Award-Winning Historical Fiction for Middle Grade Readers

13 Novels for Kids in Grades 4 Through 8

Middle school child laying down laughing out loud while reading a book.

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These award-winning books of historical fiction for middle-grade readers are all excellent stories. The awards won by this group include the prestigious John Newbery Medal, the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. These books represent time periods from the 1770s to the 1970s and appeal to kids in the upper elementary and middle school range (grades 4 through 8).

01
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Johnny Tremain

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"Johnny Tremain," by Esther Forbes, is a Newbery Medal Winner.

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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. The book focuses 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
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Across Five Aprils

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Title: Across Five Aprils
Author: Irene Hunt
Overview: This novel covers five years in the life of young Jethro Creighton. The story focuses on how the Civil War impacts Jethro from the age of 9 to 14, and how it affects 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
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Dragon's Gate

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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. This book is 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 harsh experiences faced by Chinese immigrants.
Awards: 1994 Newbery Honor Book
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 2001
ISBN: 9780064404891

04
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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

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Title: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author: Jacqueline Kelly
Overview: Set in Texas in 1899, this is the story of spunky Calpurnia Tate. She is more interested in science and nature than in learning to be a lady. The story also shows 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
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Zora and Me

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Title: Zora and Me
Authors: 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
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The Dreamer

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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). The story 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
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Moon Over Manifest

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Title: Moon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool
Overview: The story, which is set in southeast Kansas during the Depression, moves between two time periods. It's 1936 when 12-year-old Abilene Tucker comes to Manifest, Kansas, and 1918 during her father's youth there. The story weaves together 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

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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. This is 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 seeks out for help. It's up to him to decide what he should do next.
Awards: 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
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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

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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, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" 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

10
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Countdown

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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
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Dead End in Norvelt

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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 aged 10 to 14.
Awards: 2012 Scott O’Dell Award winner for young people's historical fiction and the 2012 John Newbery Medal for children’s literature
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 9780374379933

12
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One Crazy Summer

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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. The story is set during the summer when 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

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Title: Inside Out & Back Again
Author: Thanhha Lai
Overview: This novel by Thanhha Lai is based on her life and her experiences with 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