Young Adult Historical Novels: Prehistoric Times


Prehistoric Mayan Sculpture

"History" relates to what we know about the past from written documents. Technically then, novels set in prehistoric times when there were no written documents are not "historical" novels. Still, they can be based on extensive research that sometimes gives us a surprisingly good idea of how certain people probably lived before written history.

Archaeologists can tell from the foundation stones of buildings, or sometimes just the remnants of post holes, what prehistoric houses in different areas were like. From garbage dumps (called "middens") where people threw away fruit pits, broken tools and other things, we can tell what types of food prehistoric people ate and what kinds of tools they made and used. We can also see the art they left behind, which often gives us a good idea of what they looked like and how they dressed. Novelists use the research of archaeologists blended with their own imaginations to create stories that show us what the lives of early humans might have been like.

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:

Prehistoric Africa
Prehistoric Europe and Asia
Prehistoric North America


Prehistoric Africa

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Peter Dickinson, A Bone from a Dry Sea (1993), parallel stories about the daughter of a modern paleontologist working in Africa and a girl from a prehistoric tribe. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Peter Dickinson, Suth's Story (1998), about orphans in prehistoric Africa who are left to die but decide to survive instead; #1 in the Kin series which also appears in a single edition as The Kin. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Peter Dickinson, Noli's Story (1998), about a girl in prehistoric Africa who struggles to keep herself and her friends alive through the guidance of her dreams; #2 in the Kin series which also appears in a single edition as The Kin. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Peter Dickinson, Po's Story (1998), about a boy in prehistoric Africa who longs to prove his bravery; #3 in the Kin series which also appears in a single edition as The Kin. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Peter Dickinson, Mana's Story (1998), about a girl and her tribe in prehistoric Africa who encounter a dangerous enemy as they are searching for a new home; #4 in the Kin series which also appears in a single edition as The Kin. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Peter Dickinson, The Kin (1998), an omnibus edition of all four novels in the Kin series in a single volume.


Prehistoric Europe and Asia

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Harry Behn, The Faraway Lurs (1981), a romance set in prehistoric Denmark about a girl of a forest tribe who falls in love with a young warrior of a nomadic herding tribe.

J. H. Brennan, Shiva (1990), about a Cro-Magnon girl who is rescued by a Neanderthal boy when a wolf attacks her; #1 in the Shiva series. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

J. H. Brennan, Shiva Accused (1991), about a Cro-Magnon girl falsely accused of murdering an elderly priestess of her tribe; #2 in the Shiva series.

J. H. Brennan, Shiva's Challenge (1992), about a fourteen-year-old girl chosen to undergo a difficult ordeal as the first step in becoming a shaman for her people; #3 in the Shiva series.

Marjorie Cowley, Dar and the Spear-Thrower (1994), about a Cro-Magnon boy in prehistoric France who sets out on a journey to trade fire rocks for a spear-thrower.

Justin Denzel, Boy of the Painted Cave (1988), about a fourteen-year-old Cro-Magnon boy who wants to become a cave painter, an art forbidden by his clan.

Justin Denzel, Return to the Painted Cave (1997), about a young Cro-Magnon cave painter who rescues a group of children imprisoned by his tribe's shaman; sequel to Boy of the Painted Cave.

Justin F. Denzel, Land of the Thundering Herds (1993), about the thoughts and feelings of prehistoric animals on grassland. Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Sherryl Jordan, Wolf-Woman (1994), about a girl raised by wolves until the age of three, then adopted by a chieftain and his wife, who develops a psychic bond with the leader of a wolf-pack hunted by her people. BBYA

Thomas Millstead, Cave of the Moving Shadows (1979), about a twelve-year-old Cro-Magnon boy who must choose whether to become a hunter or a sorcerer.

Chester G. Osborne, The Memory String (1984), about a brother and sister in Ice-Age Siberia; recommended for ages 9-12.

Ann Turnbull, Maroo of the Winter Caves (1984), about an Ice Age girl and her younger brother who are sent to find help when their family becomes trapped in a blizzard.

Ann Turnbull, The Wolf King (1976), about a boy who sets out to kill the mysterious masked horseman who is leading a wolf pack in raids against the boy's people.

Rosemary Sutcliff, The Chief's Daughter (1967), about a girl in ancient Britain who protects an Irish boy from being sacrificed to the Mother Goddess after he is captured when the girl's tribe defeats the raiders he has come with; included in the collection Heather, Oak and Olive. Review


Prehistoric North America

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Marjorie Cowley, Anooka's Answer (1998), about a young woman of the Stone Age who is forbidden to shape animals out of clay and begins to question the customs of her tribe.

Justin Denzel, Hunt for the Last Cat (1991), about a twelve-year-old boy in prehistoric Florida who questions his tribe's belief that a wandering young woman is the ghost of a saber-toothed tiger.

T.A. Dyer, A Way of His Own (1981), about a boy abandoned by his people to fend for himself because he is crippled and they fear he will bring them bad luck.

Peni R. Griffin, 11,000 Years Lost (2004), about a present-day Texas girl who accidentally slips back in time to prehistory and is taken in by a tribe of mammoth hunters.


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