Intermediate/middle school historical fiction

These works of historical fiction provide snapshots of time and place — and blood- and chosen families — for middle-graders and middle-schoolers.

In Indian No More, it’s 1954 and eight-year-old Regina Petit and her family — members of the Umpqua tribe in northern Oregon — are forced by the U.S. government to relocate to Los Angeles. There, Regina tries to adapt, making friends outside her culture and figuring out what it means to be Indian. Authors Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell's straightforward, easygoing narrative is shot through with deadpan, subversive humor; this book is distinctive in voice, accessible in style, and told with an insider's particular power (it's based on McManis's childhood). (Lee & Low/Tu, 8–11 years)

In Ibi Zoboi's My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, seventh grader Ebony-Grace visits the father she hardly knows in Harlem during the summer of 1984. Her anxiety is exacerbated when she learns her beloved grandfather (who entertains her star-filled dreams of space travel and adventure) is in trouble back in Alabama. Zoboi's touching and (sometimes) humorous coming-of-age story highlights the importance of imagination and learning to celebrate being different. Interspersed black-and-white comic panel illustrations by Anthony Piper depict Ebony-Grace's fanciful voyages to other worlds. (Dutton, 9–12 years)

In 1971, the "grand new experiment" of school integration means that twelve-year-old Jamila and her two best friends will attend junior high across town. Feeling like outsiders in their predominantly white Queens, New York, neighborhood, the mixed-race tweens are excited to finally "fit in." But the reality is not what they had expected. In The Long Ride, Jamila's narration is authentic-sounding as she navigates transitions, friendships, and family expectations. Marina Budhos's author's note provides historical context. (Random/Lamb, 11–14 years)

After the "dog of [her] heart," dies, fourteen-year-old Beverly, protagonist of Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (companion to Raymie Nightingale and Louisiana's Way Home), catches a ride with her loser cousin to Tamaray Beach, where she finds a job busing tables and a place to stay in return for driving elderly Iola Jenkins to bingo. Drawn with unusual depth, the members of Beverly's small community emerge as complex individuals but also, collectively, as a force for change and goodwill in this 1970s-set tale. (Candlewick, 11–14 years)

From the November 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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