Seven Great Historical Books for Young Readers
Let’s face it: the world can feel very old in November. For those of us who live in the northern half of the United States, November is a (thankfully short) month of gray days, dark nights, frost-nipped gardens, and skeleton trees.
It’s little wonder, then, that we spend so much of November taking time to pause and remember.
We pause, remember, and celebrate the “faithful departed” on All Saints Day November 1. We pause, remember, and honor the sacrifices of servicemen and women past and present on Veterans Day November 11. We pause, remember, and give thanks for all our blessings — especially those that have made our nation great — on the National Day of Thanksgiving, which this year falls on November 28.
With all this pausing and remembering, it seems only natural that we at Eerdmans should use the month of November to feature titles that help young readers better know and understand the world that came before them — books of fiction and nonfiction that give children and young adults a fascinating opportunity to look back through time.
Read on to discover seven great titles, or visit our website to browse the rest of our featured collection of historical books for young readers.
Books that Remember Heroes of the Faith
C. S. Lewis: The Man Behind Narnia
Step through the other side of the wardrobe and meet the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia — the man whose rich imagination and deep faith made this fantasy series a favorite for generations.
This reformatted pictorial biography, featuring more than 50 photographs, tells the story of C. S. Lewis’s life and work, from his boyhood in Belfast, Ireland, where he and his brother created their first imaginary world in an attic hideaway, to Lewis’s adult years as a renowned scholar and beloved author.
“Young devotees of the Chronicles of Narnia will enthusiastically sink their literary teeth into this biography about writer C. S. Lewis. Clearly written, solidly researched, and insightful.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Dorothy Day: Friend to the Forgotten
This fascinating biography chronicles the life of Dorothy Day, known the world over as the leader of the Catholic Worker Movement. Guided by a strong commitment to social justice and by deep religious ideals, Dorothy Day dedicated her life to the service of others.
Deborah Kent here recounts the trials and triumphs of Dorothy Day’s life, detailing her role as the founder of The Catholic Worker newspaper, as the founder of numerous “houses of hospitality” that provided food and shelter to the destitute, and as the champion of causes that helped those in need.
Books that Remember the Veterans — and the Victims — of War
Jacqueline Levering Sullivan
World War II has been over for a year — but not for the Howard family. Eleven-year-old Annie worries about her daddy, who was declared missing in action, and her mama, who believes that her husband is dead. Then Annie’s appendix bursts, and she’s stuck in the hospital for over a month.
During her stay, she gets an unusual visitor — President Harry S. Truman. Though everyone insists he’s a figment of her imagination, the president offers Annie the friendship and support she desperately needs.
Annie faces more family tension when she’s sent to recuperate at her grandma’s house. Grandma has taken in a new tenant, Miss Gloria Jean Washington, a young black woman fleeing discrimination and her own sad past. Annie’s Uncle Billy, a bitter WWII veteran, is furious because he doesn’t want “colored” so close to home.
With the help of Mr. Truman, Annie tries to understand her uncle’s behavior, her daddy’s absence, and Miss Gloria’s sorrow. And she begins to realize that some consequences of war leave permanent scars.
The War within These Walls
Written by Aline Sax
Illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki
It’s World War II, and Misha’s family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.
Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.
“This fictionalized account of Mordechai Anielewicz and the 1942 Warsaw ghetto uprising will appall and unnerve its readers.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“An outstanding example of Holocaust fiction.”
— School Library Journal (starred review)
“The sights, sounds and smells of the Warsaw ghetto assail readers’ senses in a raw, brutal telling of the unimaginable horror of that time and that place.
. . . Gripping, powerful, shattering.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Books that Remember Great Leaders of our Nation
William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim
Gary D. Schmidt
Near starvation. Scurvy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Bitter cold. Daily deaths. This was the Pilgrims’ first winter in Plymouth Colony. But thanks in large part to William Bradford, the colonists survived — and went on to celebrate the following year what we call Thanksgiving.
William Bradford came to the New World with the other Pilgrims in search of religious freedom. With great faith in God and in his own abilities, he established a stable colony, doing his best to be just and fair to his fellow colonists as well as to the Native Americans living in the area. After he became governor of the colony, he was reelected more than thirty times.
Filled with maps, paintings, and historical illustrations, this fascinating biography by Gary Schmidt introduces readers to the dramatic story of the founder of Plymouth Colony.
Read The First Thanksgiving, an excerpt from the book, on EerdWord.
Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People
On March 1, 1893, Princess Ka’iulani, the seventeen-year-old crown princess of Hawaii, stepped onto the pier at New York City. She was greeted by a crowd of reporters and onlookers who knew that, in many ways, she stood at a crossroads in history. Fully aware of the significance of her visit, she prayed that she could help persuade the American government to return her beautiful islands to the Hawaiian people.
This biography tells the fascinating — and little-known — story of Princess Ka’iulani’s life and courageous fight for Hawaiian independence. Using many newly translated journals and letters, Sharon Linnéa introduces young readers to the most beloved figure in Hawaiian history, and one of America’s most overlooked Christian heroines.
Young Jerry Ford: Athlete and Citizen
Hendrik Booraem V
Rare has been the president whose life blended the individual drive that propels one to high office with the social responsibility of being an exemplary person. Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) was one of those rare men.
In this biography Hendrik Booraem traces the early life of Gerald Ford in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to his high school graduation in 1931, showing how he developed the outlook and ideals that he brought to the White House. Ford’s childhood offers telling glimpses of family and school, sports and recreation, and Western Michigan life in the Jazz Age and the Depression. Amply illustrated with photos from the 1920s and ’30s, Young Jerry Ford shows the 38th President of the United States in a new and colorful light.
Click to to browse the rest of our featured collection of historical books for young readers.