10 historical fiction books for kids 8-12

“History is boring!” they say. Yeah, it definitely can be. But it’s way more interesting when it’s told as a story set in a certain period of history. In historical fiction, the main characters may exist only in the author’s imagination, but the places and events happening around them are true.

Unfortunately, for the past many many hundreds of years, U.S. history has been told primarily by white people. And I think it’s super important to learn some history from a different perspective. And, in many cases, a truer perspective.

I’ve chosen 10 historical fiction titles, written by African-American authors, that all take place in the United States sometime between the 1870s and the 1970s.

These books will capture your kiddos’ interest and hopefully spark questions and conversations about our country’s history and what it has to do with us today.

Sugar

Set in 1870, a 10-year old girl lives and works on a sugar plantation after being freed from slavery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stella by Starlight

In a segregated North Carolina town in 1932, a young girl and her family experience the return of the Ku Klux Klan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi Bridge

On a rainy day in segregated Mississippi in the 1930s, the Logan kids witness a tragedy. This book is one in a wonderful series about the Logan family that includes the well-known Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird in a Box

Three children meet in an African-American orphanage in upstate New York in the 1930s and become friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mighty Miss Malone

The Depression hits the town of Gary, Indiana hard. When a young girl’s father leaves home to find work, she and her siblings go looking for him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hero Two Doors Down

Based on a true story, and written by Jackie Robinson’s daughter, a young Jewish boy befriends the famous baseball player when he moves into the boy’s neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition

Not fiction, but written as an engaging story, this book tells of four African-American female mathematicians for NASA who helped change the face of the U.S. space program in the 1950s and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963

An African American family from Michigan travels to Birmingham, Alabama to visit their grandmother when a bomb goes off at her church killing four young girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown Girl Dreaming

One of my all-time favorite books, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her childhood from her birth in Ohio in 1963 to moving to South Carolina and living through the Civil Rights Era in the South.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Crazy Summer

In 1968, three young sisters travel to Oakland, CA in search of the mother who abandoned them. This book is the first in a wonderful trilogy, packed full with important historical events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these books, and I think your kids will too. They’re a great and easy way to get them thinking about history from a different perspective than they might read in a textbook.

If you’re interested in reading more about history from a non-white perspective, I recommend the books, Lies My Teacher Told Me and A Different Mirror.

If you have any other titles to recommend, let me know!

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