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Find more Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth
These novels will take readers from nineteenth-century Japan to the unsettling days of the 1960s to the horror of 1980s Sudan. But no matter the setting or era, these historical-fiction titles show today’s readers the commonalities of growing up. This top 10 list features books reviewed in Booklist over the last 12 months.
Between Shades of Gray. By Ruta Sepetys. 2011. Philomel, $17.99 (9780399254123). Gr. 7–12.
Sepetys’ first novel offers a harrowing and horrifying account of the forcible relocation of countless Lithuanians in the wake of the Russian invasion of their country in 1939.
Countdown. By Deborah Wiles. 2010. Scholastic, $17.99 (9780545106054). Gr. 5–7.
Wiles expands the historical-fiction genre by using snippets of songs and speeches as well as archival photos to tell the story of 11-year-old Franny Chapman as she navigates through personal and world events during the Cuban missile crisis.
Heart of a Samurai. By Margi Preus. 2010. Abrams/Amulet, $15.95 (9780810989818). Gr. 7–11.
In 1841, 14-year-old Manjiro, allegedly the first Japanese to set foot in America, deals with the prejudice and promise of a new world after a freak storm overturns his fishing boat and he’s rescued by an American whaling ship.
A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story. By Linda Sue Park. 2010. Clarion, $16 (9780547251271). Gr. 6–9.
After 11-year-old Salva’s Sudanese school is attacked in 1985 by brutal rebel soldiers, the boy must endure several terrifying years on the run before he is adopted by an American family. A spare, immediate recollection.
Moon over Manifest. By Clare Vanderpool. 2010. Delacorte, $16.99 (9780385738835). Gr. 5–8.
After a life of riding the rails, 12-year-old Abilene doesn’t understand why her father drops her in a town he left years ago. Vanderpool weaves humor and sorrow into a complex Depression tale involving murders, orphans, bootlegging, and a mother in hiding.
No Moon. By Irene M. Watts. 2010. Tundra, paper, $12.95 (9780887769719). Gr. 6–8.
Becoming a nursery maid seems a dream come true for Louisa. The dream turns to nightmare when the wealthy family for whom she works takes Louisa along on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. A fascinating account.
Tumbleweed Skies. By Valerie Sherrard. 2010. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, paper, $11.95 (9781554551132). Gr. 3–6.
It’s 1954, and Ellie’s grandma has reluctantly agreed to look after her 10-year-old granddaughter. The hostile relationship is played out over one Saskatchewan summer in this story that is evocative of its time and heartbreaking in its interactions.
Turtle in Paradise. By Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random, $16.99 (9780375836886). Gr. 4–6.
Turtle, 11, who has just the right mixture of knowingness and hope, has been sent to live with her extended family in Florida during the Depression. Holm’s plot, full of entertainments of the era, is a hilarious blend of family dramas seasoned with a dollop of adventure.
Warriors in the Crossfire. By Nancy Bo Flood. 2010. Front Street, $17.95 (9781590786611). Gr. 6–9.
Set on the island of Saipan at the end of WWII, this is the story of natives who are caught between the ruthlessness of the Japanese and American armies, including Joseph, the son of a chief, and Kento, whose father is one of the occupying Japanese. Intense and powerful.
Zora and Me. By Victoria Bond and T. R. Simon. 2010. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763643003). Gr. 5–8.
Told in the immediate first-person voice of 10-year-old Carrie, Zora Neale Hurston’s best childhood friend, each chapter in Bond and Simon’s story evokes the famous African American writer’s early years in turn-of-the-last-century Florida.
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