If I had to pick one genre that was my absolute favourite, it would be historical fiction. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was growing up, I greatly disliked social studies and thought learning about history was a complete bore, but that all changed after discovering the Dear Canada series. It was because of these novels that I began to fall head-over-heels with Canadian history. I devoured every book in the series and then kept searching high and low for more books just like it. I didn’t know it then, but I would continue to read historical fiction all throughout my high school years, right up into adult hood.
Several months ago, an Instagrammer I follow, Jessica from An Historian About Town, posted about another middle grade historical fiction series that I used to read, The Royal Diaries. Between our comments back-and-forth, Jessica asked if there seemed to be a lack of these kinds of series nowadays in school libraries? To be honest, it’s not the most popular genre in my school library, but I do have several readers who are die-hard fans. Being the historical fiction lover that I am, I thoroughly enjoy hunting for these books, especially for middle grade and young adult readers. It’s a genre where the author is able to weave an exciting and engaging fictional story, all while giving the reader a glimpse into the past.
Below I have compiled a list of various historical fiction titles, both for middle grade and young adult readers. There are so many wonderful works being published today, as well as some oldies that have proved the test of time. I hope this list is helpful when you’re looking for your next read or wanting to add to your library collections.
Dear Canada series – Diary format, each book highlights a different event from Canadian history, main character always a young girl.
Dear America series – Diary format, each book highlights a different event from American history, main character always a young girl.
I Am Canada series – Diary format, each book highlights a different event from Canadian history, main character always a young boy.
Royal Diaries series – Diary format, each book highlights a different royal female as a child throughout world history.
Beneath the Crown trilogy – Similar to the Royal Diaries series, this trilogy looks at three different young women throughout world history: Lady Jane Grey, Princess Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France, and a Siberian peasant girl who befriends Anastasia.
I Survived series – Highlights the most terrifying events in history.
I Survived Graphic Novels series – Same as the original series, just in graphic novel format.
Allies – A novel about D-Day during World War II.
Refugee – A novel about three different kids, a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany, a Cuban girl in 1994, and a Syrian boy in 2015, all with the same goal of trying to escape.
Prisoner B-3087 – A novel about the concentration camps during World War II.
Grenade – A novel about the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.
Projekt 1065 – A novel about the Hitler Youth during World War II.
Ground Zero – A novel about 9/11.
Lifeboat 12 – A novel about a group of young boys stranded in a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.
Underground to Canada – A novel about the Underground Railroad.
Inside Out and Back Again – A novel about immigration, book is written in verse.
Guests of War trilogy – Trilogy that follows the adventures of two English children who are sent to live in Canada during World War II.
Elijah of Buxton – A novel about a boy who is born in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves.
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter duology – A novel about a young girl in medieval Scotland, who must free her family from a castle prison.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster – A bit of fantasy and historical fiction rolled into one, this novel is set in Victorian London and looks at the lives of “climbing boys” – orphans owned by chimney sweeps.
Esperanza Rising – A novel about a girl who has to flee from Mexico to California during the Great Depression.
The Mighty Miss Malone – A novel about a girl and her family’s experience during the Great Depression.
The War That Saved My Life – A novel set during World War II. There are two books so far in this collection.
Winnie’s Great War – A novel about the real bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh during the time of World War I.
Boston Jane trilogy – A novel about a young lady during the time of 1855 in the Pacific Northwest.
The Lady Janies series – With some fantasy worked in for good measure, these books are more along the lines of retellings, but still with historical fiction elements. Each book looks at a different leading lady from history, some fictional, some real: Lady Jane Grey, Jane Eyre, and Calamity Jane.
The Fountains of Silence – A novel about two teens during the years following the Spanish Civil War and under the oppressive dictatorship of General Francisco Franco in Spain.
Resistance – A novel about a Jewish teenage girl during World War II, who is working with a resistance group that runs raids against the Nazis.
A Night Divided – A novel about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family.
Words on Fire – A novel set in 1893, a time when Lithuania was occupied by Russian Cossack soldiers and insisted that everyone must become Russian.
The Downstairs Girl – A novel set in Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1800’s, about a teenage girl who works as a lady maid by day and a pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column by night.
The Book Thief – A novel about a girl who steals books in Nazi Germany.
The Great Gatsby – A novel set in Long Island during the 1920s. The descriptions in this book paint a perfect portrait of the Jazz Age.
Lovely War – A novel set during World War I and II.
Salt to the Sea – A novel about the single greatest tragedy in maritime history that many do not know about: the sinking of a German cruise liner in the Baltic Sea on January 30, 1945 (cruise liner was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army).
Nonfiction That Reads Like Fiction
These are not historical fiction, but they are written so well that they also make excellent suggestions for your historical fiction lovers:
Hana’s Suitcase – MG, about the Holocaust and the concentration camps.
House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery – MG, biography about the author of Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery, which does an excellent job also describing Canadian life between 1874 to 1942.
Hidden Figures Young Reader’s Edition – MG, the powerful true story of four African-American women who were mathematicians at NASA.
Night trilogy – YA, about the Holocaust and the concentration camps.
There are so many more titles that I could have added to this list, and I know I went a little overboard, but some of these are my all-time favourites! I definitely encourage you to read some of these yourself, or better yet, put them in the hands of your students.