Looking to learn new things from history? These fictional books set in historical times can uncover new meanings and perspectives of important events.
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly
Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties. Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander. The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project; they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.
Execution: The Plot to Kill Hitler by Andy Marino
Summer 1944. Max, Gerta, and their parents have abandoned their home and relocated to a safehouse in a different Berlin neighborhood. The Hoffmanns share the tight quarters with Kat Vogel, the daughter of an executed Becker Circle conspirator. Though they have strict orders to stay inside unless absolutely necessary, the three kids sneak out regularly, all while concocting a plan to keep the spirit of their resistance alive. They’re going to burn down the headquarters of the Hitler Youth. Meanwhile, Claus Von Stauffenberg, a member of Operation Valkyrie’s inner circle, vows to carry out the assassination of Adolf Hitler himself. And he will do it soon. Time is running out. The plots are carried out. Two small decisions change the life of one family–and the path of history–forever.
Brother’s Keeper by Julie Lee
Twelve-year-old Sora and her eight-year-old brother, Youngsoo, must try to escape North Korea’s oppressive Communist regime on their own in 1950. Includes historical notes, photographs of the author’s mother, glossary of Korean words, and timeline.
War Stories by Gordon Korman
Twelve-year-old Trevor Firestone loves playing war-based video games and he idolizes his great-grandfather Jacob who came home from World War II a celebrated hero; now ninety-three Jacob wants to retrace his journey in memory and reality and return to the small French village that his unit liberated, and Trevor is going with him–but not everyone in the town want Jacob to come, and Trevor is going to learn an important lesson: real war is not a video game, and valor and heroism can be very murky concepts.
The Red Menace by Lois Ruby
During the summer of 1953, thirteen-year-old Marty’s parents are suspected of communist sympathies, upending his life and causing him to question what it really means to be a patriotic American. Includes historical notes.
Village of Scoundrels: based on a true story of courage during WWII by Margi Preus
Based on the true story of the French villagers in WWII who saved thousands of Jews, this novel tells how a group of young teenagers stood up for what is right. Among them is a young Jewish boy who learns to forge documents to save his mother and later goes on to save hundreds of lives with his forgery skills. There is also a girl who overcomes her fear to carry messages for the Resistance. And a boy who smuggles people into Switzerland. But there is always the threat that they will be caught: A policeman is sent to keep an eye on them, German soldiers reside in a local hotel, and eventually the Gestapo arrives, armed with guns and a list of names. As the knot tightens, the young people must race against time to bring their friends to safety.
Gold Rush Girl by Avi
Victoria (Tory) Blaisdell longs to live a life as adventurous and independent as that of her heroine, Jane Eyre. When Tory’s father loses his job and decides to seek a share of the newly discovered gold in California, Tory stows away on the westbound ship carrying her father and younger brother, Jacob. Though San Francisco is mud-caked, frenzied, and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory quickly finds friends and independence – until her father leaves for the gold fields and the care of Jacob falls to her. Then Jacob vanishes, kidnapped, perhaps hidden among the hundreds of ships – called Rotten Row – that have been abandoned in the bay. If he is there, Tory must find him in a treacherous search. Tory comes close to losing everything in her quest for her own and her brother’s freedom.
Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
Prairie Lotus is a powerful, touching, multilayered book about a girl determined to fit in and realize her dreams: getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend…a young half-Asian girl, Hanna, in a small town in America’s heartland, in 1880. Hanna’s adjustment to her new surroundings, which primarily means negotiating the townspeople’s almost unanimous prejudice against Asians, is at the heart of the story. Narrated by Hanna, the novel has poignant moments yet sparkles with humor, introducing a captivating heroine whose wry, observant voice will resonate with readers. In Dakota Territory in the 1880s, half-Chinese Hanna and her white father face racism and resistance to change as they try to make a home for themselves.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
It is 1805 and Mary Lambert has always felt safe among the deaf community of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard where practically everyone communicates in a shared sign language, but recent events have shattered her life; her brother George has died, land disputes between English settlers and the Wampanoag people are becoming increasingly bitter, and a “scientist” determined to discover the origins of the islands’ widespread deafness has decided she makes the perfect “live specimen”–and kidnapped her.
Goodbye, Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Barr
Set in Philadelphia during the Great Depression, this novel tells the story of a twelve-year-old boy and his best friend as they attempt to stop a wall from being built at Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, that would block the view of the baseball field from their rooftops. In 1930s Philadelphia, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank and his best friend Lola live across the street from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team. Their families and others on the street make extra money by selling tickets to bleachers on their flat rooftops, which have a perfect view of the field. However, falling ticket sales at the park prompt the manager and park owner to decide to build a wall that will block the view. Jimmy and Lola come up with a variety of ways to prevent the wall from being built, knowing that not only will they miss the view, but their families will be impacted from the loss of income. As Jimmy becomes more and more desperate to save their view, his dubious plans create a rift between him and Lola, and he must work to repair their friendship.