Dig into Historical Fiction for Youth

It was with interest that I read CCLD’s blog entry regarding historical fiction by Caroline Poppendeck. I completely agree with her praise of this genre and would like to further “dig” into it, by including favorite historical fiction for Youth.

Recently, a family approached me at the desk and were headed to Gettysburg to view the Civil War re-enactments, honoring the 150th Anniversary of this famous battle (the young boy reminded me that it was the biggest and bloodiest battle fought on U.S soil).  We headed to our large juvenile non-fiction Civil War section where there is a wealth of material to educate children; the juvenile fiction section is full of stories of this time in our American history as seen through the eyes of a child.

Here are some recommendations for Civil War reads:

A great picture book for the 3rd-4th grade level is Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco, based on a true story of a friendship between a young white Union soldier and a young black Union soldier; it is powerful and heart wrenching.

Chapter book selections for those in Grades 3-6 include the following series:  My America, Dear America, and American Girl. Good choices for Grades 5 and up, include Will at the Battle of Gettysburg by Laurie Caokhoven in the Boys of Wartime series which includes an appendix at the end on children’s roles during the Civil War, and The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, both hold real reader appeal, with loads of suspenseful action, as the boy narrators of the stories are torn between their glorious expectations of war and the cold reality of its’ cruelty and harshness.

A book written with some humor (a la Mark Twain) about this dark period of history, is The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. Another Newbury Award Winning book is  Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt, about a boy who comes of age during the war years.

Ann Rinaldi is the author of many books  about the Civil War with girls as the main characters and they include: the suspenseful, An Acquaintance with Darkness, Come Juneteenth , My Vicksburg,  and Leigh Ann’s Civil War.

An audio book that we have at Central that is great to listen to as you travel to Gettysburg, or anyplace on your summer travels, is Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, by Kenneth C. Davis, this tells the human side of this war with humor and tenderness, as well as describing  the battles and tactics of this war in a whole new light…informative and interesting listening for Grades 7 and up. All of these titles are available at the Central Branch (CCLD).

Janet Ackerman
Head of Youth Services
Central Library, Elmira (CCLD)