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July 23, 2019

Best Historical Fiction for Tween Readers

Best Historical Fiction for Tween Readers

By: Julie Armstrong

I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction. I often feel sadness as I read about the injustices of our past.  Every once in a while, however, a book comes across my desk that I find fascinating, and I just can’t seem to put it down.  Ironically, many times those books are in the historical fiction genre. It’s not necessarily the historical part of the story that captures me. Rather the characters are what draw me in and keep me engaged.

Here are a few of my favorites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo is an award winning historical novel that’s innovative and imaginative. Otto meets three gypsy sisters when he gets lost in the forbidden Black Forest. The gypsies give him a magical harmonica as well as some foreshadowing enlightenment as they ask, “Have you ever considered that one person might play the mouth harp and pass along her strength and vision and knowledge?”

What follows are three novellas as the harmonica finds its ways into the hands of special children facing historical injustices. First you meet Friedrich facing persecution in Nazi Germany. Next you meet orphaned brothers trying to stay together during the Great Depression. Finally you meet Ivy Maria Lopez, a young Mexican-American during World War 2 as a neighboring Japanese family is sent to an internment camp. What do these stories have in common? The magical harmonica of course.

These are beautifully written stories of hope and redemption. The characters are so compelling and likable that it’s a must read, especially if you like a little fantasy in your reading.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

This is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it. This 2017 Newberry Honor book is a heart wrenching reminder of the injustices of our past. The setting is America just as she is recovering from World War 1. Eleven-year-old Annabelle lives a quiet, country life in Pennsylvania until a new girl moves to town. Throughout the story there is bullying, discrimination and social injustice, and yet Annabelle faces each with determination and integrity. Although there is death and a few sad and scary events that occur throughout the story, I’m convinced tweens will find themselves loving this girl just as I did. And the lessons of love, judgement and acceptance are ones that are crucial for our children to learn in our current climate.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that saved my Life is another Newberry Honor book that takes place during the Second World War just as children in London are being evacuated to the countryside to avoid the London Blitz. Your heart will just break for Ada, who has never left her one room apartment because of a disability, as she suffers cruelty from an abusive mother. I found myself cheering for her as she learns about trust, love and what it takes to make a family.

I found myself, at the end of the book, not wanting Ada’s story to end. But I needn’t have worried; there’s a book 2, The War I Finally Won! This book is equally enticing and neatly wraps up Ada’s story.