Historical Fiction: Reading About Kids in the Past

January 25, 2016


Well, it’s finally gotten cold here. We’ve been so spoiled this winter with very little snow and above average temperatures. However, last Saturday evening that all came to a screeching halt. For the next three days the temperature didn’t rise above the teens and I had to resort to wearing my toe warmers and my long down coat whenever I ventured out – which wasn’t often! The best part about this has been the sun. With temperatures so low, the sun has been shining nonstop since Saturday afternoon. That’s a wonderful treat in January! Of course, after the blizzards in the east, I know I have nothing to complain about. What’s a little cold weather?



Now that winter has finally arrived, it might be a good time to curl up with a historical fiction book. I always had students who were very interested in “war books”. This concerned me, because they seemed to be fascinated by battles and weapons used throughout United States history, but this interest was often inspired by stories they had heard from their grandparents. There was one boy, in particular who always wanted a book about war from the time he was in kindergarten through the fifth grade. By the time he was in second or third grade he was always talking about growing up and becoming an officer in the Army as his Grandpa was. I realized that this bright, determined child would very likely end up attending West Point and defending our country. Once I thought about that, this fascination didn’t concern me nearly as much!  However, I very early on ran out of new “war books” to offer to John. Instead, I began to suggest historical fiction books about the various U.S. wars and he devoured them! He especially liked the Dear America series (AR:4.5 – 6.5; Lexile 740 – 970).

Dear America Historical Fiction
Dear America Historical Fiction

This series is comprised of diaries and letters of children throughout history. John’s favorites were the first person accounts by children during World War II. Once John reached fourth grade, he was not alone in his love of historical fiction. Because the new fourth and fifth grade curriculum includes many historical fiction books, kids are even more interested now in reading about the past.

Fifth graders are extremely interested in World War II. A popular book that boys often choose is, Foster’s War (AR: 5.9: Lexile 940) by Carolyn Reeder. This tells the story of an eleven year old boy who is caught up in conflict when his brother is shipped overseas and his best friend is sent to an internment camp.

Foster's War Historical Fiction
Foster’s War Historical Fiction

Patricia Reilly Giff has written some great books about this period, including Willow Run and Lilly’s Crossing (AR: 4.2 – 4.6; Lexile 625 – 700).

Patricia Reilly Giff Historical Fiction
Patricia Reilly Giff Historical Fiction

All of these books describe the effect of the war on the children who are waiting at home for their fathers and brothers to return. The books really pull you into the stories.  Because they are written from a child’s point of view, readers can readily identify with the characters. Miss Giff has also written excellent historical fiction books about other periods of history, including Nory Ryan’s Song (AR: 4.3; Lexile 675) about the Irish potato famine, that you might want to check out.



American Girl Historical Fiction
American Girl Historical Fiction

 Another historical fiction series popular with girls is the American Girl Series (Lexile 700-800; AR 4.0 – 5.0). These books are set throughout various periods of U.S. history and focus on each of the American Girl dolls. There are multiple books about each doll. These books are especially popular for girls in second or third grade who have the dolls and want to read all of the stories about their American Girl.

In conclusion, I hope these ideas will help the kids in your life to find a historical fiction book to curl up with during these long, cold winter days. The series and authors I have mentioned cover all periods in U.S. history, so whatever time period is your child’s favorite, they should be able to find a book to fit their needs.

As always, if you have a specific question about a book, or some favorite historical fiction books you would like to share, please leave a comment.


More about Susan

Hi! I'm Susan, a wife, a mom and a recently retired elementary school librarian with 22 years of experience. One of my greatest joys is to connect kids with a perfect book, which then leads them to a lifelong love of learning. Through my blog, I'm hoping to reach parents, their children and teachers to help them find those special books. I’m also hoping to offer some tips and techniques to use with your children as you read aloud.

I appreciate your comments!

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