Best Of: Historical Fiction & Social Studies Favorites

Not long ago, I presented some booktalks at the annual ITEM (Information & Technology Educators of Minnesota) conference in Minnesota.  My areas this year included Historical Fiction & Social Studies titles for the MS/HS crowd.  Without going into quite as much detail as I did at ITEM, I wanted to give a quick run-down on this blog about the titles I presented, including some shout-outs to my favorites of the bunch.

Let’s start with the social studies titles, with my top selections being:


No Dream Is Too High by Buzz Aldrin. 9781426216497. 2016. Grade 9-Adult.

-The indomitable spirit of Mr. Aldrin is quite impressive!


Presenting Buffalo Bill by Candace Fleming. 9781596437630. 2016. Grade 6-9.

-The “wild west” myth is so embedded in American culture that it is fascinating to see how large a role William Cody played in it via his westward expansion escapades and development of the Wild West Show.


In The Shadow Of Liberty by Kenneth C. Davis. 9781627793117. 2016. Grade 6-8.

-It has always been kind of the “dirty little secret” of early America that the Founding Fathers owned slaves.  All men created equal?  Not hardly.  This is a fascinating look at the lives of enslaved individuals under prominent political figures.


Sabotage: The Mission To Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb. 9780545732437. 2016. Grade 7-12.

-After discovering that “heavy water” was the key to atomic weapon potential, the Nazi regime began producing the substance at a plant in Norway.  Were it not for the courageous sabotage missions undertaken by British Special Operations and freedom-fighting Norwegian citizens, the Nazis very likely would have achieved nuclear capability.


Everydata by John Johnson & Mike Gluck. 9781629561011. 2016. Grade 11-Adult.

-Evaluating statistics can be very tricky business.  As Mark Twain once said: “Facts are stubborn…statistics are more pliable”.  Fortunately, Johnson & Gluck are able to point out some of the fallacies of statistical manipulation in a way that is accessible to all readers.  You’ll never look at statistics the same after reading this book.

Other great MS/HS titles I enjoyed this year included…

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A Storm Too Soon by Michael J. Tougias. 9781627792813. 2016. Grade 5-8.

Ten Days A Madwoman by Deborah Noyes. 9780803740174. 2016. Grade 6-9.

Rising Above by Gregory Zuckerman. 9780399545702. 2016. Grade 6-8.

The Nazi Titanic by Robert P. Watson. 9780306824890. 2016. Grade 11-Adult.

Fair Play by Cyd Zeigler. 9781617754470. 2016. Grade 11-Adult.


On the fiction side of things, my favorites were:


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. 9781101994825. 2016. Grade 5-7.

-Almost “To Kill A Mockingbird”-esque in the way examines a child’s leaving behind the innocence of childhood and emerging into the more complicated world of adulthood.


The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters. 9781419719158. 2016. Grade 9-12.

-An engaging mystery tale that also touches on themes of racism, civil rights, and religion set under the backdrop of 1920s Ku Klux Klan-fearing America.


All We Have Left by Wendy Mills. 9781619633438. 2016. Grade 9-12.

-One girl is just about to experience loss on 9/11/01.  Another girl has been dealing with its repercussions the last 15 years.  Both narratives inevitably converge in what turns out to be an emotional look at how 9/11 impacted so many segments of the NYC, American, and even World populations.


The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain by John Boyne. 9781627790307. 2016. Grade 9-12.

-Abhorrent as it was, the Nazi regime was populated by human beings like you and I.  This novel deftly examines how the enviable power and intimidation of the Nazi uniform could corrupt the minds of young and old alike.  Perhaps even succeeds Boyne’s earlier “Boy In The Striped Pajamas”.


The Last Days Of Night by Graham Moore. 9780812988901. 2016. Grade 10-Adult.

-Before electricity was ubiquitous, the “Current Wars” of the 1880s set the stage for that transformation to occur.  Featuring such historical figures as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, this novel tells a great “what if?” story of the early days of modern technological invention.

More interesting MS/HS fiction titles include…

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Empty Places by Kathy Canon Wiechman. 9781629794518. 2016. Grade 4-8.

Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale by J. Albert Mann. 9781629794655. 2016. Grade 5-8.

A Taste For Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby. 9780545817844. 2016. Grade 7-12.

Outrun The Moon by Stacey Lee. 9780399175411. 2016. Grade 7-12.

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard. 9781627793902. 2016. Grade 8-12.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. 9781492637257. 2016. Grade 11-Adult.


Zachv1 Zach K.