Historical fiction is my favourite genre, but that hasn’t always been the case. I only really started to read historical novels when I was in my late teens and at that age I was naturally drawn to books written for adults, which meant I missed out on most of the historical fiction available for younger readers.
I have been giving this a lot of thought and am surprised to find that I can only think of two historical fiction books I read as a child that were actually aimed at a young audience. The first is a book I remember reading at school: The Children of the New Forest, Frederick Marryat’s novel about four children orphaned during the English Civil War. It was published in 1847 and is thought to be one of the first historical novels written specifically for young readers. The only other book that has come to mind is Twist of Gold by Michael Morpurgo, the story of two children from Ireland who sail to America in search of their father during the Irish potato famine. I think I was about ten when I read it and all I can remember was that it made me cry!
Of course, just because I didn’t read a lot of historical fiction as a child doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of historical novels out there for children to read. Last week I read a great review by Yvonne of John Meade Falkner’s Moonfleet and I have found a whole list of other books for children and young adults at www.historicalnovels.info sorted by time period and location. I’m also aware that Rosemary Sutcliff wrote a lot of historical novels for children and although she’s not an author I’ve ever read, I do have one or two of her books on my shelf which I’m hoping to read soon.
Did you read any historical novels as a child or young adult? Which would you recommend? Do you think they can still be enjoyed by adult readers?