My daughter is nearly 10 years old and an avid reader, but she has one rule: The book she reads must be about a girl her age. I’ve found this is an engaging factor for lots of kids, particularly tweens. Here are 10 historical fiction novels about tween girls ages 9 to 12:
1. Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
This is a story that addresses Japanese internment camps in America. Ten-year-old Manami has a peaceful life with her family on Bainbridge Island. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert.
2. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city during the Taliban’s rule. Parvana’s father—a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed—works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.
3. Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose
Written in verse, this is a story about a friendship between two 12-year-old girls in late 16th-century Roanoke. What happened to the Roanoke colony remains a mystery to this day. Alis, an English settler, meets Kimi, a member of the Roanoke tribe, and the two form a strong bond despite not sharing a common language. During heightened tensions between the settlers and two different Native American communities, Alis and Kimi decide to go against their communities and risk everything to help each other.
4. Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Eleven-year-old Turtle is a tough cookie. It’s 1935 and jobs, money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle’s mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn’t like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to live with relatives she’s never met. Florida’s like nothing Turtle’s ever seen before though. It’s hot and strange, full of ragtag boy cousins, family secrets, scams and even buried pirate treasure.
5. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Twelve-year-old Annabelle is growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars. She has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town … until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks.
6. Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
Glory Be starts off in 1964 in a Mississippi town where everyone is riled up over the segregated public pool. As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn 12, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she’ll be entering high school. Then there’s her best friend, Frankie. Things had always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren’t.
7. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
This award-winning novel centers on 11-year-old Delphine. She is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers.
8. Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman
When the Great Depression hits, 10-year-old Allie Sherman’s family moves from New Haven to Stamford, Connecticut, where her father has found a job. Once there, she meets Martha, who attends the local parochial school and warns Allie about Mimi, the crybaby across the street whose father is a bookie. While Martha spends time with her friend Cynthia, Allie befriends Mimi.
9. Morning Girl by Michael Dorris
This novel tells the story of 12-year-old Morning Girl and her brother, Star Boy, two native Americans of the Taino tribe, their family and their community, as they grow up together in the Bahamas in the fateful year of 1492.
10. Sophia’s War by Avi
Sophia’s War is set in 1776, when young Sophia Calderwood witnesses the execution of Nathan Hale in New York City, which is newly occupied by the British army. Sophia is horrified by the event and resolves to do all she can to help the American cause. Recruited as a spy, she becomes a maid in the home of General Clinton, the supreme commander of the British forces in America.