Award-Winning Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

Novels for Kids in the Grades 4-8 Range

These award-winning books of historical fiction for middle grade readers are all books I recommend. The awards won include the prestigious John Newbery Medal, the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. They represent time periods from the 1770s to the 1970s. These novels will appeal to kids somewhere within the upper elementary and middle school range (Grades 4-8) As reviewer and librarian Jean Hatfield says, "Historical fiction allows young people to experience history in an entertaining way, to meet people, including some their own age, from the past and to learn about other times and places." Keep scrolling to read about all 13 of the books.

01
of 13

Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes - Book Cover
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, Newbery Medal Winner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Title: Johnny Tremain
Author:  Esther Forbes
Overview:  Set in the 1770s, the story of Johnny Tremain, a 14-year-old orphan, is a dramatic one, focusing on his involvement in the Revolutionary War and the impact it has on his life.
Awards: 1944 John Newbery Medal
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  1943, 2011
ISBN: 9780547614328

02
of 13

Across Five Aprils

Across Five Aprils - Book Cover
Penguin

Title: Across Five Aprils
Author: Irene Hunt
Overview: This novel covers five years in the life of young Jethro Creighton and focuses on how the Civil War impacts life for Jethro, from the age of 9 to 14, and his family on their southern Illinois farm.
Awards: Five, including recognition as a 1965 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: 1964, 2002
ISBN: 9780425182789

03
of 13

Dragon's Gate

dragonsgate-1.jpg
HarperCollins

Title: Dragon's Gate
Author: Laurence Yep
Overview: Set in and around 1867, this coming-of-age story combines Chinese and United States (particularly California) history in the tale of Otter, a 14-year-old Chinese boy who is forced to flee his country and join his father and uncle in California. There his unrealistic expectations of life in the U.S. come up against the reality of the Chinese immigrants' harsh experiences there.
Awards: 1994 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2001
ISBN: 9780064404891

04
of 13

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Cover art of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Henry Holt

Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Overview:  Set in Texas in 1899, this is the story of spunky Calpurnia Tate who is more interested in science and nature than in learning to be a lady and her life with her family, which includes six brothers.
Awards:  Newbery Honor Book, several state awards
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Date:  2009
ISBN:  9780805088410

05
of 13

Zora and Me

Cover of Zora and Me
Candlewick Press

Title: Zora and Me
Author: Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon
Overview: This novel is based on the childhood of author and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. It takes place around 1900, during the year Hurston was in the fourth grade and living (and telling stories) in Eatonville, an all-black community in Florida.
Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; also endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston Trust
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2010
ISBN: 97800763643003​

06
of 13

The Dreamer

Cover art of award-winning historical fiction for kids by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Title:  The Dreamer
Author:  Pam Munoz Ryan
Overview:  This novel by Pam Munoz Ryan is based on the life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) and tells how a sickly boy whose father wants him to go into business becomes, instead, a beloved poet.
Awards:  2011 Pura Belpre Author Award
Publisher:  Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780439269704 

07
of 13

Moon Over Manifest

Cover
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, 2011 Newbery Medal Winner. Random House

Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Overview:  The story, which is set in southeast Kansas during the Depression, moves between 1936 when 12-year-old Abilene Tucker comes to Manifest, Kansas, and 1918 during her father's youth there and includes mysteries and the search for home.
Awards:  2011 John Newbery Medal, 2011 Spur Award for Best Western Juvenile Fiction from the Western Writers of America
Publisher:  Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780385738835

08
of 13

Breaking Stalin's Nose

Breaking Stalin's Nose - Book Cover
Macmillan

Title: Breaking Stalin's Nose
Author: Eugene Yelchin
Overview: Breaking Stalin's Nose is set in 1930s Moscow where 10-year-old Sasha is eagerly looking forward to the next day when he will become a Young Pioneer, demonstrating his loyalty to his country and to Joseph Stalin, his hero. Over the tumultuous course of two days, Sasha's life, and his perception of Stalin, change as members of Stalin’s Secret Service take his father away and Sasha finds himself rejected by those he goes to for help. It's up to him to decide what he should do next.
Awards: Include 2012 Newbery Honor Book and 2012 Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth, Booklist.
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan
Publication Date:  2011
ISBN: 9780805092165

09
of 13

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry - Book Cover
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Penguin

Title:  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Overview: One of eight books about the Logan family based on the author's family history, the novel focuses on the hardships the black farming family faces in Mississippi during the Depression.
Awards:  1977 John Newbery Medal, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor Book
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  1976, 2001
ISBN:  9780803726475
Read the review of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

10
of 13

Countdown, Book 1 The Sixties Trilogy: 3 Novels of the 1960s for Young Readers

Cover art for Countdown a children's books for ages 9-12
Countdown, historical fiction, by Deborah Wiles. Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic

Title:  Countdown, Book 1 The Sixties Trilogy: 3 Novels of the 1960s for Young Readers
Author: Deborah Wiles
Overview: The first in a trilogy, this novel is about an 11-year-old girl and her family in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Photos and other artifacts from the time period add to the book's appeal.
Awards:  Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year, 2010
Publisher:  Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 2010
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780545106054

11
of 13

Dead End in Norvelt

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers

Title: Dead End in Norvelt
Author: Jack Gantos
Overview: Set in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, Gantos uses his own childhood experiences and his vivid imagination to create the story of 12-year-old Jack Gantos in the summer of 1962. Gantos combines appealing characters, mysteries, small town adventures, humor, history and life lessons to create a novel that will appeal to kids 10-14.
Awards: 2012 Scott O’Dell Award winner for young people's historical fiction and the 2012 John Newbery Medal for children’s literature for the novel.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 9780374379933.

12
of 13

One Crazy Summer

Cover art of One Crazy Summer novel for ages 10-14
Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins

Title: One Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Overview:  Set in the 1960s, this novel is unusual in that it focuses on the Black Panther movement in the context of one African American family and the summer three sisters, who have been raised by their father and grandmother, visit their mother in California where she is involved in the Black Panther movement.
Awards:  2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2011 Coretta Scott King Author Award, 2011 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher:  Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date:  2010
ISBN:  9780060760885

13
of 13

Inside Out and Back Again

Cover of Inside Out and Back Again
HarperCollins

Title:  Inside Out & Back Again
Author:  Thanhha Lai
Overview:  This novel by Thanhha Lai is based on her life, leaving Vietnam in the mid-'70s when she was 10 and the difficult adjustment to life in the United States.
Awards:  2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
Publisher:  HarperCollins
Publication Date:  2011
ISBN:  9780061962783 
Read the review of Inside Out & Back Again.