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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ten for Tuesday - Historical Fiction

by Dave Amaditz

In case you've been too busy with life, as most of us are, you may not have noticed that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Today is the anniversary of President Lincoln's famed Gettysburg address, which is being celebrated along with many other events at the Gettysburg National Museum and historic site. Check out this site for a complete listing of all events. http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/176

In order to call attention to this historical event, I picked 10 of my favorite historical novels. Because most of us write kid-lit at Route 19 Writers, I chose mainly young adult and middle grade novels, however, I picked a few adult novels because they are some of my all-time favorite books; ironic in a sense because I read the adult novels as a teen and the other novels as an adult.

Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy
Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy - This story traces the life of Sylvia Perlmutter, one of the few children to survive the ghettos of World War II, Poland. She's forced by the Germans to wear a yellow star on her clothes to signify her status and to endure the humiliation that comes with it. In the end, however, it's the same yellow star that is her salvation.

Misha (Milkweed)
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli - Set in the streets of World War II war-torn Poland, this story is told through the eyes of an orphan boy, Misha Pilsudski. He's called Gypsy. Jew. Stopthief - and admires the Jackboots who have given him those names - until he realizes the Jackboots are not taking the Jews on the trains away to a better life.

The Kite Runner (10th Anniversary)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - This gives a close-up look at life in war-torn Afghanistan. It explores friendship, class struggle and betrayal. Written so beautifully, I had to often check to make sure it was a work of fiction.

Tamar by Mal Peet - this tells the little-known story of the underground resistance in Nazi-occupied Holland when a girl, Tamar, living in present-day England, inherits a box from her grandfather containing a series of clues and encoded messages. Her grandfather had never talked about the war, and it reminded me how many unsung heroes did their part to preserve life the way we know it, yet never asked for any credit.

A Single Shard
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park - set in 12th century Korea, the story is about 13-year-old orphan, Tree-ear, who desires to learn the craft of making celadon pottery from best potter in Korea. Along the way, he learns much more valuable lessons then began the craft itself.

The Master Puppeteer By Katherine Paterson Illustrated by Haru Wells
The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson -set in feudal Japan, Jiro becomes an apprentice at one of Japan's most famous puppet theaters amidst riots by angry mobs of Japan's starving citizens. He learns responsibilities greater than his craft and stumbles upon a secret that nearly gets him killed.

Between Shades of Gray Book
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - this tells the story of a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl, Lina, who is forced by the Soviets into a Siberian work camp. She is separated from her father and forced to endure unimaginable hardships, using her love of art as a way to embed clues as to where she can be found.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak - what would you do for a book. For a story? In 1939 Nazi Germany,
Liesel Meminger steals books, but they become much more to her than simple stories. They become a lifeline, a way for her and her neighbors to survive the war's bombings.

The First Hundred Years of Nino Cochise; The Untold Story of an Apache Indian Chief, by A Kinney Griffith - although there is some controversy surrounding the authenticity of the character interviewed for this story, this was one of my favorite books as a teen, which I read at least twice. There was plenty of action to keep me, an energetic teen, riveted.

My adult picks - read when I was a teen.

Shogun, by James Clavell - An amazing look at feudal Japan through the eyes of a shipwrecked, English explorer. He comes to learn the Japanese culture, falls in love with a Japanese maiden, yet still dreams of returning home.

The Frontiersman, by Allan W Eckert - a great look at the early history of the United States in what was then the Far West (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan) through the eyes of a frontiersman by the name of Simon Kenton. It explores his hardships, and his role in opening the Northwest Territory  to vast numbers of English settlers which ultimately led to a clash between two cultures; the white settlers and the native Americans whose lands were encroached upon.

I'd like to hear some of your favorites: picture book, middle grade, young adult or adult, and even an adult selection if you wish.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Dave! Your favorites list overlaps mine in several places--but you also list some titles I've never read. Onto my to-read list go the Cochise book, YELLOW STAR, and MILKWEED.

  2. Yellow Star and Milkweed are two I've recently read, so I'm pretty sure you'll very much enjoy reading them. I'm very curious to learn what you think about Cochise, because I wonder if my judgment as a young teen will stand the test of time. Keep me posted, and thanks for the comments.