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Historical Fiction

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The best way to learn history is not always in a textbook. (That's probably the worst way, really, but more on that elsewhere.) While learning history through novels can be taken too far (it is fiction after all), there's much to be said for getting a feel for the Civil War through books like The Red Badge of Courage or Across Five Aprils, or learning about the deep rifts between Saxons and Normans in Medieval England through Scott's Ivanhoe.

A well-researched historical novel imparts something no list of names and dates can—a picture of life among a particular people at a particular time, the way they thought, the way they ate, who they admired, how they traveled. Sometimes readers are introduced to real historical figures and events from an intimate perspective, not the stale cardboard presentations common in schools.

There's plenty of nonsense available, of course, and just because the cover says a book takes place in Renaissance Italy or ancient Egypt doesn't mean it's a good book, or even that it's historical fiction in the true sense. A writer who simply transposes stories on different time periods isn't really saying anything about that time period, they're just trying to inflate sales with an appeal to the exotic and unfamiliar.

Such bogus historical fiction is really just fantasy. The good stuff is real and bright and dusty and loud, just like an old Roman city or a battle between Roundheads and Cavaliers. It reflects the religious sentiments of the characters as they would have been, such as in Lilli Thal's brilliant Medieval epic Mimus. It shows how one small action can lead to many much larger events, as happens frequently in C.S. Forester's Hornblower series.

Whether you're into the technical descriptions of battles found in Henty's boy-versus-the-world stories, or prefer the romance of The Scarlet Pimpernel, or like to break your heart over and over with books like Amos Fortune, Free Man, historical fiction is above all fiction of the present—not to be kept in the annals of the past, it shows us that the people of long ago (or not so long ago) are not so different than the people of today.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

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1,019 Items found Print
101 G.A. Henty Novels
by G. A. Henty
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by Jim Murphy
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Across Five Aprils
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1965 Newbery Honor Book
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Across Five Aprils
by Irene Hunt
from Berkley Books
Historical Fiction for 6th-9th grade
1965 Newbery Honor Book
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Adam and His Kin
by Ruth Beechick
from Mott Media
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Adam of the Road
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by Elizabeth Gray
from Puffin Books
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1943 Newbery Medal winner
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Adam of the Road
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by Elizabeth Gray
from Puffin Books
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1943 Newbery Medal winner
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Adara
by Beatrice Gormley
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for 4th-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
Hornblower Series #11
by C. S. Forester
from Little, Brown & Company
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Adventures of Robin Hood
Everyman's Library Children's Classics
by Roger Green
from Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-9th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Adventures of Robin Hood
Puffin Classics
by Roger Green
from Puffin Books
Fairy Tales, Fables, and Legends for 5th-9th grade
in Adventure Stories (Location: A04-01A)
Adventures of the American Revolution
by Susan Olasky
from P&R Publishing
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After the Dancing Days
by Margaret I. Rostkowski
from HarperTrophy
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After the Train
by Gloria Whelan
from HarperCollins
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After the War
by Carol Matas
from Simon Pulse
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in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Against the World
by Henry Coray
from Inheritance Publications
Biography for 5th-8th grade
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Alexandre Dumas Three Musketeers Collection
Oxford World's Classics
by Alexandre Dumas
from Oxford University
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Ali and the Golden Eagle
by Wayne Grover
from Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd.
for 5th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Ali and the Golden Eagle
by Wayne Grover
1st edition from Greenwillow Books
for 5th grade
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Alia's Mission
by Mark Alan Stamaty
from Dragonfly Books
for 3rd-5th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
All But Lost - Volume I
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
All But Lost - Volume II
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
All But Lost - Volume III
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
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from David R. Godine
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in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad
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from Moody Press
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Mti from Zonderkidz
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by Lucy Fitch Perkins
from Salem Ridge Press
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in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Amon's Adventure
by Arnold Ytreeide
from Kregel Publications
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by Elizabeth Yates
from Puffin Books
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by Gloria Whelan
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Anna and the King (adapted)
by Margaret Landon
from HarperCollins
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Anna and the King of Siam
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by Tracy Barrett
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by Conrad & Mary Buff
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1952 Newbery Honor Book
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Apprentice
by Pilar Molina Llorente
Reprint from Sunburst Book
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by Marcia Williams
from Candlewick Press
for 5th-7th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Arctic Son
by Jean Craighead George
from Disney-Hyperion
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by Joseph Bruchac
from Puffin Books
for 3rd-6th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
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Trailblazer Books
by Dave and Neta Jackson
from Bethany House
for 3rd-7th grade
in Trailblazer Books (Location: A11-01C)
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by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
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in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
At Aboukir and Acre
by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
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by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
Historical Fiction for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
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by G. A. Henty
from Robinson Curriculum
Historical Fiction for 6th-10th grade
in G. A. Henty Books (Location: A05-04A)
At Seneca Castle
by William W. Canfield
from Salem Ridge Press
for 7th-10th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
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for 6th-10th grade
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