The 10 Books I Read Most as a Pre-Teen

As a pre-teen, I devoured historical fiction. I dreamt of traveling through time and seeing history with my own eyes, living in those worlds, experiencing something totally different. Books were the best way to do that, so I read and read and read. The books shown below are some of my absolute favourites from that time in my life – ones that I read repeatedly until I knew them like old friends.

This list came to mind as I was thinking this morning about how much I look forward to reading these same books aloud to my kids, once they’re old enough. Of course boys may have slightly different tastes when it comes to historical fiction, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it a try anyways!

1. The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman. This novel won the Newbery Medal in 1996. A young girl trains as a midwife but gains no confidence until an emergency situation arises and she must deliver a baby.



2. Island of the Blue Dolphins  by Scott O’Dell. This is based on the true story of a young Native American girl stranded on an island off the California coast for eighteen years.


3. There Will Be Wolves by Karleen Bradford. Ursula must join the People’s Crusade to the Holy Land in order to escape accusations back home of being a witch.


4. The King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel. Jeanne is a young woman in the seventeenth century whose dowry and ocean crossing are paid by the French King (one of the filles du roi). She arrives in Canada to marry a widow and begin a very new life as a settler in the wilderness.


5. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. This is about an 11-year-old girl who is forced to become the breadwinner for her family in the war-torn Taliban era in Afghanistan.


6. The Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford. Lady Jane Grey was forced to take the English crown against her will through marriage, and ended up having it for only nine days before her execution.


7. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewcz (1895-96). This old classic is the love story between a young Christian woman and a Roman patrician during the insane last days of Emperor Nero in Rome.


8. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This is the first-person narrative of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph in the Bible. She is eventually betrayed by her brothers and flees to Eygpt.


9. Little House on Rocky Ridge by Roger Lea MacBride. While I am a staunch of Laura’s tales, my heart was always with Rose Wilder, her daughter. This series, beginning with the title above, tells the story of Rose’s life in the West, growing up in the Ozark Mountains.


10. The Sky is Falling by Kit Pearson. Ever since I met Kit Pearson at the local library, I loved her books, too. The trilogy, starting with the title above, tells about two British children who are sent to live in Toronto during World War II.


I’ve made an interesting observation while compiling this list. I’d never realized before how every single one of these books – each of which has greatly influenced me – features a strong female protagonist. Perhaps I naturally gravitated to books like these, or else my wily mother made sure they were placed within easy grasp!

Regardless, these are fabulous historical and inspirational reads for any young pre-teen or teenage daughters you may have – or even yourself, if you’re looking for something good and easy to read. I’ll have to dust some of these off. Just writing about them has made me crave them once again, even after all these years.




11 thoughts on “The 10 Books I Read Most as a Pre-Teen

  1. I think strong female protagonists in novels is an excellent trend. No doubt so much of the success of Anne of Green Gables over generations was due to the fact that there were so few good female characters, at least up until 25 years or so ago.

    Here are two excellent adult historical fictions, both by Hilary Mantel. The first is Wolf Hall about the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII and then Bring Up the Bodies which follows Cromwell through the demise of Anne Boleyn. I loved Wolf Hall (which won the Man Booker Prize), but Bring Up the Bodies is even better. It is hands down the best book I’ve read this year. Can’t wait for the final installment of the trilogy.

    1. Wolf Hall was superb. I will read Bring Up the Bodies now that you gave it such a high mark. If you like Tudor novels, I have a few suggestions I enjoyed: 1.The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret Georgee 2. Dissolution by C.J.Sansom

    2. Thanks, Kelly. I’ll definitely check those out as soon as I finish “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins. I’m already excited. I haven’t delved much into the world of adult historical fiction, but I have no doubt I’ll be hooked. I’ll come back for more suggestions once I’m done.

      1. Oh, I love Wilkie Collins! I keep meaning to go back and re-read his work. I might just do that when I run out of library books this summer

  2. Kit Pearson was my favourite author growing up! A Handful of Time was my first and this trilogy you mentioned was my favourite! I re-read it so much I had to buy a new copy. I knew all three books off by heart but never bored reading it again and again! I thought I had read all of her work (including short stories!) but a recent visit to the library proved me wrong! As soon as my school term is over I will be reading “The Whole Truth” and can’t wait!!!

    1. That must be a new one. My absolute favourite of hers was “Awake and Dreaming,” but it didn’t fit the historical fiction theme of my post! I’ll have to check out ‘The Whole Truth’, too. (Your school term still isn’t over yet?? Ugh!)

      1. Awake & Dreaming was great! I still have my copy and plan on giving it to my daughter! I detested all fantasy type novels, anything sci-fi & unrealistic I had no interest in reading. But for some reason her writing was absolutely captivating! I’m a tad jealous that you met her…..ok a lot jealous!

      2. And no, school term isn’t over yet! This is the final week of classes and then I’ve got 2 weeks of exams. A summer term was definitely not the greatest idea I’ve ever had but it’s nearly done now!

  3. I’ve been working my way through Newberry Medal winners. I’m surprised how enjoyable they are even as an adult. I have not read many of the book on your list, but I’m excited to check them out and read them to Daughter.

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