Check out these awesome history books for middle school kids—fiction and nonfiction!
Is your elementary schooler heading off to middle school next year? Already there? Set them up for success on their social studies projects and intrigue them with their favorite topics with these picks! Getting into history is a lot more fun when you’ve got the right selection, and you’re in luck. Because from picture books and historical fiction to nonfiction texts, we’ve got some of the best books covered right on this list.
Read on for just some of our favorite history books for middle school and older elementary school kids below!
Top History Books for Middle School on Epic
A.I.: How Pattern Recognition Helped Artificial Intelligence Defeat a World Champion (Audiobook)
Written by: Darcy Pattison
Illustrated by: Peter Willis
On March 9, 2016, the AlphaGo artificial intelligence (AI) computer program played five rounds of a popular board game against then world champion, Lee Sedol. AlphaGo had already beaten the European champion using deep learning to recognize patterns. Who will prevail? Man or machine? This enthralling audiobook engages younger kids and middle schoolers while teaching AI concepts and piquing their interests in tech, programming and gaming.
If they’re into this topic, you can find the rest of the Moments in Science collection on Amazon.
Crazy Horse’s Vision
Written by: Joseph Bruchac
Illustrated by: S.D. Nelson
Given a wild horse at eleven-winters old, a Native American boy named Curly receives a vision of a horse dancing in a storm. After conflict erupts between his tribe and nearby settlers, he transforms into the wise and brave Tashunka Witco (Crazy Horse). With this new identity, he defends his people. Today is known as a bold yet compassionate military genius. This beautifully illustrated Read-To-Me book is a heartfelt introduction to the true story of this famed Lakota warrior.
If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation During the Great Depression
Written by: Tracy Daley
Illustrated by: Eric Freeberg
It’s 1935 in Elsinore, California at the height of the Great Depression. Amid nearly crushing hardships, 11-year-old Joseph McCoy has to work shining shoes to help keep his family afloat. One of the few Black people in a mostly white community, Joseph is getting by through hard work, and coping through his special relationship with his sister. But when an all-Black Civilian Conservation Corps work camp arrives, it sparks racial tension and prejudice. The camp comes under threat and Joseph must help save it to bring his family hope for the future.
Maurice and His Dictionary: A True Story
Written by: Cary Fagan
Illustrated by: Enzo Lord Mariano
Set during World War II, this graphic novel follows a young Jewish boy, Maurice on his long, perilous trek toward freedom and an education. Forced to flee their home, his family travels through Europe, and sail to an internment camp in Jamaica. Determined to continue his education and one day become a lawyer, he finds a professor to study with. He’s then able to earn his high school diploma and eventually attend a university in Canada. Throughout his journey, he carries his English dictionary, a vital tool and symbol of hope during the tumultuous migration. Poignant and humorous, this story highlights the power of courage and resilience during tough times.
The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale
Written by: Trinka Hakes Noble
Gettysburg turned the tide of the American Civil War. If your child is a fan of American history, they’ll love learning about this famed battle from the perspective of an eleven-year-old bugle boy named Gabe. Gabe marches with the Union Army and at Gettysburg, he wrestles with his desires to both fulfill his duty and protect the people he loves. This longer picture book offers a unique and beautifully illustrated glimpse into this tumultuous period in U.S. history.
Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome
After 11-year-old, African American Langston loses his mother in 1946, he and his father move from Alabama to start over in Chicago’s Bronzeville district. He feels like he’s giving up everything he loves—family, friends and the familiarity of home.
Langston is often alone and has a hard time fitting in at his new school, but he finds one bright spot in his new, solitary life: a library that’s open to Black children during a time when public spaces were deeply segregated. He finds refuge in the library for hours and days, and then he comes across a writer that catches his interest—a poet also named Langston. Set decades before the Civil Rights movement, this story makes for a relatable conversation starter on race and class in post-war American life.
Bonus: Download the printable activity guide on Epic for a deeper, interactive experience of this remarkable book.
Food Fight! A Mouthwatering History of Who Ate What and Why Through the Ages
Written by: Tanya Steel
The best history books for middle school and older elementary school kids get ’em interested with things they already love. Transport your tween to another time period through their tastebuds with this food-themed history of the world. Authored by celebrity food editor and author Tanya Steel, this this book explores the wildest and little-known facts about the historical quest for food, the struggles to acquire it and its ongoing role in human events throughout the ages. It includes surprising factoids like why M&Ms were really invented, the actual reason Christopher Columbus set out on his most famous voyage and the weird (sometimes cool, sometimes yucky) things the wealthy served their guests during the Middle Ages. Your kid will also be treated to 30 kid-approved recipes and fascinating food stats.
National Geographic Kids: History’s Mysteries
Written by: Kitson Jazynka
Delight your kid with some of history’s most profound, head-scratching mysteries. This first book in the captivating series from National Geographic explores questions like, what really happened to the Mayan people? Who stole the Irish Crown Jewels? What is actually known about the Bermuda Triangle? These just scratch the surface of all the mind-blowing facts contained in this book. Filled with vivid photos and some of the world’s most intriguing mysteries, “History’s Mysteries” will be a hit with your curious kid.
Village of Scoundrels
Written by: Margi Preus
This book, inspired by the true story of French villagers who saved thousands of Jews during WWII, follows a group of teens who stand up for what’s right. One Jewish boy learns to forge documents to help his mother and saves hundreds with his newfound skills. Another boy smuggles people to Switzerland. And a girl summons her courage to deliver messages for the resistance. Each kid faces extreme danger as they fight to keep others safe and fight the forces of the Gestapo in this inspiring tale of courage and resilience.
Want more? Here are few other high-quality picks available off our platform, all on Amazon.
Bud, Not Buddy
By: Christopher Paul Curtis
This Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award-winning classic follows 10-year old Bud on his journey to find his father. Set in 1936 Flint Michigan, Bud is all alone. Times may be tough, but he’s got a few advantages. First he’s the author of “Bud Caldwell’s Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself.” Plus his suitcase full of special things and a clue potentially revealing his father’s identity: Herman E. Calloway of the famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression. This heartfelt piece of historical fiction will teach your kid about this difficult period and the value of determination and conquering your fears.
Chains: The Seeds of America Trilogy
By: Laurie Halse Anderson
This first book in the acclaimed The Seeds of America trilogy takes place at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It follows a 13-year old slave named Isabel in her own fight for freedom. Promised to be freed upon the death of her owner, events don’t unfold as expected. Instead she and her sister Ruth become the property of the malicious Locktons, who have no sympathy for the sisters or the revolution. But when Isabel meets another slave named Curzon, she finds herself in a moral dilemma when he tries to persuade her to spy on her owners. Is it too high of a price for her to finally earn her freedom?
By: Esther Hoskins Forbes
Set before the American Revolutionary War, this classic 1944 Newbery Medal-winning novel tells the story of 14-year old silversmith apprentice Johnny Tremain. Following a tragic accident, he finds himself without work and becomes a horse-boy, riding for the patriotic newspaper, the Boston Observer. He then meets famous figures like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Dr. Joseph Warren after becoming a messenger for the Sons of Liberty. The rest is a riveting tale of Johnny’s crucial role in the events leading up to the revolution, from the Boston Tea Party to the battle of Lexington and Concord.
Number the Stars
By: Lois Lowry
This award-winning book follows a young girl’s experience in WWII-era Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s 1943 and 10-year-old Annemarie dreams of life before the war, along with her Jewish best friend Ellen. Life in Copenhagen is hard enough, as it’s plagued with food shortages and Nazi soldiers marching through streets. But things take a dangerous turn when the Jews of Denmark are forced to “relocate.” Annemarie’s parents take in Ellen, who must pose as a family member to avoid identification. It isn’t long before Annemarie must embark on a dangerous mission to save her friend. This riveting story is a heart-filled, kid-friendly way for children to learn about the holocaust.
Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes
By: Eleanor Coerr
Sadako is the star of her running team at school until she starts having dizzy spells. After being diagnosed with leukemia caused by radiation exposure from the bombing of Hiroshima, Sadako’s friend tells her of the Japanese legend that if you create a thousand origami cranes, you’ll be granted a wish. Wishing to survive and fulfill her dreams, she manages to fold 644 cranes before succumbing to her disease. Her friends and family honor Sadako by folding the remaining cranes, which are buried with her.
This heartfelt story will introduce your kid to a powerful perspective on the devastating effects caused by the atomic bombings in Japan during World War II. It’s based on the true story of Sadako, whose family donated several of her cranes at memorials around the world, including the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at Pearl Harbor and the Japanese American National Museum, among others.
That’s our list of our favorite history books for middle school and older elementary school kids! Can’t get enough of our book lists? For more fascinating and educational historical fiction and nonfiction children’s books, check out our post: “17 Best History Books for Kids of All Ages.”