Middle Grade is not typically an age group most associate with good historical fiction. But the truth is, there is a sea of irresistibly satisfying stories that tip their waters into history, flooding the Middle Grade market — the kind that comfortably flows into hands of adult fiction lovers.
As historical fiction just happens to be my favorite genre, I thought I’d use this Middle Grade Monday as an opportunity to shake the dust off some the Middle Grade misconceptions and share with you a few fantastic titles in children’s literature that dare to venture into human history:
ONE CRAZY SUMMER, by Rita Williams-Garcia
“In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.
In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.”
THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly
“Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
Debut author Jacqueline Kelly deftly brings Callie and her family to life, capturing a year of growing up with unique sensitivity and a wry wit.“
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
“No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.”
THE CASE OF THE DEADLY DESPERADOS by Caroline Lawrence
“Introducing P.K. Pinkerton, Master of Disguise .
When twelve-year-old P.K. (Pinky) Pinkerton’s foster parents are murdered by Whittlin’ Walt and his gang of ruthless desperados, Pinky goes on the run. He’s forced into hiding with Ma’s priceless last possession: the deed to a large amount of land and silver mines in the Nevada Mountains. But relying on disguises will only keep Pinky hidden for so long, and the desperados are quickly closing in . . .
Narrated by the incredibly lively Pinky, this thrilling high-speed chase through the Wild West will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.”
THREE TIMES LUCKY, by Sheila Turnage
“A hilarious Southern debut with the kind of characters you meet once in a lifetime
Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone’s business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she’s been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her “upstream mother,” she’s found a home with the Colonel–a café owner with a forgotten past of his own–and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known.
Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.”
NO MOON, by Irene N. Watts
“A story of reliance and resilience.Did you call out to us, Johnny, before your small body was dragged down under the water? Why didn’t we hear you? I am sorry! I’ll never forget.
Louisa Gardener is the fourteen-year-old nursemaid to the young daughters of a wealthy, titled family living in London, England, in 1912.
Despite the bullying Nanny Mackintosh, for whom she is an extra pair of hands, she loves her work and her young charges. Then everything changes. The family decides to sail to New York aboard the Titanic. An accident to the children’s nanny, only days prior to the sailing, means that Louisa must go in her stead. She cannot refuse, although she dreads even the mention of the ocean. Memories she has suppressed, except in nightmares, come crowding back.
When Louisa was five and her sister seven years old, their two-year-old brother died on an outing to the seaside. Since that time, Louisa has had a fear of the ocean. She blames herself for the accident, though she has been told it wasn’t her fault.
If Louisa refuses to go on the voyage, she will be dismissed, and she will never get beyond the working-class life she has escaped from.
How Louisa learns self-reliance, overcomes her fears, and goes beyond what is expected of a girl makes No Moon an unforgettable story.”
A BOY CALLED DICKENS, by Deborah Hopkinson
“For years Dickens kept the story of his own childhood a secret. Yet it is a story worth telling. For it helps us remember how much we all might lose when a child’s dreams don’t come true . . . As a child, Dickens was forced to live on his own and work long hours in a rat-infested blacking factory. Readers will be drawn into the winding streets of London, where they will learn how Dickens got the inspiration for many of his characters. The 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth was February 7, 2012, and this tale of his little-known boyhood is the perfect way to introduce kids to the great author. This Booklist Best Children’s Book of the Year is historical fiction at its ingenious best.”