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Award-Winning Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

Novels for Kids in the Grades 4-8 Range


All of these works of historical fiction for middle grade readers have been recognized with one or more awards. These awards include the John Newbery Medal, the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. They represent time periods from the medieval times to the 1970s. These novels will appeal to kids somewhere within the upper elementary and middle school range (Grades 4-8) As reviewer and librarian Jean Hatfield says, "Historical fiction allows young people to experience history in an entertaining way, to meet people, including some their own age, from the past and to learn about other times and places." Keep scrolling down to read about all 14 of the books.

1. Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page

Cover art of Castle Diary historical fiction for middle readers
Candlewick Press

Title: Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page
Author:  Richard Platt
Illustrator:  Chris Riddell
Overview:  With an oversize format and wonderfully detailed illustrations, young readers get a firsthand view of daily life in a medieval castle in 1285 as Tobias Burgess, who is 11 years old, recounts his experiences as a new page.
Awards: Parents’ Choice Awards, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date:  1999, PB 2001
ISBN: 9780763604899
Read my review of Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page.

2. Johnny Tremain

Cover of Johnny Tremain a classic children's book
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Title: Johnny Tremain
Author:  Esther Forbes
Overview:  Set in the 1770s, the story of Johnny Tremain, a 14 year old orphan, is a dramatic one, focusing on his involvement in the Revolutionary War and the impact it has on his life.
Awards: 1944 John Newbery Medal
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  1943, 2011
ISBN: 9780547614328
Read the review of Johnny Tremain.

3. Across Five Aprils

Across Five Aprils - Book Cover
Title: Across Five Aprils
Author: Irene Hunt
Overview: This novel covers five years in the life of young Jethro Creighton and focuses on how the Civil War impacts life for Jethro, from the age of 9 to 14, and his family on their southern Illinois farm.
Awards: Five, including recognition as a 1965 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: 1964, 2002
ISBN: 9780425182789
Read the review of Across Five Aprils.

4. Dragon's Gate

Title: Dragon's Gate
Author: Laurence Yep
Overview: Set in and around 1867, this coming-of-age story combines Chinese and United States (particularly California) history in the tale of Otter, a 14-year-old Chinese boy who is forced to flee his country and join his father and uncle in California. There his unrealistic expectations of life in the U.S. come up against the reality of the Chinese immigrants' harsh experiences there.
Awards: 1994 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2001
ISBN: 9780064404891
Read the review of Dragon's Gate.

5. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Cover art of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Henry Holt

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Overview:  Set in Texas in 1899, this is the story of spunky Calpurnia Tate who is more interested in science and nature than in learning to be a lady and her life with her family, which includes six brothers.
Awards:  Newbery Honor Book, several state awards
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Date:  2009
ISBN:  9780805088410
Read the review of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.

6. Zora and Me

Cover of Zora and Me
Candlewick Press

Title: Zora and Me
Author: Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
Overview: This novel is based on the childhood of author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. It takes place around 1900, during the year Hurston was in the fourth grade and living (and telling stories) in Eatonville, an all-black community in Florida.
Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; also endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 97800763643003
Read the review of Zora and Me.

7. The Dreamer

Cover art of award-winning historical fiction for kids by Pam Munoz Ryan

Title:  The Dreamer
Author:  Pam Munoz Ryan
Overview:  This novel by Pam Munoz Ryan is based on the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and tells how a sickly boy whose father wants him to go into business becomes, instead, a beloved poet.
Awards:  2011 Pura Belpre Author Award
Publisher:  Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780439269704 
Read the review of The Dreamer.

8. Moon Over Manifest

Random House

Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Overview:  The story, which is set in southeast Kansas during the Depression, moves between 1936 when 12-year-old Abilene Tucker comes to Manifest, Kansas, and 1918 during her father's youth there and includes mysteries and the search for home.
Awards:  2011 John Newbery Medal, 2011 Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction from the Western Writers of America
Publisher:  Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780385738835
Read the review of Moon Over Manifest and my interview with author Clare Vanderpool.

9. Breaking Stalin's Nose

Breaking Stalin's Nose - Book Cover

Title: Breaking Stalin's Nose
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Overview: Breaking Stalin's Nose is set in 1930s Moscow where 10 year old Sasha is eagerly looking forward to the next day when he will become a Young Pioneer, demonstrating his loyalty to his country and to Joseph Stalin, his hero. Over the tumultuous course of two days, Sasha's life, and his perception of Stalin, change as members of Stalin’s Secret Service take his father away and Sasha finds himself rejected by those he goes to for help. It's up to him to decide what he should do next.
Awards: Include 2012 Newbery Honor Book and 2012 Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth, Booklist.
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan
Publication Date:  2011
ISBN: 9780805092165
Read the review of Breaking Stalin's Nose.

10. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry - Book Cover

Title:  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Overview: One of eight books about the Logan family based on the author's family history, the novel focuses on the hardships the black farming family faces in Mississippi during the Depression.
Awards:  1977 John Newbery Medal, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  1976, 2001
ISBN:  9780803726475
Read the review of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

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