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.

Middle Grade Fiction Picks For Ages 10+ Dealing With Struggles

As adults, we have so many different and conflicting feelings each day of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are feeling similar emotions with the loss of their routines and worries for their families. Here are some middle grade books that explore difficult life situations that children can experience. Despite their struggles, the characters in these stories demonstrate resilience, and learn how to understand and accept their own emotions.

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

In this story, narrator Bea looks back on when she was a fifth grader, her parents divorced, and her father remarried. The list of things that will not change was to console her through all the things that did. Bea must deal with anxiety, a new stepsister, prejudice against her gay father, and her own failures with anger management.  But with support from adults, including a helpful therapist. Bea learns to see the emotions behind her behavior, and finds the strength to cope.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Powerful historical fiction that uses three parallel stories to show the migrant experience from the point of view of three different kids migrating by boat in three different time periods. The two boys and a girl are fleeing from Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Aleppo. Their journeys have much hardship and fear, and experiences of loss. The behavior of the adults they encounter runs the gamut of exploitation to generosity. These three stories demonstrate the very real value of hope.  

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

Middle schooler Zoey has to look after her three younger siblings while her mother works her shifts at the local pizza parlor. The family lives in a rural part of Vermont, and her family’s poverty causes many hardships for her. Her homework isn’t always done, her clothes are few and dirty, and food and basic transportation needs are challenging. A sympathetic teacher finagles her into the debate club, where she learns to speak up for her friends and herself, find her voice, and start imagining a future.

Find more books for kids you can access for free with your library card on Overdrive (or in the Libby app) and hoopla!