20th Century Fiction (Grades 4-6)

1900’s
Curtis, Christopher Paul.  The Madman of Piney Woods.  J FIC Curtis
Even though it is now 1901, the people of Buxton, Canada (originally a settlement of runaway slaves) and Chatham, Canada are still haunted by two events of half a century before–the American Civil War, and the Irish potato famine, and the lasting damage those events caused to the survivors

Lasky, Kathryn.  Dreams in the Golden Country : The Diary of Zipporah Feldman, a Jewish Immigrant Girl.  J FIC Dear America.  
Twelve-year-old Zippy, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, keeps a diary account of the first eighteen months of her family’s life on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1903-1904. 

Nixon, Joan Lowery.  Land of Dreams.  J FIC Nixon 
In 1902 sixteen-year-old Kristin travels with her family from Sweden to a new life in Minnesota, where she finds herself frustrated by the restrictions placed on what girls of her age are expected or allowed to do.

Paulsen, Gary.  The Winter Room.  J FIC Paulsen/ J PB P
A young boy growing up on a northern Minnesota farm describes the scenes around him and recounts his old Norwegian uncle’s tales of an almost mythological logging past.

Snyder, Zilpha Keatley.  And Condors Danced.  J FIC Snyder
The year Carly turns eleven, 1907, is filled with playing detective, watching condors, observing a fierce feud involving her family’s Southern California ranch, and coping with unexpected tragedies.

Snyder, Zilpha Keatley.  Gib Rides Home.  J FIC Snyder (SERIES)
Despite the harsh treatment he has endured at the Lovell House orphanage, ten-year-old Gib Whittaker manages to maintain his hopeful outlook when he is farmed out  to help with the horses of a wealthy banker in 1908.  SEQUEL: Gib and the Gray Ghost.

Wyman, Andrea.  Red Sky at Morning.  J FIC Wyman
In Indiana in 1909, Callie finds that she must grow up quickly when death and other hardships leave her alone on the family farm with her ailing grandfather Opa.

1910’s
Beatty, Patricia.  Eight Mules from Monterey.  J FIC Beatty
During the summer of 1916 thirteen-year-old Fayette and her brother accompany their widowed mother on a mule trip into the California mountains, where she is to establish library outposts in isolated communities.

Cheaney, J.B.  I Don’t Know How the Story Ends.  J FIC Cheaney
Twelve-year-old Isobel is unhappy about spending the summer of 1918 at her aunt’s home in Hollywood with her mother and sister until her cousin, Ranger, involves the girls in creating the perfect film and, when her father returns from the war, his serious injury becomes their inspiration.

Harlow, Joan Hiatt.  Joshua’s Song.  J FIC Harlow
Needing to earn money after his father’s death during the influenza epidemic of 1918, thirteen-year-old Joshua works as a newspaper boy in Boston, one day finding himself in the vicinity of an explosion that sends tons of molasses coursing through the streets.

Hesse, Karen.  Letters From Rifka.  JPB H/ J FIC Hesse
In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family’s flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others emigrate to America.

Hulme, Joy N.  Through the Open Door.  J FIC Hulme
Nine-year-old Dora, who has been kept out of school because of her speech impediment, dreams of learning to speak normally as her family joins a group of other Mormons journeying from Utah to New Mexico in 1910.

Kendall, Jane F.  Miranda and the Movies.  J FIC Kendall
The arrival of a band of moviemaking visionaries in peaceful Leewood Heights enlivens the summer of 1914 for twelve-year-old Miranda.

Levine, Kristin.  The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had.  J FIC Levine
In Moundville, Alabama, in 1917, twelve-year-old Dit hopes the new postmaster will have a son his age, but instead he meets Emma, who is black, and their friendship challenges accepted ways of thinking and leads them to save the life of a condemned man.

Meyer, Carolyn.  Anastasia, the Last Grand Duchess.  J FIC Dear America
A novel in diary form in which the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II describes the privileged life her family led up until the time of World War I and the tragic events that befell them.

Skurzynski, Gloria.  Goodbye, Billy Radish.  J FIC Skurzynski
In 1917, as the United States enters World War I, ten-year-old Hank sees change all around him in his western Pennsylvania steel mill town and feels his older Ukrainian friend Billy drifting apart from him.

1920’s
Fantaskey, Beth.  Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter.  J FIC Fantaskey
In the 1920s, a ten-year-old newsgirl who aspires to be a reporter at the Chicago Tribune investigates the murder of a gangster.

Fitzgerald, Laura Marx.  The Gallery.  J FIC Fitzgerald
It’s 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of success, she suspects something might be deeply wrong in the household—specifically with Rose Sewell, the formerly vivacious lady of the house who now refuses to leave her room. The other servants say Rose is crazy, but scrappy, strong-willed Martha thinks there’s more to the story—and that the paintings in the Sewell’s gallery contain a hidden message detailing the truth.

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody.  Balto and the Great Race.  J PB K
Recounts how the sled dog Balto saved Nome, Alaska, in 1925 from a diphtheria epidemic by delivering medicine through a raging snowstorm.

Parenteau, Shirley.  Ship of Dolls.  J FIC Parenteau
It’s 1926, and the one thing eleven-year-old Lexie Lewis wants more than anything is to leave Portland, where she is living with her strict grandparents, and rejoin her mother, a carefree singer in San Francisco. But Mama’s new husband doesn’t think a little girl should live with parents who work all night and sleep all day. Lexie’s class has been raising money to ship a doll to the children of Japan in a friendship exchange, and when Lexie learns that the girl who writes the best letter to accompany the doll will be sent to the farewell ceremony in San Francisco, she knows she just has to be the winner.

Weissenberg, Fran. The Streets are Paved with Gold J FIC Weissenberg
The eighth grade is a difficult time of transition for Deborah, as she attempts to reconcile her desire for a regular school life and friendships outside the Jewish community with her strong attachment to her very traditional family.

Ylvisaker, Anne.  The Luck of the Buttons.  J FIC Ylvisaker
In Iowa circa 1929, spunky twelve-year-old Tugs vows to turn her family’s luck around, with the help of a Brownie camera and a small-town mystery that only she can solve.

1930’s
Choldenko, Gennifer.  Al Capone Does My Shirts.  Y FIC Choldenko  (SERIES)
A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.Al Capone Shines My Shoes (2009)

Cummings, Priscilla.  Saving Grace.  J FIC Cummings
When Grace’s family is evicted from their Washington,  D.C., apartment just before Christmas 1932, and she and her younger brothers are sent to the Mission, Grace wonders what will become of her sick older brother, her pregnant mother, and her out-of-work father.

Dagg, Carole Estby.  Sweet Home Alaska.  J FIC Dagg
In 1934, eleven-year-old Terpsichore’s father signs up for President Roosevelt’s Palmer Colony project, uprooting the family from Wisconsin to become pioneers in Alaska, where Terpsichore refuses to let rough conditions and first impressions get in the way of her grand adventure.

Draper, Sharon M.  Stella By Starlight.  J FIC Draper
When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.

Fusco, Kimberly Newton.  The Wonder of Charlie Anne.  J FIC Fusco
In a 1930s Massachusetts farm town torn by the Depression, racial tension, and other hardships, Charlie Anne and her black next-door neighbor Phoebe form a friendship that begins to transform their community.

Hesse, Karen.  Out of the Dust.  YPB H/Y FIC Hesse (SUMMER READING)
In a series of poems, fifteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family’s wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.

King, Martha C.  Smugglers’ Island.  J FIC King
Prospects for a pleasant summer with relatives seem unlikely until ten-year-old Todd and his new friend begin exploring the mysterious old Gerrod house.

LaFaye, A.  The Year of the Sawdust Man.  J FIC LaFaye
In 1934, when her mother leaves her and her father, eleven-year-old Nissa tries to cope with the gossip of her small Louisiana town and the changes in her own life.

Peck, Richard.  A Long Way From Chicago.  Y FIC Peck // YPB Peck
A boy recounts his annual summer trips to rural Illinois with his sister during the Great Depression to visit their larger-than-life grandmother.SEQUELSA Year Down Yonder (2000), A Season of Gifts (2009)

Porter, Tracey.  Treasures in the Dust.  J FIC Porter
Eleven-year-old Annie and her friend Violet tell of the hardships endured by their families when dust storms, drought, and the Great Depression hit rural Oklahoma.

Stout, Shawn K.  A Tiny Piece of Sky.  J FIC Stout
In 1939 Hagerstown, Maryland, eleven-year-old Frankie faces suspicion that her German-born father is a Nazi spy.

1940’s

Adler, David A.  Don’t Talk to Me About the War.  J FIC Adler
In 1940, thirteen-year-old Tommy’s routine, playing stickball in his Bronx, New York, neighborhood, talking with his friend Beth, and listening to the Dodgers games on the radio changes as his mother’s illness and his increasing awareness of the war in Europe transform his world.

Avi.  Don’t You Know There’s A War On?  Y FIC Avi
In wartime Brooklyn in 1943, eleven-year-old Howie Crispers mounts a campaign to save his favorite teacher from being fired.

Avi, 1937.  Who Was that Masked Man, Anyway?  J FIC Avi
In the early forties when nearly everyone else is thinking about World War II, sixth-grader Frankie Wattleson gets in trouble at home and at school because of his preoccupation with his favorite radio programs.

Barrie, Barbara.  Lone Star.  J FIC Barrie
Moving from Chicago to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1944, a young Jewish girl copes with her parents’ increased fighting and adopts a new lifestyle which alienates her orthodox grandfather.

Barrow, Randi G. Saving Zasha.  J FIC Barrow
In 1945 Russia, those who own German shepherds are considered traitors, but thirteen-year-old Mikhail and his family are determined to keep the dog a dying man brought them, while his classmate Katia strives to learn his secret.

Fitzmaurice, Kathryn.  A Diamond in the Desert.  J FIC Fitzmaurice
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, thirteen-year-old Tetsu and his family are sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona where a fellow prisoner starts a baseball team, but when Tetsu’s sister becomes ill and he feels responsible, he stops playing

Giff, Patricia Reilly.  All The Way Home.  J FIC Giff
In 1941, circumstances bring together Brick, a boy from New York’s apple country, and Mariel, a young girl made shy by her bout with polio, and the two make a journey from Brooklyn back to help Brick’s elderly neighbors save their apple crop and to help Mariel learn about her past.

Giff, Patricia Reilly.  Lily’s Crossing.  Y FIC Giff // Y PB G
During a summer spent at Rockaway Beach in 1944, Lily’s friendship with a young Hungarian refugee causes her to see the war and her own world differently.

Hahn, Mary Downing.  Following My Own Footsteps.  J FIC Hahn
In 1945, Gordy’s grandmother takes him and his family into her North Carolina home after his abusive father is arrested, and he just begins to respond to his grandmother’s loving discipline when his father returns.

Hahn, Mary Downing.  Stepping on the Cracks.  J FIC Hahn
In 1944, while her brother is overseas fighting in World War II, eleven-year-old Margaret gets a new view of the school bully Gordy when she finds him hiding his own brother, an army deserter, and decides to help him.

Holt, Kimberly Willis.  Dear Hank Williams.  J FIC Holt
In Rippling Creek, Louisiana, in 1948, eleven-year-old Tate writes letters to her favorite country singer, sharing her dreams of becoming a singer and revealing that her mother is in prison.

Larson, Kirby.  Dash.  J FIC Larson
Forced to move with her family to an internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American Mitsi mourns her separation from her dog and tries to keep up with the outside world with the help of a neighbor back home.

Levitin, Sonia.  Annie’s Promise.  J FIC Levitin
Her experiences at a summer camp in the California mountains in 1945 give twelve-year-old Annie Platt new insight into her overprotective family of German-Jewish immigrants.

Lieurance, Suzanne.  The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp.  J FIC Lieurance
In 1942 after the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, twelve-year-old Harry Yakamoto and his family are forced to move to an internment camp where they must learn to survive in the desert of California under the watch of armed guards. Includes section about the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Lord, Bette.  In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.  J FIC Lord
In 1947, a Chinese child comes to Brooklyn where she becomes Americanized at school, in her apartment building, and by her love for baseball.

Lowry, Lois.  Number the Stars.  J FIC Lowry/JPB L
In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis.

McSwigan, Marie.  Snow Treasure.  J FIC McSwigan
For 12-year-old Peter, the Norwegian winter of 1940 begins like any other.  But when Nazis come, the town wants to hide the bank’s gold bullion.

Pearson, Kit.  The Sky is Falling.  J FIC Pearson
The experiences of a young girl and her small brother who are evacuated to Canada at the beginning of World War II and find that they will be staying with complete strangers.

Rodman, Mary Ann.  Jimmy’s Stars.  J FIC Rodman
In 1943, eleven-year-old Ellie is her brother Jimmy’s “best girl,” and when he leaves Pittsburgh just before Thanksgiving to fight in World War II, he promises he will return, asks her to leave the Christmas tree up until he does, and reminds her to “let the joy out.”

Slepian, Jan.  Risk n’ Roses.  J FIC Slepian
In 1948, newly-moved to the Bronx, eleven-year-old Skip longs to shed her responsibility for her mentally handicapped older sister and give her whole attention to her new friendship with the bold and daring girl who sems to run the neighborhood.

Strickland, Brad.  When Mack Came Back.  J FIC Strickland
When his older brother leaves the family farm in order to join the army in 1943, ten-year-old Maury remains behind to deal with his angry father and to care for Ben’s injured puppy.

1950’s

Avi.  Catch You Later, Traitor.  J FIC Avi
It’s 1951, and twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid in Brooklyn, New York, who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas. But when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep, accusing Pete’s father of being a Communist, Pete is caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family?

Blakemore, Megan Frazer.  The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill.  J FIC Blakemore
Hazel Kaplansky and new student Samuel Butler investigate rumors that a Russian spy has infiltrated their small Vermont town amidst the fervor of Cold War-era McCarthyism, but more is revealed than they could ever have imagined.

Cheng, Andrea.  Eclipse.  J FIC Cheng
In Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 1952, eight-year-old Peti gives up his room to his Hungarian relatives, including a twelve-year-old cousin who bullies him, and worries about his grandfather who cannot escape from behind the Iron Curtain.

Lipsyte, Robert.  One Fat Summer.  YPB L (SUMMER READING)
An overweight fourteen-year-old boy experiences a turningpoint summer in which he learns to stand up for himself.

Robinet, Harriette.  Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues.  J FIC Robinet
Twelve-year-old Alfa Merryfield, his older sister, and their grandmother struggle for rent money, food, and their dignity as they participate in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in the summer of 1956.

Smothers, Ethel Footman.  Down in the Piney Woods.  J FIC Smothers
The joys and frustrations of family life are portrayed through the eyes of Annie Rye, the ten-year-old daughter of a black sharecropper.

1960’s

Kidd, Ronald.  Night on Fire.  J FIC Kidd
Hoping that the arrival of Freedom Riders in her town will help her community shed its antiquated views, thirteen-year-old Billie is forced to confront her own mindset when things turn tragic.

Wiles, Deborah.  Countdown.  Y FIC Wiles  (The Sixites Trilogy)
Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that’s hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall. It’s 1962, and it seems the whole country is living in fear.  SEQUELS: Revolution (2014).

Williams-Garcia, Rita.  One Crazy Summer.  J FIC Williams-Garcia  (Gaither Sisters SERIES)
In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.  SEQUELS: P.S. Be Eleven (2013) & Gone Crazy in Alabama (2015).

Young, Ronder Thomas.  Learning by Heart.  J FIC Young
In the early 1960s, ten-year-old Rachel sees changes in her family and her small Southern town as she tries to sort out how she feels about her young black maid, racial prejudice, and her responsibility for her own life.

1970’s

DiCamillo, Kate.  Raymie Nightingale.  J FIC DiCamillo
Hoping that if she wins a local beauty pageant her father will come home, Raymie practices twirling a baton and performing good deeds as she is drawn into an unlikely friendship with a drama queen and a saboteur.

Kelly, Mark & Freeman, Martha.  Astrotwins–Project Blastoff.  J FIC Kelly
Twins Mark and Scott Kelly decide to build a rocket over the summer when their constant bickering starts to annoy their grandfather in this middle-grade novel based on the NASA astronauts’ real childhoods.

Paterson, Katherine.  Park’s Quest.  J FIC Paterson
Eleven-year-old Park makes some startling discoveries when he travels to his grandfather’s farm in Virginia to learn about his father who died in the Vietnam War.

Shang, Wendy Wan-Long.  The Way Home Looks Now.  J FIC Shang
In 1972, after his older brother is killed in a car crash, Peter Lee’s mother is paralyzed by grief and his traditional Chinese father seems emotionally frozen–but Peter hopes that if he joins a Little League team in Pittsburgh he can reawaken the passion for baseball that all the members of his family used to share and bring them back to life.

1980’s

Naidoo, Beverley.  Journey to Jo’burg: A South African Story.  J FIC Nidoo
Separated from their mother by the harsh social and economic conditions prevalent among blacks in South Africa, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey of over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg.

Sovern, Megan Jean.  The Meaning of Maggie.  J FIC Sovern
Eleven-year-old Maggie Mayfield is an A-plus student with big plans for herself, but at this moment she is also facing a lot of problems–like starting middle school and figuring out how to help her father who is out of work and in a wheelchair.

1990’s
Creech, Sharon.  Chasing Redbird.  Y PB C  //  Y FIC Creech
Thirteen-year-old Zinnia Taylor uncovers family secrets and self truths while clearing a mysterious settler trail that begins on her family’s farm in Kentucky.

Filipovic, Zlata.  Zlata’s Diary : A Child’s Life in Sarajevo.   YPB F / YB Filipovic (SUMMER READING)
In September 1991, shortly before war broke out on the streets of Sarajevo, 11-year-old Zlata Filipovic began to keep a diary. In a voice both innocent and wise, she wrote of the horrors of war–the deaths of friends, a shortage of food, and days spent in fear–and issued a compelling plea for peace that has moved parents and children, and will continue to awaken the conscience of the world.

Gantos, Jack.  Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key.  Y FIC Gantos // Y PB G  //  LT Y FIC Gantos (SUMMER READING)
To the constant disappointment of his mother and his teachers, Joey has trouble paying attention or controlling his mood swings when his prescription medications wear off and he starts getting worked up and acting wired.

Mead, Alice.  Soldier Mom.  J FIC Mead
Eleven-year-old Jasmyn gets a different perspective on life when her mother is sent to Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, leaving her and her baby half brother behind in Maine in the care of her mother’s boyfriend.

Posted in Grades 4-6, Historical Fiction, Reading Lists and tagged , , , , , .