Historical fiction books for middle school don’t need to sacrifice beautiful prose or historical accuracy to work for the kids on their reading level. In a highly developmental time in their lives, middle-schoolers need history. It can be a productive and stimulating source of advice and inspiration. Those worried about the content of modern fiction can also take comfort in historical fiction as more educational reading.
Read on to learn about 3 great historical fiction books that you should add to your kid’s bookshelf. Whether you’re a parent who wants their children to have stimulating reading or a teacher that wants to put high-quality options in their classroom, these books should do the trick.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
A Place to Hang the Moon chronicles the journey of three children during World War II. In London, they experience the death of their mean grandmother, who had parented them since their mom and dad died. Then, they have the full childhood experience of growing up in London during WWII. They experience the evacuation, the temporary homes, the cruelty, and the starvation. It serves as a potent reminder that there were more tragedies in WWII than the Holocaust.
The rays of sunshine in their lives, such as a kind librarian, make their otherwise troubling existences bearable. Family takes center stage in A Place to Hang the Moon, the family you have, the ones you lose, and the ones you find. For middle schoolers that perhaps feel lost in the world, it offers a perspective on childhood that refuses to hide life’s tragedies, in order to emphasize its joys.
Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen (kids may remember him from the bestseller, Hatchet), wrote this historical fiction book set during the American Revolution. The main character, a thirteen-year-old named Samuel, deals with his parents being taken prisoner. His search for them challenges his impressions of his country, of his enemies, and of his world.
Paulsen’s books have become famous for their realism. He doesn’t pull punches when it comes to survival in the real world, the cost of living in it, and the fight for the comforts of daily living. In Woods Runner, he puts Samuel through great tragedy and pain to bring him to greater understanding in the end.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Watsons Go to Birmingham takes place in 1963, when a black family like the Watsons were embroiled in a period of great change and tragedy, even if they didn’t know it. A novel about this change would be a worthy one, but Curtis’ novel does more than chronicle important events.
The book’s lasting charm comes from its perspective, that of the real family called the Weird Watsons. Momma and Daddy, as well as their children, the “official juvenile delinquents,” add spark and humor to troubled times. The Watsons Go to Birmingham has many things going for it (including a grasp of essential history). But empathy represents its greatest achievement.
Historical fiction books for middle school should inform as well as entertain. Add these 3 to the bookshelves of your children or students to give them unique perspectives on history and unique stories of tragedy (and joy). They may appreciate their own lives more as a result.