What might the prairie in the pioneer days have been like for a young girl accustomed to a tamer existence? What skills would she have needed to learn, what courage must she have gained? What might happen in a land of sun and storm and prairie fires, and how could a young girl play her part? A great little piece of historical fiction, this tale presents a heroine who grows into the new role she is called to play. I loved this story for Addie’s bravery.
By Sydney Taylor
Few stories dwell so vividly and delightfully in my memory than the All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor. Set in New York City at the turn of the century, the books chronicle the adventures and foibles of a Jewish family with five lively daughters. The stories are a great introduction to Jewish culture and celebration, while also being rich in sisterly escapades and affection.
By Jennifer L. Holm
I listened to this story on audiobook one wild roadtrip with my family, and we all fell in love with the rollicking adventure of the prim and proper Jane, schooled at a lady’s academy in Boston, and bound by ship for the Washington Territory where she is to meet her betrothed, William.
By Carol Ryrie Brink
Oh, unforgettable Caddie. Brave, curious, red-haired, and glad, a girl not to be daunted by older brothers or the dangerous conflicts of a settler’s life in Wisconsin during the days of the Civil War. Brink is a warm, vibrant writer whose stories are excellent for read aloud.
By Elizabeth George Speare
Elizabeth George Speare is one of my favorite historical novelists, and this was one of her books that I read over and over, fascinated by the tale of a young girl among the English settlers kidnapped in an Abenaki raid during the French and Indian War. Sold to the French in Montreal, Miriam must use every ounce of skill and wit she has, including her genius with a needle to help her family survive and gain their freedom.
Carry on Mr. Bowditch
By Jean Lee Latham
A classic piece of historical fiction, this is the true-to-life, brilliantly woven tale of Nat Bowditch, son of a sea captain, and compiler of The American Practical Navigator, a book of high sea navigation still in use today. Educational and engrossing all at once, one of the favorite historical novels of my childhood.
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
By Marguerite Henry
A classic tale of a horse and his boy by a writer who knew and loved to write about horses, this book follows the story of how a boy named Justin, and the horse he raised, created the new breed of the Morgan saddle horse. Based on a true story.
By Esther Forbes
An outstanding novel of the Revolutionary War, this story of a young silversmith apprentice named Johnny, delves into the causes surrounding the American Revolution, introducing child readers to the history and culture of those times through the story of one boy’s adventures. This is truly history in a story.
By Ralph Moody
Based on a true story, this first title in the “Little Britches” series offers a glimpse into life in pioneer times in Colorado, a taste of the hard, wind-bitten work of making a good existence in a new land, the struggle of it, but also the sweetness that comes with love, family, and endurance. Great theme of a father/son relationship and based on Moody’s memories, this is a great series for boys. I like to think of it as the boy’s rough equivalent to the “Little House on the Prairie Series,” with Moody’s boy hero as the pioneer counterpart to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Little House on the Prairie
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
Maybe the first book I remember reading, the long-beloved story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the little girl who grew up in homes across the prairie, as her Pa kept moving on, hungry for space. The books make clear what was necessary to survive in those hard days, the character required of the settlers, but they are also rich in their portrayal of family, of the hard-won comforts of home, the love like strong rope, weaving together the hearts of those who work, dare, suffer, and dream together.
Otto of the Silver Hand
This is Pyle’s medieval tale of the wise and faithful Otto, son of a German warlord, a boy with a strong conscience who is taken captive by his father’s enemy. Caught up in a world of revenge, war, and battle, Otto endures through it to become a man revered for his wisdom and peace and his silver hand. Great, classic drama with Pyle’s matchless illustrations.
The Black Arrow
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson’s historical adventure novel about a brave boy on his way to knighthood during the War of the Roses. When a black arrow flies through a castle window with a note promising an arrow for four more of the castle residents, including Dick’s uncle, a mystery begins in which Dick begins to question his father’s mysterious death. Forced to escape after a confrontation with his uncle, Dick eventually encounters “The Black Arrow,” a mysterious outlaw. Great historical drama, classic portrayals of nobility and courage. The Scribner’s edition has illustrations by the matchless N.C. Wyeth.
The Bronze Bow
By Elizabeth George Speare
One of my favorite’s of Speare’s novels (and she has several great ones), this story of Daniel, a young boy who witnesses his father’s cruel death at the hands of the Romans, comes back to me still. Living with outlaws, struggling with his hate, Daniel meets a curious new rabbi, a strange teacher named Jesus who takes his turmoil and begins to teach him about… forgiveness. (Caution: Daniel’s father meets a cruel death by crucifixion at the hands of the Romans.)
The Courage of Sarah Noble
By Alice Dalgliesh
The long-loved story of the young Sarah, a brave, small girl living in early Colonial America who travels with her father to set up their new farm in Connecticut. At first quite fearful of the nearby Indian tribe, the Schaghticoke, she soon discovers their kindness and begins to become their friend.
The Good Master
By Kate Seredy
This is one of those stories I still remember with great relish. Set in Hungary, and rich with its legends and color and a vivid depiction of its culture, it’s the tale of the impossible, city-bred Kate, her cousin Jancsi, and Jancsi’s father, the “good master,” who knows how to win Kate’s loyalty and give her the gift of life in the country. I love this description of Kate: “From the moment Kate arrived, things happened. She was afraid of nothing and full of ideas.”
By Elizabeth Yates
The Journeyman is Elizabeth Yates quiet but luminous story of a young, artistic boy in colonial America, misunderstood by his family but given the gift of an apprenticeship to a journeyman painter. I loved Jared, the boy who learned to create color and beauty in the homes of farmer’s and homesteaders in early New England. A boy who was stronger in heart than in body, and offered a long, faithful love to those who took many years to see its beauty. The Journeyman offers a view of integrity, a picture of a strong man that is very different from those presented by culture today.
The Prince and the Pauper
By: Mark Twain
Twain’s classic tale of two boys, one a prince, one a beggar, who switch roles for a day… or a few more as it happens. Told with Twain’s usual wit and vivacity, the story follows the growth of the two boys as their minds expand with the exploration of their new worlds, teaching them how to better live, and rule, within their own.
The Sign of the Beaver
By Elizabeth George Speare
Another favorite by Speare, this is a grand boy’s book about a young boy left to fend for himself in early Colonial days when his family leaves him for a brief time. Befriended by a local tribe of Indians, the boy learns to survive in the woods by following their ways, and grows to love their fellowship. Torn between awaiting his family’s return and following the tribe, he must learn to weigh the hard questions of loyalty, survival, and faith.