Our family reads so many living history books! In some ways, you could say we are shaped by them…. Here are some of our favourite history authors for all ages:
Laura Ingalls Wilder. Of course! Her books have probably changed the face of North America. As you probably know, there’s a recipe book, a song book, and many derivatives such as prequels and sequels (not nearly as good, and occasionally containing ‘modern’ attitudes), board books, chapter books, and the TV series (inaccurate and full of ‘modern’ attitudes). I know many people love the TV series, but if you’ve never read the books, try them. They are much, much more worthwhile. There’s even a year-long homeschool study called Prairie Primer based on the Little House books, although we found that reading the books themselves is more worthwhile.
Barbara Greenwood. Pioneer Story and its companion volumes tell an 1840’s Canadian backwoods story, complete with background information and craft stories. I’ve read Pioneer Story aloud twice. Although ths book is modern, the attitudes it presents are realistic but not negative. In a similar style, Barbara Greenwood has also written about the Underground Railroad, the gold rush, and garment factories.
G.A. Henty. Approximately 100 history novels by this author have influenced generations of teens. In fact, Lester Pearson, Canada’s Nobel-Prize-winning Prime Minister, once reputedly said that all the history he knew was learned from Mr. Henty’s books. These books all start off slow and then hurry on to exciting, historically accurate adventure. Often they are about war, but they contain no gratuitous violence and the war scenes do not emphasize the horror. The memories I’m left with are about courage, historical people, historical events, and geography… and those memories really stick. Our children enjoy both the written books and the audiobooks.
Captain Marryat. Children of the New Forest, a royalist tale set during the time of Cromwell, is apparently one of the first children’s novels ever written in English. It is superb, an excellent read-aloud, and should not be missed by anyone. Note that the movie is not for sensitive viewers; I am still haunted by one particular scene. Marryat also wrote other novels, but they are more suitable for older readers and not nearly as appealing as Children of the New Forest.
Piet Prins. Although this popular Dutch author has written about modern days, his best novels are about Dutch history during World War II (The Shadow Series and The Secret of the Swamp) and during Reformation times (the Struggle for Freedom Series).
Ralph Moody. Little Britches, Father and I Were Ranchers, and others. These heart-warming stories of pioneer ranch life are, unfortunately, full of questionable language. Some, not all of them. Therefore I cannot recommend them for children to read on their own, but as read-alouds with frequent editing, the first two are mesmerizing and memorable. Life was hard in the past, and both the characters and the events of this semi-autobiographical series show this. Note that I have read only three of the books, and each one was fascinating.
Marjorie Bowen. When I was a little girl, my mother had three beloved, fat, Dutch books by Marjorie Bowen on her shelf. The Dutch was far beyond me at the time, although I tried. Many years later I was thrilled to discover that Bowen had written in English, not Dutch, and that her books were being republished. I now understand why my mother loved the books! I’ve reviewed three of Bowen’s biographies: The Governor of England, The Soldier of Virginia, and a two-volume set on William the Silent.
Others who wrote living history books include Rosemary Sutcliffe (usually, but not always, wonderful), Deborah Alcock (Reformed author), and R.M. Ballantyne (exciting, realistic, and violent; inspiration for R.L Stevenson).
A library and/or google search will help you find these authors’ books easily. Enjoy!
Please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed your favorite historical authors.