This morning I covered some of my own historical fiction and fictionalized historical biographies. I also want to touch on some novels by other authors set in a variety of historical eras. Please note that I have not read all of these, or read them recently. Please double check the grade level and reviews to make sure they are suitable for your gift recipients.
If you’re interested in Japan, try Dorothy Hoobler’s mysteries set in 18th-century Japan, The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn and The Demon in the Teahouse, or Lensey Namioka’s books set in16th-century feudal Japan, The Coming of the Bear and Den of the White Fox. Namioka has another series set in 16th-century Japan, featuring a Portuguese missionary. The series includes The Samurai and the Long-Nosed Devils, Village of the Vampire Cat, Island of Ogres and The Coming of the Bear.
Legend of Mu Lan: A Heroine of Ancient China, by Wei Jiang, is set in ancient China. Empress of China Wu Ze Tian, by Cheng-An Chiang, involves the only female emperor in more than 5,000 years of Chinese history (618- 907 AD). The Phantom of Tiger Mountain, by Lensey Namioka, is set in 12th-century China.
For a look at 12th-century Korea, try the Newbery award-winning A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Her book Seesaw Girl is set in 17th-century Korea.
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples, is one of my favorites. The heroine is the daughter of nomadic camel herders in 20th-century Pakistan. It’s poignant tale of a powerless girl trying to control her own life. There’s also a sequel, Haveli. Some other Middle Eastern books are Masada: The Last Fortress, by Gloria D. Miklowitz, about Romans and Jews at the fall of Masada; Seven Daughters & Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen, set in an ancient Arabian city; Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, an Arabian Nights legend from viewpoint of a crippled girl; and Anna of Byzantium, by Tracy Barrett, with a historical figure in ninth-century Constantinople. (See also my own The Genie’s Gift, a fantasy drawing on Arabian Nights legends.)
If you like ancient Rome, try The Roman Mysteries series by Caroline Lawrence, historical mysteries with colorful scenery, tense action, and characters who are not always likable but are sympathetic. For the ancient Greece of legendary Troy, Tracy Barrett has two books recommended for ages 12 and up: King of Ithaca, a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey narrated by the son of Odysseus, and Dark of the Moon, a retelling of the Minotaur legend. Inside the Walls of Troy: A Novel of the Women Who Lived the Trojan War, by Clemence McLaren, tells the story from the points of view of Helen and Cassandra.
A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck, are fun and funny stories set in 1930s America. The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, is an award winner covering the civil rights era. Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan is a poetic book about Mexican immigrants working in a California labor camp. Dragon’s Gate, The Serpent’s Children and Mountain Light, by Laurence Yep, cover the Chinese immigrant experience.
For Latin American stories (besides my own The Well of Sacrifice), consider King’s Fifth, by Scott O’Dell (1541, Mexico), or The Captive, also by Scott O’Dell, about a Spanish expedition to the New World, with two sequels, The Feathered Serpent and The Amethyst Ring, covering early Central American civilizations. Daniel Peters has three massive epics based on the pre-Colombian civilizations of Central and South America: The Incas: A Novel, The Luck of Huemac: A Novel About the Aztecs, and Tikal.
What about Africa? The African Mask, by Janet E. Rupert, involves the 11th-century Yoruba. Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba (The Royal Diaries), by Patricia McKissack, is set in Angola in 1595. Saba: Under the Hyena’s Foot (Girls of Many Lands), by Jane Kurtz, is set in 1846 Ethiopia. Journey to Jo’burg, by Beverly Naidoo is in Apartheid-era South Africa and has a sequel, Chain of Fire. Two books with African characters outside of Africa are At Her Majesty’s Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, by Walter Dean Myers, and I, Juan De Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton De Trevino, about a 17th-century African slave who assists Spanish painter Velasquez in Europe.
The Prehistoric world is also represented. Anooka’s Answer, by Marjorie Cowley, is set near the end of the Stone Age, about 12,000 years ago. Boy of the Painted Cave, by Justin Denzel, is set in the Cro-Magnon era. Xrina At Hagar Qim (The Children of Malta series), by Kent E. Clizbe, is set in Malta, 4,500 BC. Race to the Moonrise: An Ancient Journey, by Sally Crum, involves the Pre-Puebloan people of the Southwest.
Two other great spots for learning about historical novels for young people are Rating Historical Fiction for the Classroom and Historical Novels.