When I was in high school, I took the AP US History exam. After the test, a couple of friends mentioned one of the multiple choice questions that neither of them could answer. “Oh, it was C,” I said. When they asked me how I knew that, even though it wasn’t covered in class, I said, “It was in one of the Felicity books.”
I really enjoyed history in school, but most of the historical knowledge I retain probably has to do with novels I read. (The American Girl books cover most American History for me.) As Whitney Etchison says in this post at The Hub, history isn’t about dates and facts–it’s about the story of people’s lives. And what better way to engage in those stories than through great fiction?
She also offers some great options for historical YA fiction, including Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. A few others I’d suggest:
- A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. Great combination of murder mystery and real life drama at the turn of the 20th century.
- The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Andersen. Expertly written and unexpected Revolutionary War-era story.
- The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood. Lots of Elizabethan fun, with orphan thieves and Shakespeare’s troupe of actors.
Maybe fiction can’t take the place of high school history classes, but novels like these can certainly engage readers and get them emotionally invested in historical events.
Any other historical fiction favorites to add to the list?
0 thoughts on “Historical Fact in YA Fiction”
Everything by Ann Rinaldi. I learned SO MUCH about American history through her books. Also, I loved the Dear America and Royal Diaries books; definitely would recommend those.
I second Ann Rinaldi. I’m 24 and I have one of her books that I adore and reread about once a year (“Time Enough For Drums”). It’s not necessarily YA, but “The HIstorian” by Elizabeth Kostova is amazing and has lots of history and amazing descriptions of the geography of Eastern Europe.
Karen Cushman’s books deserve a place on the list, too, I’d say. “Catherine, Called Birdy” and “The Midwife’s Apprentice” are what made me love history. They were stories about quirky girls I could relate to, though they lived hundreds of years ago, and there was a little intriguing blurb at the end where Cushman talked about her research and her own budding interest in Medieval history.
Which then lead to my own interest in research and history. Medieval history isn’t as big of a draw to me as it once was, but it definitely started and grew from there. And I still reread those books over and over, too.
I liked “Shades of Grey” (http://www.amazon.com/Shades-Gray-Avon-Camelot-Books/dp/0380712326) when I was in middle school. I also read “Number the Stars” (http://www.amazon.com/Number-Stars-Lois-Lowry/dp/0440227534) and I read “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle” many times (http://www.amazon.com/True-Confessions-Charlotte-Doyle/dp/B001ICHBOM/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339689669&sr=1-5).
I read “Clan of the Cave Bear” when I was in 7th grade, although that’s certainly nothing like a YA book!
My dad taught AP US history for years!