When I was a kid, I used to love how books could transport me to so many different time periods. I loved spending an afternoon with Samantha (from the American Girl Series) in 1904, then spending the evening back in 1999. As I’ve grown older, I’ve still found historical fiction to be one of my favorite genres. For today’s Friday Five, I’d like to share with you five of my favorite historical fiction books. Some are for kids, some are for adults, but all of them help us imagine life in a different time period, and often use it to understand our lives today.
by Brian Selznick
A unique read given that the pictures take place in the 1920s and the words take place in the 1970s, Wonderstruck isn’t your typical historical fiction read. Instead of relying on the current events of a given time period to drive the story, what matters in this book is the separation in time between the 1920s and the 1970s, with the reader wondering how the story of one connects to the other. In the 1920s, we meet a deaf girl named Rose who idolizes a famous actress named Lillian Mayhew. In the 1970s, we meet Ben, a boy who is deaf in one ear and runs away to New York in an attempt to learn about a father he never knew after his mother passes away. Both the 1920s and 1970s are portrayed brilliantly through visual representations and written descriptions. This book is a great read for 4th-6th graders and adults alike.
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
When I was only about 10% of the way into this book, I was telling everyone I knew that it was one of my top reads of 2014. Doerr’s incredible use of language to describe the settings really takes the reader back to the World War II era in which this book takes place. You will fall in love with the two main characters: Marie, a blind girl living with her locksmith father in Paris, and Werner, an orphaned boy living in Nazi Germany. The way in which they cross paths is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.
Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry
Taking place in World War II-era Copenhagen, Number the Stars tells the story of two friends whose bond is threatened by the Holocaust. One of the friends is Jewish while the other is Christian, and the Christian friend and her family work tirelessly to protect the young Jewish girl from the Nazis. This is a beautiful depiction of the ways the Danish people saved thousands of lives during World War II.
The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd
Before the Civil War, many people in the United States were fighting for freedom in more ways than one. The Invention of Wings explores the meaning of the friendship between a slave and her owner. When both girls were young, one was given to the other – and the owner has spent her whole life since then working to bring freedom to both slaves and women in the United States.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick
I usually wouldn’t include two books by the same author on one list, but Brian Selznick has truly mastered how to portray different parts of history in middle grade literature. The pictures in Hugo Cabret give us a vision of a time gone by: where trains were the main form of travel and train stations were a microcosm of life. Hugo is an orphaned boy who is trying to make sense of the things his father left behind, and he meets some amazing people who help him along the way.
Do you have a favorite historical fiction read that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!