Historical Fiction Favorites

For Middle School

What helps keep kids motivated?

  1. Choice: Let kids pick their own books. Even if it’s a choice within certain guidelines, it’s still a choice. No one likes to be forced to do anything, so the more autonomy kids can have, the better.
  2. Accountability: If I didn’t require a certain amount of time reading, it wouldn’t happen with my tween. Even though she loves reading. Last summer my kids tracked minutes reading to earn minutes on screen time. However you plan it, make sure you’re checking in on the reading so it doesn’t get forgotten.
  3. Variety: Think outside the traditional book here. Try ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, or blogs.
  4. Fun: Get a new beanbag pillow just for reading. Read with headlamps in the dark. Whatever your kids like, see if you can pair it with reading.

What is available?

A Long Walk to Water (350342)

Linda Sue Park; Lexile: 720L; multiple books, IJ, 2010

Before leaving Africa, Salva's life is one of harrowing tragedy. Separated from his family by war and forced to travel on foot through hundreds of miles of hostile territory, he survives starvation, animal attacks, and disease, and ultimately leads a group of about 150 boys to safety in Kenya. Relocated to upstate New York, Salva resourcefully learns English and continues on to college. Eventually he returns to his home region in southern Sudan to establish a foundation that installs deep-water wells in remote villages in dire need of clean water. This poignant story of Salva's life is told side-by-side with the story of Nya, a young girl who lives today in one of those villages.


Bud, Not Buddy (350052)

Christopher Paul Curtis; Lexile: 950L; multiple books, IJ, PERMA-BOUND, 1999

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him. 1. He has his own suitcase full of special things. 2. He's the author of Bud Cardwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. 3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression! Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him, not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.


Echo (350597)

Pam Munoz Ryan; Lexile: 680L; multiple books, IJ, 2015

Music, magic, and a real-life miracle meld in this genre-defying masterpiece from storytelling maestro Pam Munoz Ryan. Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, ECHO pushes the boundaries of genre and form, and shows us what is possible in how we tell stories. The result is an impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.


Esperanza Rising (350306)

Pam Muñoz Ryan; Lexile: 750L; multiple books, IJS, 2000

Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her family's ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. Papa and Abuelita would always be with her. But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and Esperanza and Mama flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances-because Mama's life and her own depend on it.


Fever 1793 (350171)

Laurie Halse Anderson; Lexile: 580L; multiple books, IJ, 2000

During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out. Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie's world upside down. At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.


Inside Out & Back Again (350414)

Thanhha Lai; Lexile: 800L; multiple books, IJS, 2013

For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.


Inside Out & Back Again (350414)

Thanhha Lai; Lexile: 800L; multiple books, IJS, 2013

For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.


Moon Over Manifest (350141)

Clare Vanderpool; Lexile: 800L; multiple books, IJ, 2010

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was. Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it's just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to "Leave Well Enough Alone."


The War that Saved My Life (350593)

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Lexile: 580L; multiple books, IJ, 2015

Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

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