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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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23 Items found Print
Active Filters: 1st grade (Ages 6-7)
Arctic Son
by Jean Craighead George
from Disney-Hyperion
for 1st-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Audrey of the Outback
by Christine Harris
for 1st-3rd grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Big Balloon Race
An I Can Read Book Level 3
by Eleanor Coerr
from HarperCollins
Historical Fiction for 1st-3rd grade
in I Can Read Books (Location: CPB-04B)
Chang's Paper Pony
An I Can Read Book Level 3
by Eleanor Coerr
from HarperCollins
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in I Can Read Books (Location: CPB-04B)
Clown of God
by Tomie dePaola
from Harcourt
Realistic Fiction for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Emily
by Michael Bedard
from Dell Publishing
Realistic Fiction for 1st-4th grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Grandfather's Journey
by Allen Say
Reprint from Sandpiper Books
Realistic Fiction for Kindergarten-2nd grade
1994 Caldecott Medal winner
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Grandfather's Journey
by Allen Say
from HMH Books for Young Readers
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine
from Scholastic Press
for Nursery-1st grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
House on Walenska Street
by Charlotte Herman
1st edition from E.P. Dutton & Co.
in Realistic Fiction (Location: A09-01A)
I Love America!
from Golden Books
in American History Reference (Location: B04-03C)
Island Boy
by Barbara Cooney
from Puffin Books
Realistic Fiction for 1st-4th grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
John Muir and Stickeen
by Julie Dunlap, Marybeth Lorbiecki
from Northwood
for 1st-4th grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
by Peter & Connie Roop
from Carolrhoda Books, Inc.
Historical Fiction for 1st-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Minstrel in the Tower
by Gloria Skurzynski
from Random House
Historical Fiction for 1st-4th grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
My Favorite Songs
by Maria Trapp
from Veritas Press
for Kindergarten-Adult
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
New Coat for Anna
by Harriet Ziefert
from Random House
Historical Fiction for 1st-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Obadiah the Bold
by Brinton Turkle
from Beautiful Feet Books
Historical Fiction for Kindergarten-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Pioneer Cat
by William H. Hooks
from Random House
Historical Fiction for 1st-3rd grade
in Animal Stories (Location: A06-03A)
Rachel and Obadiah
by Brinton Turkle
from Beautiful Feet Books
Historical Fiction for Kindergarten-3rd grade
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)
Riding the Pony Express
by Clyde Robert Bulla
from Avyx, Inc.
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Historical Fiction (Location: A05-01A)
Thanksgiving Story
by Alice Dalgliesh
from Simon and Schuster
Historical Fiction for 1st-3rd grade
1955 Caldecott Honor Book
in Pilgrims at Plymouth (Location: B01-08B)
Thy Friend, Obadiah
by Brinton Turkle
from Puffin Books
Realistic Animal Stories for Kindergarten-3rd grade
1970 Caldecott Honor Book
in Picture Books (Location: CPB-03)