Genre Spotlight: Historical Fiction

Ready for Valentine's Day?
Currently Reading...
Just finished...


You see this section here? It’s been growing on me lately! Up until recently, I’ve read maybe one or two historical fiction books a year. But this year, I’ve read a few that I’ve really enjoyed. Admittedly, the historical fiction genre can be a tough sell with students, but I am very optimistic about some of the titles I’ve read lately (such as Honeyman’s Fire Horse Girl and Anderson’s Fever 1793).

About our Historical Fiction section:


GENRE LABEL COLOR: yellow (the color of old newspapers)


  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (Boyne)
  • Code Talker (Bruchac)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Selznick)
  • The Red Necklace (Gardner)
  • Ruby Red (Gier)
  • Uprising (Haddix)
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Kelly)
  • Prisoners in the Palace (MacColl)
  • Assassin (Myers)
  • The Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins (Myers)
  • Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale (Napoli)
  • Ghost Girl: A Blue Ridge Mountain Story (Ray)
  • Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood (Richards)
  • A Break With Charity (Rinaldi)
  • Hunted: Brind series, book 2 (Russell)
  • Song of the Sparrow (Sandell)
  • Wonderstruck (Selznick)
  • Between Shades of Gray (Sepetys)
  • Distant Waves (Weyn)
  • Countdown (Wiles)
  • Someone Named Eva (Wolf)
  • The Book Thief (Zusak)


Middle school:

  • Al Capone Does My Homework (Choldenko)
  • Casualties of War: Book 4 (Lynch)
  • Finding Zasha (Barrow)
  • Hero on a Bicycle (Hughes)
  • Odette’s Secrets (MacDonald)
  • One Came Home (Timberlake)
  • P.S. Be Eleven (Williams-Garcia)
  • Prisoner B-3087 (Gratz)
  • Red River Stallion (Harrison)
  • Soldier Dog (Angus)
  • Tracks (Wilson)
  • Warriors in the Crossfire (Flood)
  • Hattie Ever After (Larson)
  • The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist (Engle)
  • Maid of Secrets (McGowan)
  • Nobody’s Secret (MacColl)
  • Then (Gleitzman)
  • Victoria Rebels (Meyer)

High school:

  • Out of the Easy (Sepetyz)
  • Tarnish (Longshore)
  • The Caged Graves (Salerni)
  • In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Winters)
  • Belle Epoque (Ross)
  • Cinders & Sapphires (Rasheed)
  • Five 4ths of July (Hughes)
  • Gilt (Longshore)
  • Heart of Glass (Gould)
  • A Moment Comes (Bradbury)
  • Starstruck (Shukert)


  • set prior to 1975 (see my justification in “Troubleshooting” below)
  • historical events are a major part of the story
  • does not fit better into another genre (such as Steampunk, which is Victorian period by definition, or High Fantasy, which includes medieval fantasy)
  • realistic in nature; there is no magical or fantastic element in it that would qualify it as fantasy


  • anything I book talk tends to do very well. On the “most popular” list above, I actively book talked 9 titles with classes in the past few months. Coupling war books with Vietnam protest music (I used and discussed CCR’s “Fortunate Son”) really got students excited about the Vietnam titles.
  • My students especially love anything about the Titanic disaster, major weather events, The Holocaust, Vietnam War
  • need more highly visual novels like Selznick’s Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck (both are told with text and full-page illustrations (about 50/50)
  • diary formats are always a hit, no matter the genre


  • Deciding what is “historical” and what is “recent history”Is the 1980s “historical”? Maybe, but not in my library. Setting my own birth year helps me be consistent about the cut-off date AND keeps me from feeling “historical” myself!
  • Where to put modern-day war books? Afghanistan? Persian Gulf? In my library, both go into Realistic Fiction.
  • Section popularity. If I didn’t book talk these books, many of them would never get checked out. Of my 18 genre sections, this one probably needs the most teacher and librarian endorsement.
  • What to do with time travel stories? I’m still struggling with this one. Right now, I just go with my gut–some books feel like Historical Fiction, but most could go into other genres. For example, I put My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century (Harris) into Romance/Chick Lit based mainly on the chick lit “feel” of the story when I read it. Ruby Red, on the other hand, went to Historical Fiction. Why? Well, I could not put it somewhere else. It feels historical more than sci-fi. I know that’s not very scientific of me, but it’s the best I’ve got right now. Would love to hear suggestions on this one!



Product categories

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  • Sign up
Lost your password? Please enter your username or email address. You will receive a link to create a new password via email.