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RE 3240, RE 3902, and RE 5140 Evaluating Literature for Children: Historical Fiction

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Historical Fiction: A Definition

Works of Historical Fiction feature fictionalized or dramatized accounts of actual historical figures, events, or places. These books are typically set in a specific historical time period or location, and may include real historical figures as either primary or secondary characters.

It's important to understand that not all books set in historic time periods are classified as "historical fiction." Typically, the relationship between the book's copyright date and the book's time setting distinguishes the two.

For example, John Hersey's 1944 novel A Bell for Adano is considered a work of contemporary/realistic fiction because it was both written during and set in the World War II era. Though Markus Zusak's 2005 novel The Book Thief is also set in World War II, it is considered a work of historical fiction because it was published much more recently.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Works of Historical Fiction

Does the work authentically capture the events of the time period, staying true to valid historical knowledge?

Does the work authentically capture the people of the time period, including their behavior, values, and dialogue?

Does the work fairly and sensitively portray all ideologies and issues of the time period?

Does the work artfully use historical facts/figures to engage the reader in the time period, or do the historical elements overwhelm the reader and overshadow the plot?