Historical Home Runs

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Historical Home Runs

Engaging middle grade historical fiction

A lot of people are hesitant to pick up a book if it is labeled historical fiction.

What they don't realize is that historical fiction is not that different from the sometimes more "glamorous" fantasy novels -- both are set in a world different from the one we know today. I find exploring different worlds, whether they are fantastical or historical, extremely interesting which is why I love both genres.

What follows is a very abbreviated list of some of my favorite historical fiction titles which I believe would interest even the most reluctant historian.

Countdown by Deborah Wiles
This fantastic first installment of the Sixties trilogy follows Franny Chapman as she tries to deal with friends, school, and family during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The historical events of the early 1960s are definitely present in the narrative but they form a seamless backdrop to Franny's personal happenings and problems -- which is exactly how it should be.

Historical photos, musical lyrics, and radio broadcasts are interspersed throughout the book which provide more information for interested readers.

The second book in the trilogy is called Revolution. Beware though -- Revolution is not a direct sequel. It has different main characters and takes place in a different place in the U.S.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Hugo Cabret lives in a train station in Paris during the 1930s. The book follows his journey as he tries to discover more about his father and find his place in the world now that his family is gone. Beautiful illustrations make up almost half of this book and they move the narrative along, making Hugo Cabret a combination of a text-based book and a graphic novel.

If you liked Hugo, you must read Wonderstruck, also by Brian Selznick. This is another example of a nondirect sequel. It uses the same format of narrative illustrations and text but explores the story of a boy who loses his hearing and runs away to New York City to find his family.

True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
As a child I avoided "award-winning" books pretty categorically, but for some reason this slipped through my radar and became one of my absolute favorites. Set in the 19th century, the book follows Charlotte Doyle as she embarks on a sea voyage with a crew who turn out to be mutinous. Charlotte's spunky character has stayed with me long after the details of what happens in the book have faded.

If you are looking for other books with strong female characters try Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce or Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
One Crazy Summer is the first book in a trilogy about three sisters growing up during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The girls travel from their Brooklyn home to spend the summer with their mother in California. It simultaneously explores the Black Panther movement from a child's perspective, while telling an incredibly compelling tale of three girls who are trying to build a relationship with their mother.

It manages all of this while also being extremely funny, realistic and engrossing for readers of all ages.

To finish Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern's tale, check out P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

If you are looking for another book about an African American girl's experience growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, check out Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Georgie's older sister Agatha has gone missing. When the sheriff finds a body wearing Agatha's favorite green dress everyone assumes the worst. Except for Georgie. She refuses to accept that her sister is gone and goes on a hunt to find out what really happened to Agatha.

Set in the late 19th century, this book truly depicts a world foreign to the one we know now. Georgie's determination and pluck are truly admirable and her journey to find the truth exciting and unexpected to the last page.

If you liked this book and are interested in finding similar themes of strong family ties and courageous female characters, check out Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa De Los Santos or Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.