I seem to be reading a lot of historical fiction lately. Two books written for kids were sent to me by their publishers to review. Countdown, set in the early 1960s, could be one of my favorite books of the year. Turtle in Paradise, a midde-grade novel which takes place during the Great Depression in Key West, features a really fun young narrator whose view of life is perfect for the story.
Historical fiction provides a terrific view of other cultures, other times. Without a book like One Crazy Summer, how would kids experience riding across country when flight attendants were known as stewardesses and phone booths housing pay phones, needing actual money or maybe "reverse the charges" messages, predated cellphones? All the details of past lives and times, right there for them to question and smile over.
The first history I remember came from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. Remember those turquoise or orange books with titles like Abigail Adams: Girl of Colonial Days, Jane Addams: Little Lame Girl, or Robert E. Lee: Young Confederate? Never mind that these people may have actually accomplished something other than their childhood adventures, I loved reading about their escapades as children.
Imagine my dismay when, as a working school librarian, I realized that these books were not truly biographies but were better cataloged as historical fiction. Alas! My own childhood knowledge base, tainted by story.
Truly, it's the story that fascinated me most. Still does. Put it in the context of English kings and queens or the American Civil War, and you have the added benefit of learning a little history while tearing through a terrific tale.
Related post: Writing History