Historical Fiction: A List of Favorites

Reading historical fiction and biographies is one of the best ways to immerse in a time period and learn in a memorable way. Some of the best fiction I’ve ever read was written for elementary, middle-grade, or high school readers.

This reading list is arranged somewhat by time period so that selections can be used as context resources as you study history or work through Excellence in Literature modules. When there is a specific edition we prefer, we have linked to Amazon (and of course, those are affiliate links —full disclosure in the footer of every page on the site).

Historical Fiction: A list of favorites

Historical Fiction and Biographies for Young Readers

Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome

The Golden Goblet —  Eloise Jarvis McGraw (Egypt)

Mara, Daughter of the Nile — McGraw (Egypt)

The Trojan Horse — Little (Greece)

Archimedes and the Door of Science — Jeanne Bendick

Pompeii: Buried Alive — Kunhardt (Rome)

Herodotus and the Doorway to History — Bendick

Detectives in Togas — Winterfeld (Rome)

Ben Hur — Lew Wallace

The Robe — Lloyd C. Douglas


Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Periods

A Grain of Rice — Helena Claire Pittman (Ancient China)

The Apple and the Arrow — Conrad Buff  (Wiliam Tell)

A Door in the Wall — De Angeli (Plague)

The Sword in the Tree — Bulla  (King Arthur)

The Life of Saint Patrick — Reynolds (4th century Ireland)

The Minstrel in the Tower — Skurzinsky(Medieval)

Catherine, Called Birdy — Cushman (Medieval)

The Vikings — Janeway (8-11th century A.D.)

Castle Diary — Platt

Saint Joan — George Bernard Shaw (Joan of Arc)

The Secret of the Andes — Clark  (Incas)

The Corn Grows Ripe — Rhoads  (Mayas)

Walk the World’s Rim — Baker (Cabeza de Vaca)

Pedro’s Journal — Conrad (Columbus)

Genghis Kahn and the Mongol Horde — Harold Lamb (12th century)

Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest — McGovern

Ivanhoe — Sir Walter Scott

Fine Print: A Story About Johann Gutenberg — Burch

The Kite Fighters — Park (Korea)

Shadow Spinner — Fletcher (Arabia)

Call it Courage — Sperry (Pacific Islands)

The Rat Catcher’s Son — London (Africa)

Tales of a Korean Grandmother — Carpenter

Shakespeare Stealer — Blackwood

The Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day — O’Dell (William Tyndale)

Men of Iron

Otto of the Silver Hand — Pyle  (Germany)

Adam of the Road — Gray (England)

Oliver Twist — Charles Dickens (Victorian England)

The Apprentice — Llorente (Renaissance)

The Samurai’s Tale — Haugaard (Japan)

The Beduin’s Gazelle — Temple (Arabia)

The Great and Terrible Quest — Lovett (Knights)

The Second Mrs. Giaconda — Konigsburg (Leonardo da Vinci)

Morning Star of the Reformation — Thomson (William Tyndale)

The Monk Who Shook the World — Davey (Martin Luther)

The White Stag — Kate Seredy (Magyars, Attila the Hun)

The Shining Company — Rosemary Sutcliff  (7th-century Britain)

Dawn Wind — Sutcliff

The Trumpeter of Krakow — Kelly (Middle Ages)

Master Cornhill — McGraw (Plague)

The Ramsay Scallop — Temple (14th-century Europe)

A Murder for Her Majesty — Hilgartner (Elizabethan Era)

I, Juan de Pareja — De Trevino (Late Renaissance)

Historical Fiction: 17th—19th Centuries

    • Pocahontas and the Strangers — Clyde Robert Bulla
    • Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims — Bulla
    • Down Ryton Water — Gaggin (Pilgrims)
    • A Lion to Guard Us — Bulla (Virginia colony)
    • The Witch of Blackbird Pond — Speare  (Puritans)
    • Om-kas-toe — Thomasma (Blackfeet Indians early 1700s)
    • Naya Nuki — Thomasma (Native American)
    • Imprisoned in the Golden City — Jackson (Judsons — Burma)
    • The Sign of the Beaver — Speare (American frontier)
    • The Matchlock Gun — Edmonds (French & Indian war)
    • The Witch of Blackbird Pond — Elizabeth George Speare (17th century Connecticut)
    • What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? — Jean Fritz (American Revolution)
    • Ben and Me — Lawson (American Revolution)
    • Mr. Revere and I — Lawson (American Revolution)
    • My Brother Sam is Dead — James Lincoln Collier (American Revolution)
    • And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? — Jean Fritz (American Revolution)
    • Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? — Jean Fritz (American Revolution)
    • Early Thunder — Fritz (American Revolution)
    • Johnny Tremain — Esther Forbes (American Revolution)
    • Toliver’s Secret — Brady (American Revolution)
    • Phoebe the Spy — Griffin (American Revolution)
    • Guns for General Washington — Seymour Reit (American Revolution)
    • Paul Revere and the Minutemen — Dorothy Canfield Fisher (American Revolution)
    • The Swamp Fox of the American Revolution — Stewart H. Holbrook
    • Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold — Fritz  (American Revolution)
    • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch — Latham (Nathaniel Bowditch)
    • Justin Morgan Had a Horse — Marguerite Henry
    • Daniel Boone — Joh Mason Brown (American frontier)
    • Calico Bush — Field  (American frontier)
    • The Journeyman — Yates (American frontier)
    • Remember the Alamo! — Robert Penn Warren
    • Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath — Ralph Moody
    • The Cabin Faced West — Fritz  (American frontier)
    • Caddie Woodlawn — Carol Ryrie Brink (1860s Wisconsin)
    • Sarah, Plain & Tall — MacLachlan  (American frontier)
    • The Courage of Sarah Noble — Dalgliesh (American frontier)
    • Sarah Whitcher’s Story — Yates  (American frontier)
    • Patty Reed’s Doll: The Story of the Donner Party — Rachel Laurgaard (Donner Party)
    • Skippack School — De Angeli (1750 German immigrant)
    • Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa by Francis Kalnay (Argentina)
    • Tikta’ Liktak — Houston (Inuit)
    • The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Caribbean)
    • Swift Rivers — Meigs (early 1830s)
    • Catherine the Great — Scherman (18th century Russia)
    • Chimney Sweep’s Ransom — Jackson (John Wesley)
    • Bold Journey — Bohner ( American frontier—Lewis & Clark)
    • Streams to the River, River to the Sea — Scott O’Dell  (American frontier—Lewis & Clark)
    • Stout-Hearted Seven — Frazier (American frontier—Oregon Trail)
    • On to Oregon! — Morrow (American frontier—Oregon Trail)
    • Trails to Poosey — Cook (American frontier)
    • Seabird — Holling C. Holling (America at sea)
    • The Master Puppeteer — Katherine Paterson (Japan 18th Century)

In Search of Honor — Hess  (French Revolution)

  • Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee — Beatty (Native American)
  • Sequoyah and the Cherokee Alphabet — Cwiklik (Native American)
  • The Story of Crazy Horse — Enid L. Meadowcroft (Native American)
  • Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison — Lenski (Native American)
  • Dragon’s Gate — Lawrence Yep (Transcontinental Railroad; 1860s)
  • Across Five Aprils — Irene Hunt (Civil War)
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man — Yates (Civil War)
  • Prudence Crandall, Woman of Courage — Yates (pre-Civil War)
  • Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross — Helen Dore Boylston (1821-1912)
  • Florence Nightingale — Ruth Fox Hume (1820-1910)
  • A Gathering of Days — Joan Blos (c. 1830)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel — Orczy (French Revolution)
  • Calico Captive — Elizabeth Speare (French & Indian War — Canada)
  • A Parcel of Patterns — Walsh (Plague)
  • The Diamond in the Window — Langton (American Transcendentalism)
  • Li Lun, Lad of Courage Carolyn Treffinger (China)

Historical Fiction: Twentieth century to present

  • Bully For You, Teddy Roosvelt — Fritz
  • The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl — David Kherdian
  • The House of Sixty Fathers — Meindert DeJong
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry — Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia — Esther Hautzig (WW II Russia)
  • Number the Stars — Lois Lowry (WW II)
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit — Judith Kerr (WW II)
  • Ann Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (WWII)
  • Escape from Warsaw — Ian Serraillier (WW II)
  • Edith Stein, Woman of Prayer by Joanne Mosley (WWII)
  • Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston (Japanese-American experience; WWII)
  • Esperanza Rising — Pam Munoz Ryan (Latino experience; Great Depression)
  • Blue Willow — Doris Gates (Migrant worker; Great Depression)
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins — Scott O’Dell (Native American, California)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee
  • Mary Jane — Dorothy Sterling (Integration)
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok

This list is open to additions. Many of these are great books we met while using Sonlight and other living book curricula such as AmblesideOnline. Others are classics I read and enjoyed as a child, and some are books that I enjoyed and have had the delight of seeing my sons and grandchildren also enjoy. Most of the authors on this list have written other books well worth reading, so be sure to check your library for more of their work. If you have suggestions for this list, please feel free to note them in the comments below.

You might also want to check out our list of Books Boys Like.

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