Medieval historical fiction is a hard sell for most kids. For a “sure thing” try Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince. For reluctant readers who need a quick read try either of Karen Cushman’s books or Sid Fleischman’s The Whipping Boy. They are short and full of humor. The rest are for true historical fiction fans.
Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen
Marjorie is a princess of Scotland. Her father, Robert the Bruce and England’s king, Edward Longshanks, are enemies. Longshanks captures Marjorie and keeps her in a wooden cage where she is to be brought to the village square to be tormented by the villagers. She remains strong and resolute throughout her ordeal.
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
Hysterical tale about a bratty prince who can’t lawfully be punished and the whipping boy who takes it for him. When the prince decides to run away, he takes his whipping boy with him. As misfortune would have it, they fall into trouble and must get out of it together. Full of fun and humor.
The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
When a poor village girl is discovered in a dung heap by the town midwife, she eagerly accepts some scraps of food in exchange for her service as the midwife’s apprentice. Beetle proves to be a quick learner and all is well until she runs into trouble with a difficult delivery. Feeling like a failure, she sets out on her own to try to find her place in life. Full of fun and humor.
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Utterly hilarious tale about a strong-willed girl who must use her wit and cunning to send her would be suitors fleeing. Her father’s only requirement is that her future husband be rich. Love her sassy vocabulary, especially when she exclaims “Corpus bones” in frustration.
Crispin by Avi
13-year-old Crispin is on his own after his peasant mother dies. A local clergyman summons him to inform him that his true name is Crispin and gives him a cross that belonged to his mother. Immediately the priest turns up dead and Crispin is accused of the crime. A corrupt government official is chasing him down and has put a bounty on his head. As Crispin will eventually learn, it has nothing to do with the murdered priest.
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Sage is an orphan who, along with two other orphans, has been kidnapped and sent to the home of a nobleman. The king and queen are dead. The country is on the brink of war. And the heir to the throne is missing, presumed dead. Nobleman Connor devises a plan to pass off one of the orphans as the missing prince. Nice twist ending.
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz
The king is chasing after three children and their dog. The story of how this absurdity came to be is laid out in alternating tales by various characters at the local inn in a way that is reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales. It all begins with a dog who is revered as a saint and ends with a Jewish Bible being saved from a mass book burning. Full of humor and satire.
Incantation by Alice Hoffman
Jews are persecuted in medieval Spain, forced to live separate from Christians. Estella believes her family is Christian, but as neighbors turn against one another and her best friend accuses her family of being Jewish, she learns the truth. Her family converted to Christianity long ago, but that’s no longer good enough and her mother and brother must die.
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Boy is a hunchback who takes care of the animals for his ailing master. When a pilgrim shows up and demands that Boy go with him to carry his pack, Cook agrees to let him go. Boy learns that the pilgrim is traveling to different churches to steal seven relics of St. Paul, ending at his tomb in Rome. Action packed adventure.