I’m a history buff. My interest in history started when I was young and has continued to grow. I love to visit historical sites, read historical books, and watch historical films. Since my love began when I was young, I believe it is important to expose children and young adults to what has happened in the past. One way to do this is by letting them read historical books. For this month, I have gathered some of my beloved historical novels for young adults.
Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
This biography by James L. Swanson brings young readers the story of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and Booth’s co-conspirators. Swanson uses archival material, trial manuscripts, primary sources, and interviews of the time period to bring the twelve-day manhunt of John Wilkes Booth to life. In addition, readers are given pictures and facts about those involved, the important locations, such as Fords’ Theatre, as well as, newspaper articles and advertisements from April 1865. Chasing Lincoln’s Killeris geared towards young adults, sixth grade and older. However, it is also a favorite among adults. I read the novel this past summer and learned facts about this important time period in American history that I never knew. However, a great alternative for a true adult version is Swanson’s bestseller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel based on the Holocaust during World War II. Main character ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen lives in Denmark with her family. When the German troops come to town to “relocate” all the Jews, Annemarie’s family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen and pretends that she is Annemarie’s late older sister, Lise. Young readers learn about another side of the Holocaust through the Johansen’s actions and involvement in the Danish Resistance. During this time, the Jewish population in Denmark were relocated to the neutral ground of Sweden to avoid being sent to the concentration camps. In fact, Lise was killed by the Nazis for working with the resistance. Number the Stars draws readers into a story of heroism and pride. It is also a tale of friendship and doing good in a time of war. Fact fun: author Lois Lowry created the title to reference Psalm 147:4. As Lowry says, “God has numbered all the stars and has named each of them.”
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
This #1 New York Timesbestseller and young adult read is perfect and relevant for 2019, because it has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission and man’s first walk on the moon on July 16, 1969. Author Margot Lee Shetterly describes in vivid details the story of four African American women making their mark in NASA history. These women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, worked as mathematicians and “human computers” for NASA, meaning they created and solved equations and calculated numbers and flight paths that would send rockets and astronauts into space. Segregated at work, these women’s mathematical skills impressed their mostly white and male counterparts and allowed many of them to be promoted from human computers to engineers and computer programmers. Their careers spanned from World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race. Hidden Figures is a must-read for not just history fans, but for everyone.
From the Civil War to World War II and then to the Space Race, these historical novels cover a wide span of history and are a must-read for young adults.