Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to share with voracious as well as reluctant readers of all ages. Filled with suspense, action, and engaging characters, historical fiction books for kids transport you to another time and place and provide deep insights into the perspectives and experiences of others. Here are 16 historical fiction books for kids that are highly recommended by the young readers on Bookopolis.com, an online community where students can share book reviews with peers.
These historical fiction books for kids are great for book clubs and lit circles where students can discuss their reactions. Kids can dig deeper with further research into the historical events and places spotlighted.
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
For Younger Elementary Readers
Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osbourne
This is one of the bestselling chapter book series of all time for good reason. Kids become immersed in the adventures of Jack and Annie as they explore historical places in their time-traveling tree house. Readers will love the companion books, Magic Tree House Fact Trackers, filled with facts and information that supplement the plots.
Buy it: Magic Tree House Series on Amazon
I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis
Each book in this kid-approved series brings important and dramatic historical events to life through the fictional adventures of a young protagonist. Fans of fast-paced action stories won’t be able to put these down. Topics include the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the sinking of the Titanic, the Great Chicago Fire, Hurricane Katrina, and many more critical moments in history.
Buy it: I Survived Series on Amazon
Ranger in Time Series by Kate Messner
Another great pick for fans of time-travel stories … and dogs. Young readers love Ranger, an energetic golden retriever trained as a search-and-rescue dog who gets transported through time and thrown into situations where he must save innocent lives. Additionally, these books keep kids engaged as they learn and virtually explore places like the Oregon Trail, the South Pole, and ancient Rome.
Buy it: Ranger in Time Series on Amazon
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson
This gripping picture book is about a slave who mails himself in a package to the North to find freedom from his current life. Kids gain empathy as they learn about the hardships of an enslaved person that would lead to such a bold path.
Buy it: Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad on Amazon
For Upper Elementary School Readers
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
This fantastic, award-winning story set during the Partition of India in 1947 explores a lesser-known historical event that led to the tragic death of millions of people. Told through letters written by 12-year-old Nisha to her dead mother, she relates the experiences of her multicultural world turning upside down as distrust forms between Muslims and Hindis, who used to be friends and neighbors. It’s a touching and beautiful coming-of-age story of a young girl who is discovering her own talents and abilities in a world that is full of both despair and love.
Buy it: The Night Diary on Amazon
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
In England during World War II, Ada, a 10-year-old girl with a clubfoot, was in isolation with her mother. But when other children, including Ada’s brother, are sent from London to the countryside to protect them from Adolph Hitler, Ada sneaks away and discovers freedom and maternal love. This award-winning book is a must-read for anyone who loves stories filled with mystery, adventure, and history.
Buy it: The War That Saved My Life on Amazon
Refugee by Alan Gratz
This book includes three powerful stories of young people seeking refuge: Josef is a Jewish boy escaping the Nazis in 1930. Isabel is a Cuban girl seeking safety in 1994. And Mahmoud is a Syrian boy on the run from his war-torn home in 2015. Their action-packed stories are woven together in a way that keeps readers on the edge of their seat. Readers who like intense, page-turning adventures based on real stories will love this and the many other historical fiction books by this beloved author.
Buy it: Refugee on Amazon
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
This story provides insight into the experiences of those who lived through the Chernobyl disaster, told through multiple perspectives and time periods. After the explosion, two girls who are enemies are sent together to Leningrad to seek safety with other family members. This adventure-filled book shows the strength of a friendship forged during shared experiences, and reminds readers that love can overcome hatred.
Buy it: The Blackbird Girls on Amazon
For Middle School Readers
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Hanna is a 14-year-old multiracial (Chinese-Korean-White) girl who moves from California to the Midwest with her white father. Hanna navigates the racism of her new community with the help of a few kind neighbors and classmates. This story is a must-read for fans of books like Little House on the Prairie and stories set in 1800s America. It provides an important and unique perspective on how it felt to be a citizen who was perceived as an outsider during that time.
Buy it: Prairie Lotus on Amazon
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
In this highly engaging and poignant book, historical racism, police brutality, and the unnecessary killing of young Black boys are explored. The author weaves the fictional—but realistic—story of Jerome, a 12-year-old boy who is wrongly killed by a police officer, with the true story of Emmett Till, an innocent boy murdered in 1955. This is a great pick for any reader, but the compelling characters and the shorter length of this novel make it particularly appealing to reluctant readers.
Buy it: Ghost Boys on Amazon
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills
Centered around the 9/11 attacks, this book blends the stories of two teen girls from different time periods. In the present day, 16-year-old Jesse is dealing with her father’s grief and her brother’s death on 9/11. Back in 2001, Alia, a 16-year-old Muslim girl, finds herself stuck in a Manhattan building on that fateful day. Full of suspense, action, and emotion, this book helps readers understand the impact of September 11.
Buy it: All We Have Left on Amazon
A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
The construction of the Berlin Wall tore apart Greta’s family. It’s been four years since Greta, her mother, and brother have been living in the East, separated from her father and brother, who are in the West. Greta is determined to escape the Soviet government despite the threat of danger after she sees her father across the wall. This book shows the importance of hope in the pursuit of freedom. Readers who enjoy this book can explore historical times and places in her other historical fiction books for kids.
Buy it: A Night Divided on Amazon
For High Schoolers
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Set in 1890s Atlanta, the story centers around Jo, a 17-year-old Chinese American girl who is a maid for a rich, unkind family. She is also the anonymous author behind the “Dear Miss Sweetie” advice column that is read by society ladies. Mystery and intrigue combine with sociopolitical topics in this fast-paced and gripping story.
Buy it: The Downstairs Girl on Amazon
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Daniel, an oil tycoon’s son, travels to 1950s Madrid to practice his photography skills and explore his mother’s homeland. He falls in love with a local woman, but as he learns about Spain under a fascist regime, he must make a choice. Themes of self-discovery, love, and family blend to make a page-turning and thought-provoking story.
Buy it: The Fountains of Silence on Amazon
We Are All That’s Left by Carrie Arcos
This is the story of a mother and daughter who struggle to understand each other. It’s also a glimpse into the long-lasting trauma of war. This emotion-filled book is told through Zara, a teen living in present-day Rhode Island, and her mother, Nadja, a teen growing up in the 1990s in war-torn Bosnia. The story provides a perspective on a recent war in history that has implications for challenges still faced today.
Buy it: We Are All That’s Left on Amazon
Dream Country by Shannon Gibney
This saga is told through stories from five generations of a family who have longed for freedom, connection, and identity. The book examines the impact of slavery on the African diaspora and provides insights into the colonization of Liberia. Readers go on a journey from modern-day Minnesota to Africa in the 1900s and back to 1800s America. This is a heavy, complex story for readers who want to dive deeper into the topics of race and equity.
Buy it: Dream Country on Amazon
Love these historical fiction books for kids? Check out our activities to teach historical timelines in the classroom.
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