Return to SLIS Home Page

Library & Information Science, Course 262: Resources for Young Adults.
Dr. David Loertscher
Summer, 1998


Good Bibliographies of Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction (Middle School and High School) by Dale Copps is a list done for a cooperative bibliography project of LM-Net. While only author and title, it seems to be updated regularly.

• Notable Children's Trade Books in the field of Social Studies is a list done by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) each year. It includes titles both for children and young adults in a wide variety of social studies topics mostly aimed at young people who are doing school assignments. You can view the list on the NCSS web page or as an electronic document (w5d.PDF).

How Novel! Canadian Young Adult Literature (Historical Fiction) is an annotated list with author bios of Canadian historical fiction done by the Saskatoon Public Library.

Website:  Best Historical Fiction for Young Adults from June 1993 issue of VOYA. Recommended titles were selected from the Best Books for Young Adults Lists, 1990-92 (chosen by the American Library Association), the Booklist magazine's Editors Choice, 1991-92, and School Library Journal magazine's Best Books, 1990-91.  


Suggestions for Evaluating Historical Fiction

(from Literature for Today's Young Adults, p. 258)

A good historical novel usually has:

  • A setting that is integral to the story.
  • An authentic rendition of the time, place, and people being featured.
  • An author who is so thoroughly steeped in the history of the period that he or she can be comfortably creative without making mistakes.
  • Believable characters with whom young readers can identify.
  • Evidence that even across great time spans people share similar emotions.
  • References to well-known events or people, or other clues through which the reader can place the happenings in their correct historical framework.
  • Readers who come away with the feeling that they know a time or place better. It is as if they have lived in it for at least a few hours.

A poor historical novel may have:

  • A story that could have happened any time or any place. The historical setting is for visual appeal and to compensate for a weak story.
  • Anachronisms in which the author illogically mixes up people, events, speaking styles, social values, or technological developments from different time periods.
  • Awkward narration and exposition as the author tries to teach history through characters' conversations.
  • Oversimplification of the historical issues and a stereotyping of the "bad" and the "good" guys.
  • Characters who fail to come alive as individuals having something in common with the readers. They are just stereotyped representatives of a particular period.
Other Resources

Professional Articles about Historical Fiction

Professional article (w5m.pdf) MacLeod, Anne Scott. "Writing Backward: Modern Models in Historical Fiction," Horn Book, January/Febrary, 1998, p. 26-33. - Argues that books of historical fiction for teens and children should not ignore the attitudes and ways we, today, consider politically incorrect.

Professional article (w5g.pdf): Aaron, Daniel. "What Can You Learn From a Historical Novel?" American Heritage, October, 1992, p. 55-62. - The author maintains that good writers produced the kind of history good historians can't or don't write.

Professional article (w5n.pdf): Beavin, Kristi. "Listen Up: From Medieval to Magical (Audiobooks)," Horn Book, January/February, 1997, p. 85-90. - Discusses a number of quality audiobooks for teens and issues such as readers and engagement of the listener.

Professional article (w5o.pdf): Nawrot, Kathy. "Making Connections with Historical Fiction," The Clearing House, July/August, 1996, p. 343-45. - Gives ideas for using this genre with children. A Canadian perspective.

Professional article (w5p.pdf): McElmeel, Sharron L. "Chritopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier," The Book Report, September/October, 1996, p. 28-30. - Discusses these authors' historical fiction works for middle school readers.

Website:  Historical Fiction: Criticism and Evaluation. This short essay on historical fiction from James Madison University's Internet School Library Media Center discusses:  What Is Historical Fiction?, Benefits of Historical Fiction, Selecting Historical Fiction and Types of Historical Fiction.

Reference Works

Website:  Authors of Historical Fiction, by Era. The Evanston, Illinois public library has compiled a list of authors of historical fiction, grouped by area of the world and chronology.

Website:  Authors, Titles of American Historical Fiction. The Tempe, Arizona public library has created a extensive list of American historical fiction by era.

Website:  Master List of Historical Fiction Writers. Soon Y. Choi from the University of Texas has created an extensive list of "Writers of Historical Fiction" with short biographies, lists of works, hyperlinks to internet resources and comments.

Website:  Social Studies, History, Historical Fiction: A Bibliography of Bibliographies. James Madison University's Internet School Library Media Center has created this current bibliography of bibliographies as aides to librarians selecting works of historical fiction.

Award Winners

Website: Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award Winners. A list of the winners from 1984 to 1997.

Women in History

Website: Foregrounding Women in History in Children's and Young Adult Books. Kay E. Vandergrift, author of A Feminist Research Agenda in Youth Literature, has published a list of mostly recent biographies of women, in order to fill the "omissions in teaching American history [which] often reflects sources and attitudes more apropos of a nineteenth-century male-centered culture."

Student project: Lea Rude (Aug. 98) has created a web site entitled "Historical Fiction Starring Girls" complete with annotations and book cover pictures.

The West

Student project: Julie Streck-Carver (Aug. 98) (w5q.html) has created an Annotated Bibliography of Louis L'amour's Sackett Titles.

Return to top
Return to 262 homepage

This page was last revised on August 7, 1998.