Good History Books For 10-Year Old Girls?

by John Holbo on April 8, 2012

Our 10-year old daughter is only now becoming a serious reader. She had terrible trouble for a long time. We thought she had dyslexia, and maybe she does. Or maybe it’s an eye thing. One a bit lazy. Anyway, lots of letter reversals. b’s and d’s. p’s and q’s reduced her to tears. Reading made her literally sick to her stomach and exhausted for a long time. For her any reading was like reading in a car for anyone else. On the other hand, she could read stuff upside down just as easily as right-side up. Which is to say: not very easily, but better than you would expect. And then she got over it. Now I’m looking for good history books, or history-themed (possibly fictional) books for 10-year old girls, because Zoe has gotten more curious about that and she doesn’t get much history in school, somehow. US history. World history. Ancient history. Modern history. I’m flexible, so long as it seems like the treatment is likely to be entertaining to a bright 10-year old girl.

Accordingly, I’ve taken a flutter on this Kickstarter project that got BoingBoing’ed this morning. Seems like the right idea.

Suggestions?

Re the whole learning to like reading thing. It does seem that somehow she just outgrew or worked through whatever problem she was having, but Harry Potter seems to have played a not-inconsiderable part in the drama. I used to have a theory that the Harry Potter books just got freakishly lucky, being as popular as they were. Sure, they were good, but not that good. I thought it was more a social thing. Once everyone got into Harry, everyone got into getting into Harry and the snowball rolled down the hill into an avalanche. But my daughter is a counter-example to that. Harry Potter electrified her brain as nothing really had before, and it was nice that some of her friends liked it, too. But the books were the thing. It seems that J.K. Rowling’s formula is, simply, the perfect formula. Good to know.

{ 102 comments }

1

Chris Bertram 04.08.12 at 7:09 am

Check out the Horrible Histories series.

2

Doctor Science 04.08.12 at 7:17 am

1. Laura Ingalls Wilder, all of them. Start with Little House in the Big Woods. They make excellent read-alouds, too.

2. The Cartoon History of the Universe.

3. The Horrible Histories series.

4. The Thinking Girl’s Treasury series: Dastardly Dames, Real Princesses. I haven’t seen these, but they look interesting and have good reviews.

3

Tehanu 04.08.12 at 7:25 am

Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels — The Eagle of the Ninth, Knight’s Fee, I could name a dozen. The Shield Ring has a girl protagonist.

4

between4walls 04.08.12 at 7:47 am

Historical Fiction recs for a 10-year-old girl-

Avi’s “Crispin: The Cross of Lead” is an adventure story where the main character is a serf in medieval England. The plot is hard to summarize, but fascinating, and in addition to a picture of daily life in the period, it’s implied that some of the characters will later be involved in the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. Skip the sequel, it’s terrible.

Elizabeth George Speare’s “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” was quite popular in fifth grade, but maybe that was a Connecticut thing? The story of an orphan from a slave-owning Barbados family sent to live in Colonial era Connecticut, where she has trouble adjusting to the Puritan-influenced culture and befriends an outcast Quaker woman. There’s discussion of witch-hunting, religious differences, and the failed attempt by the British to create a Dominion of New England.

Lawrence Yep’s “Lady of Ch’iao Kuo” is set in sixth-century China with a kick-ass teenage girl protagonist. Features one of the most interesting portrayals of education I’ve seen in a kid’s book. Culture clash, war, sibling rivalry….it’s violent in places but I read it at 9 or 10 and loved it.

If she likes that, she might enjoy other Royal Diaries or Dear America books but Yep’s is far and away the best. I also liked Carolyn Meyer’s Isabel and Kristina Gregory’s Cleopatra from the same series.

5

between4walls 04.08.12 at 8:00 am

Forgot one- Chitra Banerjee Divakurni’s “Neela: Victory Song” is an entertaining book about an Indian girl searching for her father, who has disappeared during the independence struggle. It’s more light-hearted than it sounds (she winds up using a rich friend’s theatre make-up to trick the British into thinking her dad has smallpox), and captures some of the divisions in the freedom movement- Neela’s dad supports Gandhi’s nonviolent strategy while her friend/crush Samar supports Subhas Chandra Bose’s strategy of violent resistance.

6

JP 04.08.12 at 8:21 am

7

adam.smith (was Sebastian(1)) 04.08.12 at 8:34 am

that is really random – I came here to suggest Sutcliff, too, figuring she can’t be that well known. Anyway – I loved and devoured those books when I was about 9-12, so what Tehanu says @3.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a classic, too.
I don’t think I was much older than 10 when I read Ivanhoe, which is quite an exciting book. The Detectives in Togas series:
http://www.amazon.com/Detectives-Togas-Henry-Winterfeld/dp/0152162801/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333873983&sr=8-1
are super-famous in German and I’m glad to see they’ve been translated – good on the history, a little lighter and less intense than Sutcliff.

8

Phil 04.08.12 at 8:36 am

+1 for Horrible Histories – it’s superb.

It seems that J.K. Rowling’s formula is, simply, the perfect formula.

And the mathematician replied, it’s a formula that demonstrably works sometimes. But yes, despite some appearances it’s clearly not *bad* writing, for important values of ‘bad’.

9

Elkins 04.08.12 at 8:46 am

The Little House books, much like the Harry Potter books, show an increase in both reading level and maturity of theme as they go along. A bright ten-year-old might find the first one (Little House in the Big Woods) less engaging than the later installments. If it bores her, you might want to suggest she skip a few volumes ahead. The Long Winter is the one that I remember really grabbing my attention when I was a kid.

10

John S. Wilkins 04.08.12 at 8:49 am

I third Sutcliffe. As a kid I devoured them. Also Sharon Penman and the Cadfael books are brilliant. TH White’s Once and Future King is a must, as is Huckleberry Finn. Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time is a good one. And Mary Renault is great. Some of these are adult books that a 12 year old can read welle nough.

11

Ben Cronin 04.08.12 at 9:13 am

When I was a kid, there was a series of histories written by Isaac Asimov that were excellent, and really got me into history (full disclosure: now a professional historian). There were something like ten or twelve books in the series, but I only ever read _The Dark Ages_, then a couple of more on the Roman Republic and the Empire. There were several more, though.

They are from the Sixties, and might be a bit dated, but I found them suberp.

12

Unity 04.08.12 at 9:15 am

The Horrible Histories series is wonderful, and I would also suggest that you get the DVDs of the British TV series as well.

My own daughter has had similar problems with reading and one thing we were advised to do to help her along was get her to watch her favourite films, etc. with the subtitles on and read as she watched.

13

Phil 04.08.12 at 9:50 am

Meant to add, the perfect formula for a friend’s son – what turned him from a grumpy late-ish non-reader to an unstoppable reader of everything – was Captain Underpants. Whatever works, works.

14

Nigel Holmes 04.08.12 at 10:01 am

For fiction (and mostly English), I remember Geoffrey Trease as being good (possibly slightly dated now). Gillian Avery (particulary “The Warden’s Niece”) is very good. Jan Mark did a young Shakespeare book (“Stratford Boys”) which is not as good as her contemporary novels, but still entertaining.

If history as setting is OK (i.e. if events aren’t important), Leon Garfield’s books are really good: “Black Jack” (despite the cover that OUP have put on their edition) and “Devil in the Fog” are probably the most girl friendly of those that are in print.

If you’re not worried about confusing with alternative history, Joan Aiken’s “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” series is very lively.

15

Nigel Holmes 04.08.12 at 10:06 am

And Peter Dickinson “The Kin”: prehistorical series following several children / young adults in an African tribe.

16

John M. 04.08.12 at 10:10 am

My 10 year old daughter immediately went for recommended Horrible Histories. Favourites being Vicious Vikings, Rotten Romans and The Gorgeous Georgians. Our Island Story, the classic children’s history of the UK by H.E. Marshall got the nod too. A Little History of the World (recently reprinted I believe) by E.H. Gombrich is another good one.

17

Jeff 04.08.12 at 10:57 am

I like the You Wouldn’t Want To series. It’s a big series, but they do cover a lot of American topics. In more straight history, both my kids (now 14 and almost 11) liked “Children of the Dust Bowl.”

I’d like to thank John for alerting me to John Himmelman’s Nature Upclose series. My son, the 10 year old, was a reluctant reader and it was hard to find books matched his interest. I meant there just aren’t that many books about pill bugs in the children’s book market.

I had a somewhat similar experience with my daughter. I had been trying to get her interested in the HP series by reading aloud Sorcerer’s Stone, but it was taking. Then all of a sudden something clicked and she read 1 through 6 over and over about 5 times between the release of book 6 and 7.

And this is slightly off topic: I noticed that a used copy of Himmelman’s “An Earthworm’s Life” is listed on Amazon at prices between $999 and $1500. What could be the explanation for that?

18

chris y 04.08.12 at 11:42 am

Everything suggested so far is excellent, but pretty Eurocentric, for definitions of Euro which include countries mainly populated by European emigrants as well as their countries of origin. Given that the lass in question lives in SE Asia, this is arguably unfortunate, but I haven’t got any constructive suggestions to rectify the balance. Anyone else?

19

Sherman Dorn (Tampa) 04.08.12 at 11:51 am

Sad loss note: There’s a wonderful book on the first century of English-Wampanoag relations, Marcia Sewall’s Thunder from a Clear Sky (Aladdin, 1998). It alternates English/Wampanoag perspectives. Horribly, it is out of print, but it is worth any parent’s effort to secure a used copy.

Other stuff:

Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes
Bette Bao Lord, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
Joseph Bruchac, Code Talker
Depending on reading skill: Karen Cushman, The Midwife’s Apprentice

The “American Girls” series (yes, in conjunction with the dolls) presents remarkably coherent and accessible social history for the U.S. from a child’s perspective (and a fictional one).

The Laura Ingalls Wilder is entertaining and as long as your daughter knows it was severely edited by Wilder’s daughter to conform with the daughter’s views (i.e., take with a giant grain of salt), it’s fine.

20

Sherman Dorn (Tampa) 04.08.12 at 11:53 am

Chris Y @12: guilty as charged, will welcome any corrections and impose those additions on any grandkids…

21

LizardBreath 04.08.12 at 12:01 pm

Johnny Tremain?

22

Don A in Pennsyltucky 04.08.12 at 12:06 pm

Ten years old is what, 4th or 5th grade? When I was in those grades I read every “We Were There” history book I could find in our school library and then moved on to the public library. As I recall, the history part was simplified, perhaps over-simplified, but I learned about a place called Gettysburg, another called Yorktown, something called the Alamo — enough to recognize them when they showed up in real history classes.

23

Bostoniangirl 04.08.12 at 1:06 pm

This isn’t a reading suggestion, but have you ever taken her to a behavioral optometrist. I’ve had problems my whole life and only found out about them at 21. I wish someone had told me sooner.

24

Bruce Baugh 04.08.12 at 1:40 pm

Bostoniangirl beat me to that bit of advice; I second it, though.

I really loved David Macaulay’s big illustrated books about building at about that age: City, Cathedral, Pyramid, and Castle all come to mind.

25

Henry 04.08.12 at 1:57 pm

Second Joan Aiken, but you probably have the Dido Twite books already, right? Remember liking Barbara Leonie Picard’s “One is One” a lot when I was that age, but haven’t picked it up in the intervening decades.

26

LizardBreath 04.08.12 at 1:58 pm

Another vote for the David Macaulay books.

Lindsay Davis’s Roman mysteries, starting with Silver Pigs?

It’s annoying — I have kids right in this age bracket, and I’m not coming up with any good non-fiction history at all. It must be out there, but I’ve got nothing.

27

John Holbo 04.08.12 at 2:36 pm

Thanks for suggestions. For some reason Zoe disdains the Horrible Histories series, although they look fine to me. She’s read a couple.

Thanks for reminding me about “Castle” – that’s a Macaulay title I remember enjoying as a kid.

We do have some Joan Aiken books but they all read a bit older, I think. The Aikens were apparently friends with the Warings back in Savannah, back in the day. Stories to tell, I’m told. So Joan was a family friend, even. (We Holbos were somewhere else at the time.)

Some of these other titles sound good … please continue.

As to the optometry thing. I took Zoe to see a specialist who gave her some exercises to do but I’m honestly not sure that worked out too well. That was on the lazy eye hypothesis (which I’m sure was correct.) It is something I should look into more. It’s probably related to her fear of heights and dislike of certain sorts of stairs. Her eyes play tricks on her and she feels like she’s falling. Or maybe she’s just got fear of stairs as well as some eye trouble. But at least she’s one of the best readers in her class now!

28

lupita 04.08.12 at 3:03 pm

Not exactly history, but maps and time lines help with the big picture. I would stare at them for hours. I still do.

29

Kevin Drum 04.08.12 at 3:17 pm

Well, there’s Gombrich’s “Little History of the World,” which had a little renaissance of popularity a few years ago after it got updated. I read it, and it seemed not bad for a kid’s book.

Totally second the maps and timelines! Love maps.

30

hartal 04.08.12 at 3:47 pm

Yes I am very interested in why the Rowling formula works so well. My wife read the first book to our daughter when she 4 1/2. She wore the Hogwarts robes to every day of summer camp. She made us read to the fifth book by the end of kindergarten. But then the series was getting age inappropriate; however, she then finished the series in first grade. And then re-read all seven books again in first grade. She is now in second grade and her interest is finally beginning to fade.

Hermoine has definitely been a good role model. She is empathetic, brave and hard working. When watching her in class last year, I was struck by how my daugher enthusiastically raised her hand to answer questions in just the way that Hermoine does.

The books have led to great discussions. What are we to make of Harry being great at Quidditch without having really trained (that bothered me)? Why would a pure blood ideal have a hold on anyone? Imagine a new story from the perspective of Parvati Patel…Isn’t it interesting that witches are not necessarily “mean, green, cackly”?

Just last week I read her a couple of chapters from Dawkins’ Magic of Reality–”Who Were the First Persons?” and “Why Do Bad Things Happen?” She loved them.

There was an American Girl craze at her school. So she read some of the historical fiction tied up those dolls. Molly during WWII. Led to an interesting discussion about rationing during WWII with her maternal grandmother. Josefina in New Mexico too.

We found a great book on Rosalind Franklin. Great bios on Marian Anderson, Marie Curie.

31

hartal 04.08.12 at 3:52 pm

Thanks for the Yep and Divakurni recommendations!

32

John Holbo 04.08.12 at 3:58 pm

Yes, Zoe has one of the American Girl doll books, too. And it was surprisingly good for a product placement literary work.

33

curious monolith 04.08.12 at 4:34 pm

I have an 11-year-old daughter who had, and overcame, a very similar problem. The two series that have most knocked her socks off are both historical fiction, the first set in the 1790s Atlantic revolutionary world, the second set in Victorian London: the Cat Royal series by Julia Golding (the first one is The Diamond of Drury Lane), and the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer (about Sherlock Holmes’s fictional younger sister, filled with fascinating details about Victorian fashion, class and gender relations, and ciphers). Enjoy!

34

SusanC 04.08.12 at 4:45 pm

For historical fiction (with elements of fantasty), there’s Edward Eager’s The Time Garden and other books.

Edith Nesbit had some historical elements; given how long ago they were written, parts that were originally contemporary now read like historical fiction.

My memory of the Joan Aiken books is that they’re difficult.

It’s quite surprising that I can’t think of many good historical fiction for younger readers. (On the other hand, I can think of lots I’m not sure I’d want to recommend: Amanda Minnie Douglas, G. A. Henty, …)

35

Carol 04.08.12 at 5:10 pm

Ask your public librarian. They know this kind of thing.

36

Steve LaBonne 04.08.12 at 5:48 pm

Not exactly history, but maps and time lines help with the big picture. I would stare at them for hours. I still do.

I like these. Clever maps accompanied by entertainingly opinionated summaries. The series also includes ancient, modern (to 1815), and recent volumes. Just the right level of detail to give a young person a broad overview of world history without overwhelming her.

37

mijnheer 04.08.12 at 6:06 pm

Another vote for Rosemary Sutcliff.
Also Kit’s Pearson’s Guests of War trilogy.

38

Marcus Pivato 04.08.12 at 8:02 pm

Some people have already mentioned E.T. Gombrich’s Little History of the World. Another very nice children’s introduction to history is
The Story of the World
by Susan Wise Bauer. This is a four-volume set, covering prehistory all the way up to the end of the 20th century. I have linked to the first volume (from this page, it will be easy to find links to the other three volumes).

These books are quite dense and comprehensive; they are designed as textbooks for homeschooling in history. As the title suggests, Bauer tries to present history as a “story”, rather than a litany of facts, events and dates. This strategy makes it much more appealing to children. It also means that Bauer sometimes tries to humanize famous historical characters, attributing to them thoughts, feelings and motives (which may or may not be entirely accurate). She also illustrates the beliefs of ancient cultures by presenting excerpts from important myths and legends.

One slightly annoying feature of Volume I is that Bauer presents some material from the Old Testament as a more or less accurate record of the ancient history of the Middle East. This is factually dubious, and presumably reflects Bauer’s own religious beliefs, and probably one of the main factors in her interest in homeschooling (unfortunately, religiousity seems to be a very common trait in the North American homeschooling community). You should probably advise a young reader to treat this material skeptically (this could actually be used a valuable lesson in how one should generally treat historical accounts skeptically).

However, aside from this Old Testament stuff, there is no over religious bias in the books that I could detect (and I’m pretty sensitive about such matters). Of course, in Volume II, Bauer briefly talks about the life of Jesus (taking the New Testament version more or less at face value). But she also presents the life and teachings of the Buddha and the life and teachings of Mohammed in exactly the same tone (again, based on what are probably legendary sources). In her discussion of the Crusades, the struggle between Protestants and Catholics across Europe, and other religious conflicts, Bauer is careful not to take sides, and presents all the parties as equally reasonable (or unreasonable) in their actions.

One of the earlier posters complained about “Eurocentrism”. One nice feature of these books is that Bauer tries very hard not to be Eurocentric, and spends considerable time talking about the history of the Middle East, India, Japan, southeast Asia, etc. (She also makes an effort to talk a bit about the early history of Africa, and the first peoples of the Americas and Australia, but obviously she is somewhat limited by the absence of written historical records). Also, the exploitative and imperialistic behavior of Europe towards the rest of the world is made quite clear. White people are not the “good guys” in these books; their actions are often presented as seen from the point of view of Africans, Asians, etc.

Since this is a children’s history, Bauer obviously cannot even come close to covering everything important; a professional historian could no doubt fill an entire book with a list of all the crucial and important people and events which are not even mentioned in these four volumes. Also, for obvious reasons, Bauer stays away from some of history’s more gruesome episodes. For example, she doesn’t talk at all about the Inquisition. Nor does she really acknowledge the fact that the Europeans essentially committed ethnic cleansing or even genocide in their colonization of the Americas (although it she makes it clear that the native people were badly mistreated). And although she obviously has to discuss the many wars, sacks, and massacres which played such a pivotal role in history, she avoids getting into detail about how horrific and barbaric some of these episodes really were.

The reading level is easily accessible to an intelligent ten year old. However, these books are somewhat drier and more serious than, say, “Horrible histories”, so probably your child will not read them on her own unless she is really interested in history. (They are also excellent as read-alouds for younger children, however).

39

alan 04.08.12 at 8:03 pm

At about 11 my daughter really liked Bog People, once I got her to skip the more theoretical chapter at the beginning.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Bog-People-Preserved-Classics/dp/1590170903

She was also big on the Patricia Wrede Dragon books if you are willing to give her fantasy stuff.

40

Steve LaBonne 04.08.12 at 8:31 pm

41

j_h_r 04.08.12 at 9:51 pm

second Laura Ingalls and Johnny Tremaine

also, while it isn’t history per se, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology is pretty damned awesome

42

carl caldwell 04.08.12 at 10:45 pm

My daughter LOVES the American Girls series. She asks serious questions about social and economic history, about discrimination and immigration, about poverty and wealth. She reads other stuff, too, but nothing has produced the same reaction. So I agree with the other positive comments.

43

dbk 04.08.12 at 10:47 pm

What about Louisa May Alcott’s books? I read them at about the same age as I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, i.e. your daughter’s age or thereabouts.

This site has lots and lots of book announcements/discussions/interviews with a focus on books for girls, all genres, with focus on younger readers including pre-teens:
http://www.bookclubgirl.com/

My closest friend from hs has written a history book for 10+year-olds based on her father’s WW II diary (he was a young boy at the time). It was nominated for one of the children’s book awards. I’m partial to it because the author’s my friend, and it’s set in the rural area we both were connected with, but you can check out the reviews:
http://www.elizabethfama.com/2011/09/review-eddies-war-by-carol-fisher.html.

If your daughter likes mysteries, there’s the medieval Sister Frevisse series; my daughter got into them when she was about 10, though as I recall Harry Potter came out that year …

44

Gene O'Grady 04.08.12 at 11:11 pm

Witch of Blackbird Pond may not be just a Connecticut thing since my kids loved it in California.

If you can deal with the Mormon bit, They Walked to Zion edited by Susan Arrington Madsen (I think that’s the name) is quite interesting, featuring actual journal entries from 19th century kids going to Utah, plus it explodes some of the sillier cliches about the American West.

45

jen 04.08.12 at 11:13 pm

I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid, but one of the reasons Ma and Pa keep moving west is that they’re illegal settlers, and at least in the first couple books, they keep squatting on Indian land without getting title to it, and then the US government kicks them off. Louise Erdrich started a kids’ series a few years ago, about an Ojibwe girl in the 19th century; I haven’t read them, but they look good. The first one is called The Birchbark House.

46

dilbert dogbert 04.08.12 at 11:32 pm

Not a history book but to just comment on the fact that you can’t tell what spark will light the fire. My middle son had trouble with reading – a lefty may be a clue, so my wife homeschooled him and got him going but not a pleasure reader. I found a book at work left by one of our work study students call Bored of the Rings. I read a bit of it and got a laugh. I took it home and told my son he might get a laugh or two out of it. It seemed to be the fire starter.

47

Henry 04.08.12 at 11:57 pm

bq. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid, but one of the reasons Ma and Pa keep moving west is that they’re illegal settlers, and at least in the first couple books, they keep squatting on Indian land without getting title to it, and then the US government kicks them off.

Francis Spufford has a great riff on _The Long Winter_ as a proto-Randian tract in _The Child That Books Built – apparently Wilder’s daughter and editor/quasi-ghost-writer was a full-on wingnut. I liked this bit in particular:

bq. As well as her fiction, Rose (Wilder: daughter of Laura) wrote the world’s only ideological celebration of American needlework. She saw expansive, unprecedented liberty in the Ohio Star and Log Cabin patterns of American quilts, and oppression in European patchwork, cramped by kings and communists.

48

Clare 04.09.12 at 12:15 am

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by E.L. Kongsburg (author of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler). A book about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and it’s fantastic.

49

andrew 04.09.12 at 12:49 am

I agree that Harry Potter is a great way to get kids to love reading, but I also fear that the “Harry Potter” effect also manifests itself in being drawn to the superficial “hot” bestsellers (Twilight, etc.)

50

Tokkers 04.09.12 at 12:49 am

Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Series. So fantastic after trawling through the Potter series. It’s a complete reversal from the boom and crash a minute style of the latter. They build slowly, and with an atmosphere of real suspense and foreboding. Wonderful books one and all.

51

Svensker 04.09.12 at 1:05 am

The Landmark series of history books — both U.S. and world. They’re aimed squarely at the 9-12 year old and the books were written by some really good writers. (MacKinlay Kantor wrote the Civil War book, Harold Lamb the Genghis Khan, etc.) Real history in story style. Many of the books were done in the 50s and 60s but, except for a few, aren’t dated at all, and most of them are still in print.

I highly recommend them.

52

John Holbo 04.09.12 at 1:30 am

“Bored of the Rings”! I remember that one. The Tom Bombadil parody bit, for example, has completely stuck with me. “Tim Tim Benzedrine/Hack Choke Valvoline/Clean Clean Clean for Gene/First Second Neutral Park/Unleash them now, you leafy Nark.” Wasn’t that a National Lampoon publication? Hope your son caught the ‘clean for Gene’ reference. I certainly didn’t when I read it as a lad.

53

Cosma Shalizi 04.09.12 at 2:04 am

Let me second Larry Gonick’s The Cartoon History of the Universe, and advocate it, and Gonick’s Cartoon Guides, with the greatest possible enthusiasm — I started reading them about age 10, enjoyed them unreservedly and learned an absolutely huge amount from them. In fact, I can’t think of any other author whose books played a bigger role in my education. (Whether that’s much of a recommendation is another story.)

54

JanieM 04.09.12 at 2:17 am

I grew up loving the Landmark books in, yes, the 50s. I didn’t know they were still in print and I wonder if it would be quite an odd experience to dip into them again. I’d be a little afraid I’d find them too deeply imbued with 50s sensibilities….but maybe they’re not. I’ll have to look for them just to see how they strike me now.

Meanwhile, off the history books topic but not off the “girl getting fired up about reading” topic — my daughter also struggled to learn to read. Eventually we hired a reading specialist to tutor her, and she made good progress in a very short time.

But what finally made her catch on fire with reading on her own was that she couldn’t wait to hear what happened next in Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce, which I was reading out loud to her at far too slow a pace.

Pierce is incredibly prolific, so any young reader who falls under her spell has a lot to look forward to.

[Fingers crossed that the tags work right.]

55

JP Stormcrow 04.09.12 at 2:21 am

Bored of the Rings was Beard and Kenney, but it was published while they were still at the Harvard Lampoon. To get a gauge on the age appropriateness of the not so PC humor (“This is indeed a queer river,” said Bromosel, as the water lapped at his thighs.), tvtropes has a pretty in-depth recap of characters and tropes. And this site most certainly violates copyright, but has significant excerpts of the book.

And remember, “Serutan spelled backwards is mud.”

56

Chan MacVeagh 04.09.12 at 2:25 am

Prologue to the Present: A Narrative World History to 1415, by Elizabeth Pool is a wonderful book that uses simple language but still feels like you are reading a grown up book. That was a clincher for me…..

The Cartoon History of the Universe was also great but I still felt like I was reading a comic.

57

plarry 04.09.12 at 2:27 am

Someone recommended Karen Cushman above. For historical fiction, I prefer her second book, Catherine, Called Birdy.

58

Joey 04.09.12 at 2:48 am

A fascinating history of the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama children’s march was published this spring: Cynthia Levinson, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March. It’s a good introduction to the story of desegregation and the American civil rights movement, and it is written for 10 year olds — as well as being about children of around that age.

59

Bloix 04.09.12 at 2:53 am

The thing that the Little House fans don’t seem to understand – and I don’t see how any adult reader can miss it – is that the books are a chronicle of failure. The Ingalls family has a pretty good life in the Wisconsin woods, living and prospering as farmers with close-by relatives and friends. There’s no reason for them to leave other than that Pa is a loner who wants to get away from other people. He forces his wife, who has a horror of being raped and murdered by Indians, to move to the Osage reservation in Kansas in the expectation that it will be opened to white settlement. (Ma is a sexual neurotic, forcing her pre-pubescent daughters to sleep in corsets.) He’s wrong about the reservation, so the family loses the year’s work they’ve put into that land and moves to Minnesota, where they lose their crop to locusts and Pa becomes a hobo looking for work as a hired man. As they move from place to place, failure follows them. They almost die of malaria. One daughter goes blind. They never have enough to eat. And so on. Eventually they wind up in De Smet, South Dakota, a railroad town, where they nearly starve to death during the “long winter.” Pa fails as a farmer and becomes a carpenter, building houses for the townspeople brought by the railroad. At age 15, Laura is forced to go to work as a school teacher, where she boards with a violent man and his terrorized wife. At 18 she marries Almanzo, a man ten years her senior, and gets out from under her parents’ control. And that’s the end of the series.

But her actual pioneer life after the end of the series is no better. Almanzo comes down with diphtheria, which almost kills him and leaves him partially crippled for the rest of his life. Their infant son dies, their barn burns down, and drought drives them off Almanzo’s land. When Laura is 27, they move to Missouri and try to make a living as farmers. That fails as well, and they rent a house in town, where Almanzo works as a delivery man and Laura takes in boarders. They’re slated for a life of poverty and drudgery until Almanzo’s parents buy them the house they live in, and they eventually sell it and use the money to make a go of their farm.

So the great pioneering heroine of American children’s literature winds up living in Missouri, dependent on the financial help of her in-laws from upstate New York.

The deprivation of Laura’s childhood comes through most powerfully in her book about Almanzo’s childhood, Farmer Boy, which is filled with descriptions of bountiful food: hams, sausages, pies, cakes, bread, butter, jam, milk, eggs, cheese and coffee. It’s like a starving person’s vision of heaven.

Pa and Ma had no descendants. Mary never married and had no children. Laura’s son died and her daughter, Rose, never married and had no children. Carrie and Grace both married (Carrie died in her 70′s, Grace in her 60′s) but neither one had children. The Ingalls family line is a dead end.

It’s impossible, reading as an adult, to come to any conclusion other than that Pa and his family should have stayed in Wisconsin, and Almanzo would have been better off as a farmer up around the Finger Lakes.

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Helen 04.09.12 at 3:37 am

Not a book, but podcasts: the Mark Steel lectures are entertaining and hilarious, but have a lot of factual content as well.

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Harold 04.09.12 at 3:49 am

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delagar 04.09.12 at 3:53 am

Also, Bloix, didn’t Rose Wilder Lane help support her parents throughout her life?

But when she (Rose) takes control of her mother’s books, she does what she can to make them paeans to her libertarian ideals. The dream of the America: everyone on his own, no one taking care of anyone, everyone huddled up starving to death in their own little tar paper shack.

63

dr ngo 04.09.12 at 4:12 am

From a recent message to my daughter about my grand-daughter, who reads avidly, but is mostly into fantasy:

If she ever turns her interest to more “realist” fiction, I can recommend Kate Seredy, The Good Master, and Constance Savery, [Green] Emeralds for the King, which are of my vintage [actually earlier - pre WWII], and thus “realist” in the sense of purporting pertain to the real world (pre-WWI Hungary and the English Civil War, respectively), not in the more recent sense of “full of inappropriate themes and language.”

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geographylady 04.09.12 at 4:18 am

Does she like horses? Some of the Marguerite Henry books were entertaining when I was that age.

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Mea 04.09.12 at 4:47 am

Island of the blue dolphins, a classic about an Indian girl living on the California channel islands.

Julia of the wolves (set in Alaska of the 1950′s?) by Jean Craighead George is also good.

Seconding the shout-outs for The Dark is Rising series, The Witch of Blackborne Pond, and the Wolves of Willoby Chase. As a girl I loved all of them.

66

Tpapa2 04.09.12 at 4:48 am

Gombrich’s Little history of the World is a good one

67

Meredith 04.09.12 at 5:28 am

To repeat some of the above.
E. L. Konigsberg — maybe a year or two away yet? But a brilliant author — diction, it’s in the language, as well as everything else you want from stories. A Proud Taste is perhaps E.L.K.’s only “adult” book (though the first one I read, at maybe 15?) — but the books for very young adolescents are every bit as “adult,” in the way a child craves. (My own daughter and a friend wrote E. L. K. a fan letter when they were in late elementary school — and got a wonderful reply!)
I’d plug for mysteries, as several above. Who knows? Hooked me when I was young. (Probably older than ten, though.) For historical mysteries, to Lindsay Davis I’d add Stephen Saylor. But probably for a few years hence.
Now to books more basic. What about Francis Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, for instance?
Though maybe boys tend to respond to his books more: Roald Dahl.
This is bringing back to me, the hovering period between real childhood and early early adolescence. A challenging period for books.

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John Holbo 04.09.12 at 11:27 pm

Sorry for the odd behavior of comments. I had to turn off Felix’s comment which was, inexplicably, playing hob with the blog.

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Emily 04.09.12 at 11:58 pm

From an Asian-pacific (Australian) perspective if not s/e asian, I loved Ruth Park’s (if i remember correctly) Playing Beattie Bow around that age, and also Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange. The True Story of Lily S____ was another.
I think I read My Place by Sally Morgan at around 11, a first person account of the author’s experience as one of the stolen generation.
Older books – My Brilliant Career (Miles Franklin) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay), or Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of His Natural Life (not so ‘girly’ though), or Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom (a little more cynical).
I agree with recommendations for Alcott and Burnett, and if no-one has already mentioned her, L M Montgomery.

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Ohio Mom 04.10.12 at 12:15 am

Forgive me if these have already been mentioned:

All of Kind Family — series about a warm-hearted immigrant Jewish family with five daughters living in a tenement on the Lower East Side. Includes polio epidemic.

Catherine called Birdy — Set in 1290, the diary of the resourceful teenaged daughter of a lord — what it was really like to live in a castle.

Almost anything by Richard Peck — He often writes mostly about rural midwestern small town life in early 1900′s (e.g., “Here Lies the Librarian”, “The Teacher’s Funeral”), the time period when automobiles and other technologies were beginning to change things completely. “The River Between Us” is about a pair of light-skinned African-American sisters who move north after the Civil War and pass as white.

Many of Avi’s books, too (someone above mentioned “Crispin” but didn’t like the sequels. I think they are still worth reading for the strong female characters) — especially “Charlotte Doyle”, which is set on ship sailing from England to America during the colonial period.

“Number the Stars” — very gentle treatment of the Holocaust. Young girl is hidden and then rescued; based loosely on a true story.

On another note, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when I was in elementary school. I practically had them memorized. But when I started to reread them a year or so ago, I was appalled. I know it’s not fair to judge them by today’s standards, but Ma and Pa were really abusive. And you can add to the fun facts listed upthread that when Laura had finally made it as an author, and had a little money, and one of her sisters asked for help, in true Libertarian fashion, Laura refused.

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Kyndra 04.10.12 at 1:28 am

Also: Elizabeth Janet Gray : Adam of the Road, I Will Adventure ( medieval England)

Rumer Godden: She grew up in colonial India and lived in Kashmir as an adult. She wrote a number of books for children ( as well as some excellent adult work) but I’m thinking in particular about her three or four books about a little English girl who is given some Japanese dolls and builds a doll house for them. Godden spends a great deal of time on the details of Japanese culture that Nina (?) needs to accommodate in her building and furnishing of the house, and I remember finding them fascinating when I was 10-12.

Meindert DeJong: anything’s good but The House of Sixty Fathers is set in China during WWII.

K

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Paul Wexler 04.10.12 at 1:39 am

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages- two 5th grade girls living amid the Manhatten project in Los Alamos (various famous scientists Robert Oppenheimer! Richard Feynman! Make cameo appearances…

Also Avi’s Don’t You Know There’s a War On?

And maybe. (she may be a few years away) Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, a YA about discovering roots lost during the Holocaust

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Barry 04.10.12 at 2:06 am

This is a ‘history’ book: “Mummies, dinosaurs, moon rocks :how we know how old things are”, by James Jespersen (http://www.powells.com/s?kw=mummies+moon+rocks+dinosaurs&class=)

It’s an introduction to how scientists determine ages of things.

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Meredith 04.10.12 at 4:24 am

Ah, Rumer Godden! Which tempts me to mention the obvious(ly dangerous): Kipling!
For a little older, the yearning age of earliest sexual awakenings (the age that never goes away): Hans Koning(sberger), A Walk with Love and Death.
Also, Lois Lowry’s books. Number the Stars, for instance (in connection to the holocaust, mentioned above).
Not to mention Anne Frank.
A few years away yet, much of this? This is a hard time for books, which says something about the age.
Talk to a librarian or a good book store person!

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Meredith 04.10.12 at 4:34 am

And to second someone above, Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. For some reason, I hadn’t read these when I was young (though my mother knew and loved them). My daughter discovered them on her own. She loved them! And enjoyed talked with her grandmother about them….

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mir 04.10.12 at 6:00 am

Jean Little- writer of gentle, totally absorbing tales, often with a main character dealing with some sort of impairment (impaired eyesight, or cerebral palsy)… not after school specials, but where the impairment is just a part of life.

I read and loved her as a kid. And apparently she’s written a series of historical fiction– “Dear Canada” about Home Children, The Spanish flu, and WWI. Haven’t read them, but totally trust her.

“Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom” is a great book about an 18th C rebellion in China, written by Katherine Paterson, daughter of missionary parents. (not proselytizing in any way)

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neurosciencist 04.10.12 at 10:21 am

if she likes Rosemay Sutcliffe, you can follow up with “Knight Crusader” by Ronald Welch and others from the same author. And then move on to Georgette Heyer for the Regency Period, and even Daphne Du Maurier a bit later?

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PaulB 04.10.12 at 11:34 am

My 9-year-old keeps re-reading Halo by Zizou Corder, about the adventures of a girl and her centaur friends in Greece around the time of the Peloponnesian War.

(The brokenness of comments earlier seemed to be because of a missing close quotation mark in an href)

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Western Dave 04.10.12 at 12:24 pm

Another vote against Little House (both my daughter and I got tired of conversations about “Why is Pa always hitting her?”, “What’s a Nigger?” “Why do they hate Indians, didn’t they ever meet someone like grandma Irene?” etc. etc.)

Another vote for American Girl series which are surprisingly good. The Julie books (1970s) that we read had a good mystery based on Angel Island and dealt with divorce and the women’s movement pretty effectively. There’s even one about the wagon train across the country for the bicentennial.

Melissa Madsen Fox (wife of Russel Arben Fox who hangs around here sometimes) has a children’s lit blog that would be helpful since English language children’s librarians are probably in short supply in Singapore.

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bianca steele 04.10.12 at 2:05 pm

I liked Time Cat at that age. It’s a kind of Peabody and Sherman concept. I don’t know how accurate it was, but there are a lot of cats.

Maybe Little Women or Pollyanna? Marguerite Henry is good too.

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Nigel Holmes 04.10.12 at 2:08 pm

Nina Bawden wrote some classic historical children’s novels which should be about the right age – “Carrie’s War” (evacuated children during the second world war) and “The Peppermint Pig” (late Victorian England). Geraldine McCaughrean has written a number of historical novels, some of which go beyond purely European themes (I haven’t read “The Kite Rider”, which seems to be about China in the time of Kublai Kahn). Clive King’s best historical novel “The 22 Letters” seems to be out of print, but his “Stig of the Dump” might interest someone who likes history (caveman in the modern world) and should be easy reading for someone who has read Harry Potter.

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andthenyoufall 04.10.12 at 2:17 pm

I’ll fourth (fifth? sixteenth? haven’t read the whole thread) Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe I’d also vouch for “The Louisiana Purchase: An American Story”. Yes, they are nothing special as far as historical erudition and subtlety goes, but they’re such fun!

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andthenyoufall 04.10.12 at 2:44 pm

Oh, and also, “A Message of Ancient Days” is the only history textbook that I’ve ever read in one sitting, when I was ten. I don’t remember what made it so gripping, but it must be written like chocolate.

Hendrik van Loon’s “Story of Mankind” also presented a very kid-friendly episodic account of the history of mankind. First Newberry Prize, eh?

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Geoffrey 04.10.12 at 6:05 pm

I would love to see the collected list of suggestions at the end of this.

My prejudice is that there is a lot of good historical fiction out there (although it doesn’t really give a sense of *history* in the analytic, social science sense of the term) but that there is virtually no good history written for people under 15. I say this mainly because when I was under 15, I read a lot of the history books that are written for people under 15, and have basically found in the last few years that it gave me no real sense of history. But this was the literature of the 70s and early 80s. Things may have improved.

She might try listening to some of the online university lectures on iTunes U.

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dr ngo 04.10.12 at 6:55 pm

Not easy to come by these days, but a woman called Genevieve Foster wrote a number of history books in the 1950s-60s (??) with titles like “George Washington’s World” and “Augustus Caesar’s World” that were – as I recall them – full of facts interesting to much younger me. (William Penn, Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln also in the series.) (She also has books on the Year of the Horseless Carriage [1801] and The Year of the Flying Machine [1903], I see.)

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Harold 04.10.12 at 7:28 pm

My daughter fell in love with “Harpo Speaks” (the as-told-to autobiography of Harpo Marx), at the age of eight, and liked it so much she read it over and over. For the next several years she would come out with interesting facts about Alexander Woolcott and the Algonquin circle and their excursions to upstate NY.

Also, because I was reading it myself, I read “Period Piece” by Gwen Raverat (Darwin’s granddaughter) to her, and she liked that, too. It is all about growing up in the Victorian age.

She also became very interested in Abigail Adams, whom she learned about in school.

On of the first books my son read on his own was The Killer Angels, about the Civil War, starting what became a lifelong interest for him. Another book I remember both of us liking (I read it to him) was a young person’s version of Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle.

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LizardBreath 04.10.12 at 7:45 pm

Oh, hey, what about Thomas Costain’s four volume History of the Plantagenets? Might be in a library somewhere, and while they’re written for adults, they’re at a bright-kid reading level. (I think they’re also probably academically fairly shoddy, but at her age she’s got time to correct misapprehensions).

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Dick Mulliken 04.10.12 at 8:29 pm

Johnny Tremaine, a novel of boyhood during the American Revolution.

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Genevieve 04.11.12 at 1:06 am

I also liked Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child and was appalled when I read her as an adult. But Caddie Woodlawn (and the out-take stories, Magical Melons) if anything, improves with age. As a child, I loved the Little Maid series (Little Maid of Massachusett, Little Maid of Connecticut, etc.), as well as Witch of Blackbird Pond and Louisa May Alcott (whom I fear, does not age well). My daughter (a reader, now 20) loved Tamora Pierce (points for multi-culturalism) and Edward Eager. Scott O’Dell is the most over-rated children’s author on the planet — worse than Laura Ingalls Wilder. Mary Stewart’s Camelot trilogy, however, is almost as much fun as The Once and Future King.

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fizzchick 04.11.12 at 2:50 am

Not necessarily accurate, but a series with a nice historical flavor: The ____ Adventure, by Lloyd Alexander. (Jedera, Xanadu, Drackenberg, etc.) Vesper Holly is an orphan with doting foster parents who fights nefarious archeological villains all over the world, using her wits and the friends she invariably makes along the way. A nice lead in to the rest of Alexander’s excellent work. Also n’thing Joan Aiken, E. Nesbit, and Witch of Blackbird Pond, as well as the American Girl series.

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Meredith 04.11.12 at 4:53 am

Sad how treasures of our youth sometimes lose their luster. I remember my excitement when starting the Dr. Doolittle series with my first child– and then my horror at the implicit racism on the very first page. I tried to explain to my father, who had lovingly read me all these books, why I just couldn’t pass the reading on. A connection compromised slightly. I sympathize with those here for whom Wilder has fallen.

An idea for now or soon: Mary Renault, The King Must Die, and others. Not strictly “historical,” but books like this ignite the historical imagination. (Imagination about the past, which promises a future because there’s always been one.)

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MG 04.11.12 at 2:44 pm

My own recommendations:

- Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (lonely girl from Asia gets Japanese dolls, builds dollhouse, finds happiness, celebrates Japanese Doll’s day — awesome!) by Rumer Godden. Also, Rumer Godden’s other doll books: Little Plumn, Holly and Ivy. Also set in England.

- Secret Garden and A Little Princess (both characters were raised in India) by Frances Hodgkin Burnett. These are set in England.

-The Moffats books by Eleanor Estes. (single parent family trying to make it during WWI in the US)

- Tree Grows in Brooklyn (poor girl in Brooklyn, excellent) by Betty Smith

- All of a Kind Family (large, immigrant family in NYC celebrates Jewish holidays and the kids get into hijinks) by Sydney Taylor.

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DaveMB 04.11.12 at 3:05 pm

I emphatically second fizzchick’s recommendation of the Vesper Holly books
by Lloyd Alexander. Vesper is basically Sherlock Holmes as a wealthy 18-year-old
orphan from Philadelphia. Here Watson figure (and the narrator) is her somewhat
clueless guardian, who goes with her on worldwide adventures where they always
run into Dr. Desmond Helvetius, a Bond-villain type who often has developed some
technology slightly in advance of their 1870′s time frame. They visit various fictional
but plausible countries — the first book is “The Illyrian Adventure”.

Alexander, in all his books, gives enormous help to someone reading aloud — all the
characters, for example, have verbal ticks that makes it easy to distinguish their voices.
He mostly does pastiches of history and mythology, the most famous being the _Book
of Three_ series based on the Welsh _Mabinogi_. My daughter, now about to graduate
from Barnard, swears by these books.

Actually _Time Cat_, a collection of linked short stories where a boy’s cat takes him to
visit various historical milieux, might be a good first choice for Alexander — my daughter
just got this for her eight-year-old cousin.

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SamChevre 04.11.12 at 3:21 pm

I think it’s the right age (I read things at random ages), but Kipling’s “Puck of Pook’s Hill” and “Rewards and Fairies” are great.

I promised you that you shall see What you shall see, and
you shall hear What you shall hear, though It shall have happened three
thousand year; but just now it seems to me that, unless you go back to
the house, people will be looking for you. I’ll walk with you as far
as the gate.’

95

Ma Kettle 04.11.12 at 9:34 pm

My 10 yr old girl has loved To Kill A Mocking Bird and Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.

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Julie 04.11.12 at 11:17 pm

E.L. Konigsberg has already been mentioned, but for a ten year old I would recommend ‘From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’, even though it’s not really historical fiction. It has a lot of historical elements since the children in the book run away to live in the historical exhibits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and solve an art history mystery.

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ragweed 04.12.12 at 12:22 am

On Laura Ingalls Wilder – I think the comment that it is a story of failure is spot on. But it is also interesting some of the social dynamics that slip into the stories. Like the gender dynamics in Famer Boy – while there is a division of men’s work and women’s work, it is not set in stone, and while the mother has a different role in the commercial workings of the farm, it is not a subordinate role – the father meets with the produce buyers to negotiate prices on potatoes et al, mother meets with the commercial buyers for her butter in much the same way – much more typical of the role of women in the 19th century.

The First Four Years is also fascinating as the only one in the series that was not doctored by Rose Wilder, and for the picture it paints of farming at the time. Like the fact that by the 1880s, American Farmers were up to their eyeballs in debt almost as soon as they staked claim.

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OCS 04.12.12 at 3:50 pm

As a father with smart, bookish 9 and 11 year old girls:

I’ll repeat the plug for the American Girl series of books, if only because it took some convincing before they won me over. They’re very well done, regardless of the product tie-ins. And although I have mixed feelings about formulaic series, when you’ve got a kid who loves reading they can be a lifesaver. There’s always something they want to read next.

Also, yes, Jean Little’s Canadian Girl books (and I think there are others by other authors) are also a big hit with my girls. For Americans the place names and references to the Queen might be a little disorienting, but your daughter will figure it out pretty quickly.

About the Little House books — my kids love them, despite all the faults. They’re amused and offended in equal measure by the gender roles imposed on the girls. Even the libertarianism provides some good discussion topics. There’s a scene (maybe it’s in Farmer Boy) where a schoolmaster has to deal with a group of bullying older students who beat the previous schoolmaster to death. The father of the boy gravely explains to his son that it’s the schoolmasters job, and every man has to fight his own battles. (He does see his way clear to loaning a bullwhip to the schoolmaster, who uses it to whip the bullies out of the classroom).

Which allowed me to talk about individual responsibility and community responsibility, and whether the community also had a responsibility to step in when the educations of their children were being disrupted by a few bullies, not to mention innocent people being terrorized and killed. (Perhaps I got a little preachy).

On a side note, it’s a wonderful thing when your kids suddenly plug into the joy of reading. With our oldest, it was the Magic Treehouse books that did it for a her a few years ago. She was sitting at the table reading when she looked up, wonder written all over her face, and said, “It’s like I’m in a different world when I’m reading!” Yes!

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bianca steele 04.12.12 at 4:45 pm

I remember liking Strawberry Girl, which is a Newberry book by Lois Lenski, probably around the same age. She wrote a few others that were similar IIRC, but she wrote so many that I don’t see the others with a quick online search. It’s about a poor farm girl in (possibly Depression era) Florida who befriends and acts kindly toward a family of migrant workers who are even worse off than she is.

The Newberrys were a mixed bag as I recall. I hated Island of the Blue Dolphins and Julie of the Wolves: they seemed better for adolescents than nine or ten year olds, problem novels about orphaned girls from ethnic minorities who had to grow up fast.

If you’re going for novels set in the past, there are the Betsy-Tacy books (Victorian upper midwest), and the Shoes books (England, I have no idea what era).

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MG 04.12.12 at 5:06 pm

“The Singing Tree”/”The Good Master” by Kate Seredy. Set in Hungary before WWI.

Time Warp Trio books (boys travel through time)

Not actual history but I loved (and so did my children) the Greek mythology and Norse mythology books by the D’Aulaires. Excellent and exciting with great illustrations.

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Martha Bridegam 04.12.12 at 7:07 pm

I remember Scott O’Dell’s *The King’s Fifth* as a gripping story of Spanish colonial exploration in southern North America. Haven’t reread it in more than 30 years so might have objections now but it certainly made an impression at the time.

Similarly dated might-think-differently-now but vivid memories of Mildred D. Taylor, *Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry*; Marguerite Henry, *Justin Morgan Had a Horse*, Robert Lawson, *Ben and Me*.

Very definitely *Johnny Tremain*.

Maybe Kenneth Roberts’ *Arundel* though IIRC it has rude bits.

Mary P. Wells Smith’s 1904 historical novel, *The Boy Captive of Old Deerfield* is vivid but would require a “product of its times” discussion.

Similarly why not the Victorian-Edwardian classics? Mark Twain’s novels and *Life on the Mississippi*, Dickens’ livelier work, Frances Hodgson Burnett, E. Nesbit, Alice in Wonderland, etc. etc….

If she doesn’t want to stick to history, then obviously LeGuin’s Earthsea, Tolkien, all of Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, and on into other sci-fi/fantasy…

Lucky kid.

(Gen-X poster here, obviously.)

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jd 04.13.12 at 4:13 am

new york the novel by edward rutherfurd

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