it is like to be an immigrant from Russia to New York and what life is like in New York.
My review: This diary is part of series that connects to different times in history. Reading a diary is fun for children and makes the reading relatable when it is as if you are reading something someone is writing directly to you. It is a great supplementary text to any historical topic students may be learning about at a given time.
The Devil’s Arithmetic
Grade/Age: 6th and up/12 and up
Book synopsis: This book follows a young girl named Hannah back in time to a Polish village at the peak of the Nazi regime. She is connected to this terrible time in history through her grandfather who continually tells stories about his experience. She learns through first-hand experience what it was like to be alive during this time.
Out of the Dust
Grade/Age: 4th and up/9 and up
Book synopsis: This is a story about a 14-year old girl named Billie Jo who lived during the Dust Bowl. It is written in free-floating verse from the point of view of the main character. She recounts her mother’s death that left her with a scared hand and her father who is dying from skin cancer. It is the tale of one family that represents what life was like during the dust bowl.
My review: This is a sad and touching story that brings to life a terrible situation in our country’s history. Since it is told through the eyes of a 14-year old and her life story, it becomes real to the reader and you empathize with what she is going through. It is a great depiction of a tragic time, but written beautifully for children ages 9 and above.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Grade/Age: 5th-7th/10-12 years old
Book synopsis: Kit Tyler is forced to leave her Carribbean home and move to her uncle’s colonial Puritan town in Connecticut. This book takes place in 1687, and Kit, a girl who wears satin and lace and talks back to her elders is looked at very differently by those of the strict Puritan town. Kit befriends an old Quaker woman who has been deemed The Witch of Blackbird Pond. What will happen to Kit and her new friend, as they have both been deemed outcasts of this strict religious village?
My review: This story is a great story to address the ideas of suspicion, accusations and choice making. It allows students to explore differences in who we are as people and why it is important to be open to all kinds of people and not just assume that there is only one way to live.
Salem Witch Trials by Michael Martin
Grade/Age: 3rd to 8th/8-14 years old
Book synopsis: This graphic novel addresses the story of the Salem Witch trials and the accusations made against the people of Salem through pictures and words. It tells the story of those accused and the trials they had to withstand to find out if they were in fact witches based on the beliefs of the Puritan town.
My review: This book is a great opportunity for students to learn about a very dreary topic in our country’s history through an unconventional form of storytelling. This non-fiction book is motivating and enthralling for students. It keeps children engaged and wanting to learn more about the topic. It is great because it is a part of a series where there are multiple non-fiction stories being told through graphic novels.
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
Grade/Age: 7th and up/12 and up
Book synopsis: This story follows through the eyes of white teenager name Hiram Hillburn. The story addresses historical events of racism in the 1950’s. The central idea of the story is the lynching of a young teen named Emmitt Till. The story challenges Hiram to questions his beliefs and standing up for what is important.
My review: This book is great introductory to a very tragic situation in our history during a time of Civil Rights movement. It gives students a story that is more relatable to their age range and challenges students to really think about their own beliefs and standing up for what they believe in.
By: Central Park Tutor Nina Krisel Berke. I currently teach in Manhattan on the Lower East Side. I work for a District 75 school and teach middle school age students with Autism. Every job I have held, whether in a classroom or at a day camp, has been working with children. I love seeing a child’s eyes light up when the succeed and helping them figure out the best way toward success. I studied general elementary education at SUNY Cortland. I graduated the program in 2009. After completing that program I went and got my master’s in Special Education. At New York University and graduated that program in 2010. This past July 2013 I completed an annotation program at Bank Street with a focus in Autism. Feel free to contact me with any questions!
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