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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finding the Best Historical Fiction for Children

Today I’d like to turn the tables and ask our readers for help with a chronic problem around our house: finding great historical fiction books for my ten year-old daughter, Sarah.

It seems simple, doesn’t it? YA is a flourishing genre. Historical books make up a significant portion of the children’s market sales. Yet our weekly tour of the local bookstores always ends in frustration. When it comes to historical fiction for children, the major publishers seem to have reached an agreement. We’ll get a new audience every two or three years. Let’s just keep re-issuing the same old books with new covers. They’ll never notice.

Sarah noticed.

That’s why I’m turning to you for help.

Now before you rush to the comment section to recommend the Little House series or The Sign of the Beaver, let me tell you. She’s already read it. If it’s a classic or was assigned reading when you were in school, she’s already read it. If it’s anything to do with fleeing the Nazis or spying for General Washington, she’s already read it and she doesn’t want to read it again. According to her, “All those books are exactly the same.”

For any publisher reading this, Sarah is your dream child, one of those 5% of uber-readers who account for 80% of all children’s book sales. A bout of childhood cancer and endless hours of chemotherapy left her with a book addiction and parents who can refuse her nothing. In addition to making regular bookstore purchases, she has a Kindle and can download whatever she likes.

As a result, the local librarians know her by name, and they ask her for book recommendations. So do all her friends and classmates. In other words, she’s a walking, talking advertisement for the publishing industry. And all she asks in return is for something new in the realm of historical fiction. What does Sarah mean by new? Great characters, a fresh setting, and a plot that’s not too predictable.

So authors, publishers, and friends, here’s your big chance to sell some books and help me out at the same time. Please post your recommendations in the comment section. If Sarah loves it, she’ll not only read everything else that author ever wrote, she’ll encourage all her uber-reader friends to do the same.

Some last minute guidelines: She’s already read the Dear America, My name is America, and The Royal Diaries series. Don’t worry about reading difficulty, she reads on a college level. And--this is probably the only time we’ll ever say this at the Lady Scribes—no romance allowed. She’s really hates that mushy stuff.

Thank you for your help. I can’t wait to see what you come up with. J


  1. Hi Clarissa :)

    My daughter will be ten next month, and she too is a voracious reader! She recently read, THE LACEMAKER AND THE PRINCESS by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. It takes place at Versailles in the 1700's.

    I can't wait to see what others come up with. Thanks for posting!

  2. Hi Eliza! Thanks for a great suggestion. She got very excited when she saw this one because we went to Versailles last summer. I'm very happy because it looks like this author has lots of other books available. So that will keep her reading for a few days, at least :)

  3. I have no suggestions because I am sure she has already read the ones I would list. However, I want to read The Lacemaker and the Princess ;).

  4. I have spent 5 years writing a novel of historical fiction..."Summer on the Sun-Up". It follows an american family on a western ranch during World War II. Sarah, I think you will like it.
    Check it out at http://margaretjanejones.com

  5. Hi Margaret. Thank you for the recommendation. We'll look it up. :)

  6. I'm late to the party, but how about starting her on some Charles Dickens?

  7. Hi Mary, Great suggestion. I know she's read a lot of Dickens, but I doubt she's read all of it. I'll dig a little deeper on that one. :)

  8. My daughter and her friend loved Melanie Dickerson's The Healer's Apprentice. http://www.melaniedickerson.com/ I have a few other books that I'll list after I run some errands.