History Meets Fiction
The DC Public Library and the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History have teamed up to highlight some great novels all about American history! As we head back into the school year, dive into some great historical fiction and hear a new perspective throughout different periods in American history. These novels are geared towards readers ages 9-14 years and are in chronological order. Discover little known stories as well as fresh takes on well known events.
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Set in Philadelphia, this story follows Mattie Cook, a young serving girl in 1793. This book is not for the faint of heart but is well written and fascinating. Learn about the little-remembered outbreak of yellow fever that devastated the then capital city of the young nation. This book also includes real historical information for curious readers who want to learn more about this event. Recommended for ages 11-14.
The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung: A Chinese Miner, California, 1852 by Laurence Yep
Part of the My Name is America series of fictionalized first-hand accounts, this novel tells the story of a young immigrant boy from China who travels to America for a better life during the California Gold Rush. We learn the story of the 12-year-old boy called "Runt" from the first-hand diary he keeps as he comes to America with his uncle. This story is a great introduction to historical fiction for readers ages 9-12 and presents both the little-written perspective of a Chinese immigrant and the harsh reality of the lawless California wilderness in the 1850’s.
The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
Part of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, this graphic novel chronicles the life of Harriet Tubman, her work to free slaves and her campaign to end slavery for good. Readers will learn about the dangerous missions Tubman went on and the issues she campaigned for, such as women’s suffrage. Beautifully illustrated, this graphic novel is a great intro to American history for readers who haven’t yet read many middle grade novels.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Set during the Great Depression in the 1930’s, this novel introduces readers to Esperanza. We meet the young Mexican girl who flees during the Mexican Revolution with her mother and comes to America. Once very wealthy, the women come to live in a settlement for farm workers and must take on back breaking work to survive while dealing with grief and illness. This book is a great introduction to the crisis of the Great Depression and the hardships that millions faced, as well as discrimination against immigrants.
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
A unique look at the late 1970’s. In this novel we meet Cindy (Zomorod Yousefzadeh) whose family moved to the US from Iran. Cindy doesn’t always fit in at school, being the only Iranian/Muslim girl in Newport Beach. Things only get worse when her family learns about the Iranian Revolution and can never return to their homeland again. Their extended family barely gets out of the country and Cindy’s family is discriminated against during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Despite these hardships, her family has a deep love of their adopted country and they rely on the kindness of their neighbors to get through. A wonderful and often funny book--this is a must read.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall
This novel is the only one set in present day. When Jimmy spends time with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns about his rich Lakota heritage. He learns about the life of Crazy Horse, the Lakota warrior, and also more about himself. Written by a Lakota author, this beautifully woven story teaches kids how knowing your history and heritage can help you know your personal identity.
Other great American historical fiction titles for kids:
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkey
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
Trouble The Water by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
It Was September When We Ran Away the First Time by D. J. Smith
Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai