By Julianna Dotten
I’ll admit it: growing up, I loved historical fiction. I can honestly say I wouldn’t love history as much as I do today if it weren’t for the substantial amount of historical fiction my family read aloud in my elementary school years. In fact, we never did a history curriculum until my first year in high school. But by the time I started taking history classes at a co-op, I already had a significant foundation because of the many books we had read that had perked my interest to go study more myself.
I’m having to relearn that lesson all over again as I’ve dived into teaching a 9- and an 11-year-old whose family I work for a few mornings each week. We started with a history textbook, but I could tell after the first day this was not going to work. They were bored. They couldn’t remember a thing I had read to them. The list of abstract names and dates (what 9-year-old boy cares about Vasco de Balboa anyway?) had no relevance to their everyday life.
Until I brought historical fiction.
Tracy Leininger’s A Light Kindled, the story of Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins fascinated them. They didn’t want me to stop. And when I finished, they immediately ran upstairs to find the rest of the series on their bookshelf. Now, I’m looking forward to introducing some of my favorite historical fiction accounts to them. I hope you’ll explore the endless possibilities for learning in these books as well.
Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savory
Randolph, a young American soldier during the War for Independence, finds himself held hostage as a POW in the home of a British family. As an unique relationship develops between the young prisoner (“Reb”) and the family’s children (his “redcoats”), two very opposing viewpoints on the war collide. This engaging tale is a fascinating look into the characters in both sides of the Revolution. You can find the book here.
Douglas Bond’s fiction has been a favorite with homeschoolers for over a decade. His tales keep you on the edge of your seat, all the while teaching key historical events and a thorough Christian worldview. The Crown and Covenant series, set in the Scottish Killing Times of the 17th century and its sequel, The Faith and Freedom series, which follows the protagonist’s descendants into the history of America, are highlights of his work. For younger children, the Mr. Pipes series is a fun way to introduce the history of hymns. More recently, Bond has come out with a series of “biographies,” which follow the lives of Reformation heroes such as John Knox, John Calvin, and Martin Luther through a fiction tale of a friend or coworker. Learn more about his books here.
Alone Yet Not Alone by Tracy Leininger Craven
Based on a true story of the author’s ancestors, Alone Yet Not Alone traces the lives of two sisters kidnapped by Indians in the French and Indian War. The tale not only cements the effects of the war upon an ordinary Christian family, the sweet sibling relationships and overarching view of God’s providence make for an excellent and very worthwhile read. Find the book here.
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Set in Jesus’ time, this Newbery-award-winning book sets the stage for an thorough understanding of the culture and times of Jesus. Follow the life of blacksmith and zealot Daniel bar Jamin as he desperately seeks revenge on the Roman empire that has wreaked havoc on his family and then ultimately finds forgiveness and hope through an extraordinary series of relationships. Learn more about the book here. I would also highly recommend The Sign of the Beaver by the same author, which you can find here.
From Dark to Dawn by Elizabeth Charles
Elizabeth Charles’ account of a simple burgher family whose life is transformed by Luther’s message brings alive the history of the Reformation. With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up this month, I would highly recommend this as a family read-aloud. (Note that there a couple of scenes that might be better to skip for younger children). Find the book here.
Do you have any historical fiction books your family has enjoyed? Please comment and share below! Happy reading!