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Fiction with a Historical Twist

Like a good story? Travel back in time to read about young people from all times in history.

Catherine, called Birdy by Karen Cushman — (1290) Karen Cushman has written several books set in medieval England.  This one is about a thirteen-year-old girl who is not quite ready to be married off.  She has several adventures and records her thoughts in her diary.

Girl in a cage by Jane Yolen & Robert J. Harris — (1306) Princess Marjorie, at eleven years old, is captured by the King of England and held hostage in a cage on public display.  As the daughter of Scotland’s Robert the Bruce, she is imprisoned while her father fights for Scotland’s freedom.

The book of the maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse — (1413) Johanna, maidservant to Dame Margery, accompanies her mistress on a pilgrimage to Rome.  Between the rigors of travel and Dame Margery’s religious zeal, Johanna has quite a tale to tell.

The smile by Donna Jo Napoli — (Renaissance Italy) Elizabetta is the only child of a silk merchant who is experiencing financial troubles.  Florence and its surrounding countryside are all shaken by the political events of the time, and Elizabetta is caught between what she wants and what’s expected of her.  Added to the history is the mystery of the Mona Lisa.

Journey into Mohawk Country by H.M. van den Bogaert — (1634) It’s a rare thing to find a book that makes colonial exploration interesting, but this graphic novel does the trick.  Follow van den Bogaert on his trading expeditions into Mohawk country.

The year of the hangman by Gary Blackwood — (1777) A twist on the typical Revolutionary tale, fifteen-year-old Creighton is captured and taken from England to the colonies where he may alter the course of history as we know it.  An interesting answer for those who wonder what may have happened if the colonists had lost the Revolutionary war.

The true confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi — (1832) In an at-sea adventure, Charlotte begins as a dainty lady passenger, but ends as an able sailor.  As a crew member, she labors through storms and mutiny, but at the end of her story, it is up to the reader to decide how much is really true.

Crows & cards : a novel by Joseph Helgerson — (1849) Take a trip down the Mississippi with Zeb, who leaves home to learn a trade, but gets swept up in the life of a Riverboat Gambler.  Through his travels, Zeb meets an Indian Chief, a perpetually escaping slave, and the Birdman.  Told like a tall tale, and written to make you keep turning pages until the end.

The floating circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer — (1850s) In another riverboat adventure, Owen runs away from an orphan train to join a floating circus.  Hoping to make his brother’s life better by not being a part of it, Owen learns to care for elephants and learns many things on his way up and down the river.

The evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly — (1899) Set in Texas at the tail end of the nineteenth century, Calpurnia gets swept away by her observations of nature that bring her closer to her grandfather.   She struggles with being a proper young lady, but takes consolation from her natural surroundings and uses them to give her strength.

Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis — (Depression) Bud is a ten-year-old runaway from Flint who sets off in search of his father.  While Bud solves the mystery of his father, the reader gets an inside look of the Depression in Michigan.

Al Capone does my shirts by Gennifer Choldenko — (1935) Discover life on Alcatraz when twelve-year-old Moose moves with his family to the prison island.  Moose is disappointed to leave his old friends behind, but he soon finds out there are a few good things about living on the same island as Al Capone.

A year down yonder by Richard Peck — (1937) Fifteen-year-old Mary Alice gets sucked in to her grandmother’s schemes and mischief making.  Soon she’s making her own mischief in the small Illinois town where her grandmother lives.

Bone by bone by bone by Tony Johnston — (1950s) David is growing up in rural Tennessee, where relations between blacks and white are touchy.  David is forbidden from seeing his best friend Malcolm, who is black, and has to learn how to live in a world that doesn’t recognize this friendship.

A corner of the universe by Ann M. Martin — (1960) Twelve-year-old Hattie Owen is enjoying a relaxing summer when two strangers come into her life:  an autistic uncle and a carnival girl friend.  While moved by good impulses, some of her choices have far-reaching consequences.

Shooting the moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell — (Vietnam) Coming from a military family, Jamie is excited to hear her older brother has enlisted to go to Vietnam.  However, as Jamie begins to develop the film sent home by her brother, she finds some images of war that are more disturbing than those she grew up with.