Historical Fiction for Tween Boys: 10 of Our Favorite Picks

Great books to engage kids ages 9–12.

Historical Fiction for Tween Boys - 10 of Our Favorite Picks

Last week, we shared our 10 favorite historical fiction books about tween girls, but we wouldn’t want to leave out the boys! Here are 10 historical fiction novels about tween boys ages 9 to 12:

1. Paperboy by Vince Vawter

The story takes place in 1959. “Little Man” Victor, an 11-year-old boy who stutters, takes over his best friend Rat’s paper route while Rat is visiting his grandparents. Little Man has various encounters with Rat’s customers. The paper route poses challenges and introduces Little Man to life’s daily obstacles.

2. John Lincoln Clem: Civil War Drummer Boy by E.F. Abbott

Do you have what it takes to run off and join the army, leaving your family behind? That’s what John Lincoln Clem, a 9-year-old boy living in Ohio, does as the American Civil War rages on.

In 1861, Johnny sneaks onto a train filled with men from the 3rd Ohio Union Regiment, determined to fight for his country. Taken in by the older soldiers, Johnny becomes a drummer boy—not to mention the youngest person to serve in the war. Living a soldier’s life, Johnny experiences the brutalities of battle and the hunger and illness in between. Eventually he is captured by the Confederates, imprisoned and then sent home a hero.

3. The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

Twelve-year-old Eel has trouble of his own: As an orphan and a “mudlark,” he spends his days in the filthy River Thames searching for bits of things to sell. He’s being hunted by Fisheye Bill Tyler, and a nastier man never walked the streets of London. And he’s got a secret that costs him four precious shillings a week to keep safe. But even for Eel, things aren’t so bad until that fateful August day in 1854—the day the deadly cholera (“blue death”) comes to Broad Street.


4. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III

Eleven-year-old Jimmy McClean is a Lakota boy—though you wouldn’t guess it by his name: His father is part white and part Lakota and his mother is Lakota. When he embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, he learns more and more about his Lakota heritage—in particular, the story of Crazy Horse, one of the most important figures in Lakota and American history.

Drawing references and inspiration from the oral stories of the Lakota tradition, celebrated author Joseph Marshall III juxtaposes the contemporary story of Jimmy with an insider’s perspective on the life of Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (c. 1840–1877).

The book follows the heroic deeds of the Lakota leader who took up arms against the U.S. federal government to fight against encroachments on the territories and way of life of the Lakota people, including leading a war party to victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Along with Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse was the last of the Lakota to surrender his people to the U.S. army. Through his grandfather’s tales about the famous warrior, Jimmy learns more about his Lakota heritage and, ultimately, himself.

5. The Dagger Quick by Brian Eames

Twelve-year-old Christopher, aka Kitto, is seemingly doomed to follow in the footsteps of his father as a barrel-maker in 17th-century England, especially because of his clubfoot. Yet Kitto longs for more. And after his father is murdered and his stepmother and brother are kidnapped, he has no choice but to set off on a dangerous seafaring voyage with bounty hunters on his trail and his sole ally an uncle he hardly knows; an uncle who is an infamous pirate and the only man ever crazy enough to steal from the equally infamous Governor of Jamaica. …


6. Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Twelve-year-old Joseph Johnson has lost just about everyone he’s ever loved. He lost his pa in an accident. He lost his ma and his little sister to sickness. And now, he’s lost his pony—fast, fierce, beautiful Sarah, taken away by a man who had no right to take her.

Joseph can get her back though. The odds are stacked against him, but he isn’t about to give up. He will face down deadly animals, dangerous men and the fury of nature itself on his quest to be reunited with the only family he has left.

7. Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

Ten-year-old Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn 11 in March. And he can’t even ask them why—not because of his Astonishing Stutter but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening.)

As Noah—now “Jonah Brown”—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening—and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs?

In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.

8. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to Alcatraz Island so that his father can take a job as a prison guard and his sister, Natalie, can go to a special school in San Francisco. Moose misses his old baseball team, and he struggles for recognition in his new school.

Then Natalie, who has autism, is rejected from the Esther P. Marinoff School, crushing his parents’ hopes for Natalie’s education. Now Moose must take care of Natalie after school while his mother teaches music lessons, and he must find a way to deal with Natalie’s screaming fits and constant needs.

9. Salt by Helen Frost

Anikwa and James, 12 years old in 1812, spend their days fishing, trapping and exploring together in the forests of the Indiana Territory. To Anikwa and his family, members of the Miami tribe, this land has been home for centuries. As traders, James’s family has ties to the Miami community as well as to the American soldiers in the fort. Now tensions are rising―the British and American armies prepare to meet at Fort Wayne for a crucial battle, and Native Americans from surrounding tribes gather in Kekionga to protect their homeland.

After trading stops and precious commodities like salt are withheld, the fort comes under siege, and war ravages the land. James and Anikwa, like everyone around them, must decide where their deepest loyalties lie. Can their families―and their friendship―survive?

10. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood by Rosemary Wells

“You’re always drawing in that notebook of yours,” Dino’s friend teases. To 11-year-old Dino, 1950s Havana is alive with color, music and glamour, and he itches to capture it on paper. When Fidel Castro and the Communist Party take over the Cuban government, Dino’s family must move to New York, where the lonely boy pours his heart into making a model of Havana’s archways and balconies, buildings and streets.

Historical Fiction for Tween Boys: 10 of Our Favorite Picks