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.