Young Adult Historical Novels: The Early Twentieth Century

1900 - 1929


Titanic Poster

In 1900, people felt excited to be living in a new century. They looked ahead to the future with hope that the problems of the past could be solved. In both the U.S. and Britain, women campaigned to be allowed to vote in elections. In Europe, many people boarded ships for America, where they hoped to begin new and better lives.

Meanwhile, pressures in Europe were building toward the First World War, fought from 1914 through 1918. It was a terrible war, the first one fought with airplanes. Much of it took place in France where soldiers dug trenches and lived in them day and night in the hope of protecting themselves from the bombs. As part of the British Empire, Canadians fought in the war from the beginning. America entered the war in 1917 after German submarines began attacking American ships. Meanwhile, the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917 as Russia's losses during the war aggravated the situation at home.


Abbreviations for Awards and Honors:

ALANCB = American Library Association Notable Children's Book
BBYA = An American Library Association "Best Books for Young Adults" pick
CM = Carnegie Medal
CMH = Carnegie Medal Honor Book
IBBY = International Board on Books for Young People Honour Book
JFA = Josette Frank Award
NA = Newbery Award
SOA = Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction


Jump to:

Europe Before World War I
The U.S. and Canada Before World War I
The U.S. and Canada Before World War I: Mysteries
Europe and the U.K. During World War I
The U.S. and Canada During World War I
The Russian Revolution


Europe Before World War I

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Votes for Women pin
Eve Bunting, SOS Titanic (1996), about a fifteen-year-old Irish boy traveling to America on the Titanic.

Adele Geras, Voyage (1983), about passengers traveling in steerage on a ship from Hamburg to America. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Julie Hearn, Hazel (2009), about an indulged young woman whose support for the struggle of women to gain the right to vote in 1913 England results in her being banished to a sugar plantation in the Caribbean.

Diane Hoh, Titanic: The Long Night (1998), about a wealthy girl traveling first-class on the Titanic and a less well-off girl traveling third-class.

Geraldine McCaughrean, The White Darkness (2007), about a modern British teen who travels to Antarctica with her uncle and encounters the spirit of polar explorer Titus Oates, who died there in 1912. PA. BBYA.

Victoria McKernan, Shackleton's Stowaway (2005), about an eighteen-year-old boy who stows away on the Endurance and becomes part of British explorer Ernest Shackleton's disastrous 1914 expedition to Antarctica.

Sharon Biggs Waller, A Mad, Wicked Folly (2014), about a London debutante who secretly applies to art school while her parents try to arrange a marriage for her that she doesn't want.

Gerard Whelan, The Guns of Easter (1996), about a twelve-year-old boy living in the Dublin slums during the 1916 Easter Rising. Recommended for ages 12 and up.


The U.S. and Canada Before World War I

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Gravestone, Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Mary Jane Auch, Ashes of Roses (2002), about a sixteen-year-old girl, an immigrant from Ireland, who finally gets a job at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City in 1911, just before a disastrous fire breaks out. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Linda Crew, Brides of Eden (2001), about a girl who joins a group of other women traveling to the Oregon coast with a preacher, and then regrets her decision as the preacher demands cult-like obedience to his will.

Jacqueline Davies, Lost (2009), about a sixteen-year-old girl working as a seamstress at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 when a disastrous fire breaks out. BBYA.

Cameron Dokey, Washington Avalanche, 1910 (2000), about two girls who swap identities when they meet on a train and the complications that result when one of them falls in love and when the train is caught in a deadly avalanche while passing through the Cascade Mountains.

Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light (2003), about a sixteen-year-old girl in upstate New York in 1906 who struggles for independence amid the tensions created by a scandalous murder. CM, PA, BBYA. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

Kathleen Duey, Earthquake, San Francisco, 1906 (1998), about a delivery boy and a thirteen-year-old girl from Chinatown trying to survive the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Blue Thread (2012), about a sixteen-year-old girl in Portland, Oregon, who joins the women's suffrage movement in 1912 after her father refuses to let her work in his print shop. Recommended for ages 10-16.

Kristiana Gregory, Earthquake at Dawn (1992), about a woman photographer and her assistant who photograph the destruction after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Dan Gutman, Honus and Me: A Baseball Card Adventure (1997), about a twelve-year-old boy who travels back in time and plays in the 1909 World Series after discovering a valuable baseball card in an attic.

Margaret Peterson Haddix, Uprising (2007), about two young women who work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and are caught in a deadly factory fire. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Shelby Hiatt, Panama (2009), about an Ohio girl who moves to Panama with her parents during the building of the Panama Canal.

Jean Ingold, The Big Burn (2002), about a sixteen-year-old boy who becomes a firefighter just before just before a massive forest fire breaks out in 1910, burning millions of acres in Idaho and Montana.

Marthe Jocelyn, Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril, and Romance (2004), about an Ontario girl in 1901 who keeps a diary and writes a romance, only to discover that her own life is more exciting than the story she is writing. BBYA.

Carla Joinson, A Diamond in the Dust (2001), about a sixteen-year-old girl in the mining town of Buckey City, Illinois, who dreams of going to St. Louis. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Katherine Kirkpatrick, Keeping the Good Light (1995), about the sixteen-year-old daughter of a lighthouse keeper, whose life changes after tragedy strikes her family in 1903. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

William Lavender, Aftershocks (2006), about a physician's daughter caught in Chinatown during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Kristine Levine, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had (2009), about a twelve-year-old white boy in rural Alabama whose live becomes complicated when he and the black daughter of the new postman become friends. BBYA.

Yona Zeldis McDonough, The Doll Shop Downstairs (2009), about a nine-year-old girl who lives over her parents' doll repair shop. Recommended for ages 6-9.

Yona Zeldis McDonough, The Cats in the Doll Shop (2011), about an eleven-year-old girl who lives over her parents' dollmaking shop. Recommended for ages 8-11. Review or Author Interview


Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985), about two farm children whose father marries a woman from Maine who answers his advertisement for a wife; #1 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. ALANCB, NA, SOA. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Patricia MacLachlan, Skylark (1994), about two farm children who travel to Maine with their stepmother while their father stays behind during a severe drought; #2 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Patricia MacLachlan, Caleb's Story (2001), about a farm boy who fears there will be nothing interesting left to tell, after his sister gives him her journal and asks him to take over the job of writing about their family; #3 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Patricia MacLachlan, More Perfect Than the Moon (2004), about farm children who aren't sure they are happy about the big change coming in their family: a new baby; #4 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Patricia MacLachlan, Grandfather's Dance (2006), about farm children whose sister is getting married; #5 in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series. Recommended for ages 9-12.


Richard Peck, The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts (2004), about a fifteen-year-old boy in 1904 Indiana who discovers his older sister has been chosen to replace a schoolteacher he disliked. BBYA.

Richard Peck, Amanda/Miranda (1999), about a servant girl who takes on the identity of her employer after the sinking of the Titanic.

Gary D. Schmidt, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2004), about a family who moves to Maine in 1912, to a town whose leaders want to get rid of a nearby community founded by former slaves; based on an actual event. BBYA.


Before World War I: Mysteries

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Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Floating Illusions (1985), a mystery about a fourteen-year-old girl traveling to Europe by ship who becomes friends with a stage magician on board and tries to prove him innocent after several passengers are murdered and he is accused of the crime.


Europe and the U.K. During World War I

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John Boyne, Stay Where You Are and Then Leave (2014), about a boy whose father suffers from shell shock after fighting in World War I. Recommended for ages 9-12.

Theresa Breslin, Remembrance (2002), about two brother-sister pairs in Scotland, one from a wealthy household and one from a working class family, and the changes World War I brings to their small village. BBYA.

Milton Dank, Khaki Wings (1980), about a seventeen-year-old boy who joins Britain's Royal Flying Corps in 1914 at the beginning of World War I. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Rudolf Frank, No Hero for the Kaiser (1986), about a fourteen-year-old Polish boy, the only one in his town left surviving after Russian and German troops pass through in 1914, who is taken in by the German soldiers. Recommended for ages 12-15.

Jackie French, A Rose for the Anzac Boys (2008), about a New Zealand girl who makes friends when she goes to school in England during World War I, and then joins them in setting up a canteen for soldiers in France.

Dennis Hamley, Without Warning: Ellen's Story, 1914-1918 (2007), about an English girl who enlists in 1914 and becomes a nurse near the front lines.

Rosie Harris, Ambitious Love (2010), about a Welsh teen longing for love who loses her family when her brother is killed in the war, her father in a mining accident and her mother in an influenza epidemic.

Iain Lawrence, Lord of the Nutcracker Men (2001), about a ten-year-old English boy who plays with the toy soldiers his father, away fighting in the war, sends to him, and then begins to fear that the games he plays with them foretell his father's fate. Recommended for ages 13-17.

Michael Morpurgo, Why the Whales Came (1985), about a ten-year-old girl living on a remote island off the British coast in 1914. Recommended for ages 8-12. Review

Michael Morpurgo, Private Peaceful (2004), about a fifteen-year-old boy and his older brother who fight in the trenches in France during World War I. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Michael Morpurgo, War Horse (2007), about an English farm horse sold to the army during World War I and the farm boy he misses as he is used in battle by both English and Germans. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Monika Schröder, My Brother's Shadow (2011), about a sixteen-year-old boy in Berlin whose mother and brother disagree about what course Germany should take at the end of the First World War. Recommended for ages 12-17. Review or Author Interview

Maxine Rose Schur, Sacred Shadows (1997), about a Jewish girl growing up in Germany from 1917 to 1932 before Hitler's rise to power.

Marcus Sedgwick, The Foreshadowing (2006), about a seventeen-year-old English girl who poses as a nurse to go to France during World War I to find and save her brother. BBYA.

Geert Spillebeen, Kipling's Choice (2005), about John, the nearsighted son of the writer Rudyard Kipling, who was only able to fight and die in World War I because his father pulled strings to get him a commission to join the Irish Guards. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Geert Spillebeen, Age 14 (2009), about a fourteen-year-old Irish boy who lies about his age so he can leave hom and become a soldier in 1913, just before World War I begins. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Pieter Van Raven, Harpoon Island (1989), about a schoolteacher and his ten-year-old son who try to make a new life for themselves in Massachusetts, but run into problems because of their German background when the First World War breaks out. Recommended for ages 11-14.


The U.S. and Canada During World War I

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Helen Frost, Crossing Stones (2009), a novel in verse form about the young people of two farming families whose lives are changed by the outbreak of World War I. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Marian Hale, The Goodbye Season (2009), about a seventeen-year-old girl whose entire family dies in the 1918 flu epidemic. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Jeanette Ingold, Pictures 1918 (1998), about a girl in rural Texas girl who wishes she could have a camera. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky (2006), about a sixteen-year-old girl left alone to run a 400-acre farm in the wilds of 1918 Montana. BBYA.

Margaret I. Rostkowski, After the Dancing Days (1986), about a Kansas girl drawn to an injured soldier she meets in the hospital where her father works. BBYA. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Louise Spiegler, The Jewel and the Key (2011), about a Seattle high school girl of the near future who wants to work in the theater and slips back in time to 1917. Review

Cat Winters, In the Shadow of Blackbirds (2013), about a sixteen-year-old girl who does not believe in ghosts until her first love dies in battle and returns as a spirit.


The Russian Revolution

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Susanne Dunlap, Anastasia's Secret (2010), about the Russian tsar's sixteen-year-old youngest daughter, Anastasia, and her romance with one of the family's guards during their imprisonment in Siberia during the Russian Revolution.

Felice Holman, The Wild Children (1983), about a twelve-year-old boy who joins a gang of other homeless children after his family is arrested and taken away during the Russian Revolution.

Sharon Stewart, My Anastasia (1999), about a Russian peasant girl who runs away from her abusive father in 1911 and is taken in by Rasputin, who brings her to the tsar's court, where she becomes friends with the tsar's youngest daughter.

Gloria Whelan, Angel on the Square (2001), about a girl whose mother is a lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Russia in 1914 when the Russian Revolution breaks out. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Laura Whitcomb, The Fetch (2009), historical fantasy about a spirit assigned to escort dying souls to heaven, who becomes stuck in the earthly realm during the Russian Revolution. Recommended for ages 12 and up. Review


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