Middle Grade Historical Fiction

From the Revolutionary War in America, to 1841 Japan, to Nazi Germany, these historical fiction stories are a great way to be introduced to different time periods and explore what life was like way back when.

*All book descriptions are from the publisher.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world… Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety in America… Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe… All three kids go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers — from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, shocking connections will tie their stories together in the end.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook/audiobook and hoopla audiobook

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook/audiobook.

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate, become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook/audiobook.

Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus

In 1841, a Japanese fishing vessel sinks. Its crew is forced to swim to a small, unknown island, where they are rescued by a passing American ship. Japan’s borders remain closed to all Western nations, so the crew sets off to America, learning English on the way.

Manjiro, a 14-year-old boy, is curious and eager to learn everything he can about this new culture. Eventually the captain adopts Manjiro and takes him to his home in New England. The boy lives there for some time and then heads to San Francisco to pan for gold. After many years, he makes it back to Japan, only to be imprisoned as an outsider. With his hard-won knowledge of the West, Manjiro is in a unique position to persuade the emperor to ease open the boundaries around Japan; he may even achieve his unlikely dream of becoming a samurai.

Accessible as an Overdrive ebook and hoopla ebook.

YA Books About Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month, and even as 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone will face a challenge with their mental health at some point. It could even be now, as we all cope with the stress and worry that comes from the COVID-19 pandemic. The YA stories listed below feature characters and conversations surrounding mental health, and through them we can begin to identify and recognize the mental health challenges that everyone faces. We may even find our own stories reflected in their pages. 

*All descriptions are from the publishers.

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health by Kelly Jensen

What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word “crazy” offensive? What happens when a label like that gets attached to your everyday experiences?

To understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there’s no single definition of crazy, there’s no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things—wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate?—to different people.

In (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, thirty-three actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore a wide range of topics: their personal experiences with mental illness; how we do and don’t talk about mental health; help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently; and what, exactly, might make someone crazy. If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages… and let’s get talking.

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Jubilee has it all together. She’s an elite cellist, and when she’s not working in her stepmom’s indie comic shop, she’s prepping for the biggest audition of her life.

Ridley is barely holding it together. His parents own the biggest comic-store chain in the country, and Ridley can’t stop disappointing them—that is, when they’re even paying attention.

They meet one fateful night at a comic convention prom, and the two can’t help falling for each other. Too bad their parents are at each other’s throats every chance they get, making a relationship between them nearly impossible… unless they manage to keep it a secret.

Then again, the feud between their families may be the least of their problems. As Ridley’s anxiety spirals, Jubilee tries to help but finds her focus torn between her fast-approaching audition and their intensifying relationship. What if love can’t conquer all? What if each of them needs more than the other can give?

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss – her life – and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Charlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people do in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.


You can also learn more about Mental Health Awareness month and access some tools and resources for dealing with your mental health by visiting Mental Health America’s page for Mental Health Month.