Historical Fiction

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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Across America on an Emigrant Train
by Jim Murphy
from Scholastic Inc.
for 2nd-5th grade
in Immigration & Emigration (Location: HISA-20IM)
$3.40 (1 in stock)
Across Five Aprils
by Irene Hunt
from Berkley Books
Historical Fiction for 6th-9th grade
1965 Newbery Honor Book
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Across Five Aprils
by Irene Hunt
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Historical Fiction for 6th-9th grade
1965 Newbery Medal winner, 1964 Charles Follett Award
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Adam and His Kin
by Ruth Beechick
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Historical Fiction for 7th-10th grade
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Adam of the Road
Puffin Newbery Library
by Elizabeth Gray
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Historical Fiction for 4th-8th grade
1943 Newbery Medal winner
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Adventures of Robin Hood
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After the Dancing Days
by Margaret I. Rostkowski
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Against the World
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Ali and the Golden Eagle
by Wayne Grover
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All Sail Set
by Armstrong Sperry
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1936 Newbery Honor Book
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Ambush in the Wilderness
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Amelia's War
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Amethyst Ring
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Anna and the King (adapted)
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Anna and the King of Siam
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Anna of Byzantium
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Annie Henry and the Birth of Liberty
by Susan Olasky
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Annie Henry and the Secret Mission
Adventures of the American Revolution
by Susan Olasky
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Anson's Way
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Apple and the Arrow
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1952 Newbery Honor Book
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Apprentice
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Apprentice
by Pilar Molina Llorente
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Arrow Over the Door
by James Watling, Joseph Bruchac
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At Aboukir and Acre
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At the Point of the Bayonet
by G. A. Henty
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Augustine Came to Kent
Bethlehem Books Living History Library
by Barbara Willard
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Aunt Jane's Hero
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Bachelor Girl
Rocky Ridge Years Book 8
by Roger Lea MacBride
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Ballad of Lucy Whipple
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Ballad of the Civil War
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Bat 6
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Historical Fiction for 4th-6th grade
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Beggars' Bible
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Below the Salt
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Beltane the Smith
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Ben-Hur
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Lew Wallace
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Between the Forest and the Hills
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by Ann Lawrence
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Beyond the Mists
by Nathaniel Benchley
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Big Balloon Race
An I Can Read Book Level 3
by Eleanor Coerr
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Big John's Secret
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by Louise Erdrich
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Black Fox of Lorne
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Black Rose
by Thomas B. Costain
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Blue at the Mizzen
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Bonanza Girl
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Born in the Year of Courage
by Emily Crofford
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Historical Fiction for 4th-6th grade
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Both Sides the Border
by G. A. Henty
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Historical Fiction for 6th-10th grade
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Both Sides the Border
by G. A. Henty
Blackie from Blackie & Son LTD.
Historical Fiction for 6th-10th grade
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Bowman of Crecy
by Ronald Welch
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$21.25 (1 in stock)
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