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Older Kids / Young Adult:
Historical Fiction


I have linked the books to Amazon.com, but I have linked certain items to other booksellers when Amazon didn't carry them.

As a warning, I have put up pictures of the book covers to give you somewhat an idea of the style of each book (I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover") so the pages may load slowly.



Moses in Egypt
(Prince of Egypt)
My son, I have nothing I can give, but this chance that you may live. With these words, a Hebrew mother places her infant son, Moses, in a basket and sets him adrift on the Nile River. From his carefree days as a prince of Egypt to his flight into the desert, nothing can fully prepare Moses for what is to come. Lynne Reid Banks, author of the best-selling novel The Indian in the Cupboard, brings the timeless story of Moses to life in this spirited retelling. Enriched with a full-color insert depicting characters and scenes from the film, this is a popular format that will enable older children to experience the movie again and again.

Banks is best known for The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels. Choosing an accomplished author for this novel based on the movie results in an immensely readable tale rather than the usual stilted fare produced as a movie tie-in. Although the book and movie both claim Exodus as the original source, they have made alterations to increase the tension between the main characters. In this version, Moses is brought to the palace and adopted by pharoah's wife, rather than by his daughter. Thus, Moses grows up as a brother to Ramses, who will later resist his requests to release the Hebrew slaves. In usual Hollywood fashion, a romantic interest is planted; Moses' future wife Tzipporah is a beautiful, strong-willed Bedouin girl. The liberties taken with the narrative do not detract from the biblical themes presented.

Description from Children's Literature

Brothers in Egypt
(Prince of Egypt)
Growing up as princes of Egypt, Moses and Rameses share a life full of action, adventure, mischief, and brotherly love. But all that changes when Moses learns of his true identity and his connection to the Hebrew slaves who toil for his father. Focusing on the relationship between Moses and Rameses, this compelling chapterbook follows the life of the two brothers--up until the fateful day when Moses leaves the palace and flees into the desert. Written in an accessible style, with simple sentences and short chapters, this is an ideal way for intermediate readers to recapture the drama and excitement of The Prince of Egypt.

Description from Publisher

The Star and the Sword
Two Jewish children, Benedict and Elvira, are suddenly orphaned after a pogrom in twelfth-century Yorkshire, England, shattering their contented and comfortable lives. Alone in a hostile world, they set out for Oxford, where they have relatives. Along the way, they meet Robin Hood and his men in Sherwood Forest. Many exciting adventures follow, including a hazardous journey to London with a Crusader knight. The Knight has in his bag a relic of his travels, the significance of which proves more remarkable as the story unfolds.

Description from Publisher

When I Left My Village
This companion to Schur's Day of Delight follows a family of Ethiopian Jews (the Beta Israel) in their escape from drought and persecution. Traveling at night on foot through mountains, plains, and desert, 12-year-old Menelik, his parents, and younger brother head for a Sudanese refugee camp. From there, the people are airlifted to Israel; given homes, clothing, and food; and assimilated into a culture that offers them freedom, safety, and equality. The boy tells the story of the perilous journeyof days filled with hunger, fear of discovery, and death; of a furtive border crossing; of weeks of unsanitary living in the crowded camp; and, finally, of resettlement in a small white hut in the hills near Jerusalem. The book reads like a true adventure story. Pinkney's full-page, black-and-white scratchboard illustrations add reality to this fictionalized account of the recent rescue mission that saved the remnants of a little-known civilization. A map of the Middle East shows the family's escape route, and an author's note adds historical information.

Description from School Library Journal

Winner of The Sydney Taylor Award (The Association of Jewish Libraries)

Sworn Enemies
The author of Lisa's War turns to a another grim chapter in Jewish history: the kidnapping and forced conversion of Jewish boys by the Russian Czar's army in the 19th century. Her carefully researched story is told, in alternation, by two young men. Aaron, 16, the highly respected best student at Odessa's yeshiva, is soon to be married; though carefully observant, and knowing it's forbidden, he is secretly meeting his betrothed (innocently -- they debate subjects like Job). After one tryst, he is kidnapped by Zev, a vengeful former classmate who's jealous of Aaron's brilliance and prospects. Zev is also observant, but he's been brutalized by abuse; without a qualm, he sends Aaron into the horror--and almost certain death--of the army. Starved, beaten, humiliated, and driven without respite, Aaron is one of the few survivors in his original group, but -- after careful reasoning about God's commands--submits to baptism to save his life. Zev, too, is caught; ironically, he contrives to avoid conversion. With two friends, Aaron plots escape, only to be caught by Zev, who ends by coming with them -- and betraying Aaron yet again. Vicious and unrepentant, Zev is more than a foil for Aaron's moral struggle against a hatred that can only destroy him too; he is chillingly believable. To her credit, Matas offers them no reconciliation; and conscientious Aaron knows that he also bears some guilt for what has passed between them. A harrowing, thought-provoking, skillfully written novel about a past whose evil legacy persists.

Description from Kirkus Reviews While the moral issues are as powerful as the story -- no small feat -- the exactness of the parallels in the two boys' situations seems an excessive diagraming of the historical material. . . . {Nevertheless}, Ms. Matas is agood storyteller, and her novel will tell young adult readers about a less than familiar aspect of Jewish history.

Description from The New York Times Book Review

Winner of Sydney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)

Masada : The Last Fortress
Miklowitz personalizes history in this account of the fall of Masada as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish man helping to hold the fort, and of the Roman commander who is trying to foil the Jews' last stand. Seventeen-year-old Simon ben Eleazar, son of Masada's commander, is an excellent narrator who explains how the Jews have come to be at the mountain fortress, what they are fighting for, and how, in the end, they choose to commit suicide rather than give the Romans the satisfaction of taking them as prisoners. As for Flavius Silva, the Roman commander, Miklowitz succeeds in making him multilayered: true to his job, furious at the Jewish holdouts, yet admiring of their strength, and disgusted by one of his military leaders who fights without honor. The historical facts, a blend of the everyday and the dramatic, show how people can find hope, beauty, and even love in the midst of the most dire of circumstances--and how history is made up of real people, not so different from those reading about it. A powerful offering.

Description from Booklist

The Endless Steppe :
Growing Up in Siberia
A young Polish girl, her mother, and her grandmother, taken prisoners by the Russians during World War II and shipped to a forced-labor camp in a remote, impoverished Siberian village, somehow manage to stay together and alive through near starvation and harsh arctic winters.

Description from Publisher

Winner of Sydney Taylor Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)

Out of Many Waters
Kidnapped from their parents during the Portuguese Inquisition and sent to work as slaves at a monastery in Brazil, two Jewish sisters attempt to make their way back to Europe to find their parents, but instead one becomes part of a group founding the first Jewish settlement in the United States.

Description from Publisher
Escape from Egypt
Escape from Egypt : A Novel
Levitin has written a book that is troubling, moving -- and that forces its readers to think. Quite a combination, especially when presented in that much-maligned genre, historical fiction. The story Levitin tells is hardly new. It is the biblical tale of the Exodus, the Israelite flight from Egypt, here seen from the point of view of two teenagers, Jesse, a Hebrew slave, and Jennat, a half-Egyptian, half-Syrian girl. The pair meet when they work together learning jewelry-making, but their burgeoning relationship is dwarfed by momentous events. Moses has come to gather the Jewish people; he is going to make Pharaoh let them go. The biblical setting provides the wider context for a drama that is primarily a human one. Plagues and miracles swirl around real people who are so enmeshed in their own lives and passions that, at times, they seem almost oblivious to the spectacle threatening to engulf them. This human scale is the great strength of the novel. Levitin makes myth manageable, bringing it right into the lives of modern-day readers.

Description by Booklist

The Garden
In After the War, Matas related the story of a 15-year-old concentration camp survivor, Ruth Mendelson, and told of her journey from Poland to Palestine. The Garden is set in and around Kibbutz David, where Ruth now lives. It is November 1947, and the United Nations is preparing to vote on a plan to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab lands. Ruth describes the difficulties the kibbutzniks face as British troops stand by and Arabs attack. She struggles with conflicting feelings about armed confrontation and longs for peace and security. Ruth is a courageous, sensitive young woman whose actions, ideas, and ideals are genuine and thought-provoking. Her first-person, present-tense narration is engrossing and unaffected. The other characters are well delineated, particularly Ruth's wisecracking boyfriend. The Garden is a riveting, relevant novel that raises tough questions and provides no easy answers. It will be useful in units on war and conflict, but it's also a truly good read.

Description from School Library Journal

The Circlemaker
Czar Nicholas's soldiers enter all the Russian villages and seize the Jewish boys for the military, but Mendel, only twelve years old, knows he is too young to fight and makes a desperate attempt to reach the border in order to flee to safety. He travels on foot, by train, and by horse to the Hungarian border to safety and a chance to reach America. The harsh conditions for the poor under Czar Nicholas I are realistically drawn, but the heart of the book is a survival adventure story.

Rooftop Secrets and Other Stories of Anti-Semitism
Each of these eight short stories describes a Jewish child's bout with anti-Semitism, from the Spanish Inquisition to modern times. Each story includes a brief introduction that places it in the proper historical perspective, and is followed by a commentary by Albert Vorspan, a writer on social justice. Some of the stories do not stand on their own as literature but serve only as case studies. A notable exception is the very moving tale of one boy's questioning of faith during the Holocaust and his ultimate heroic decision. Throughout the book, historic information is deftly interwoven. For most effective use, this book will require a skilled teacher or discussion leader to extend the text. Some of the stories, especially ``Spraypaint Justice,'' set in contemporary America, contain stereotypes that are cleared up in the commentary, but could be damaging if the commentary is not read. This book does promote pride in Jewish values and endurance.

Description from School Library Journal

Don Yosef Nasi:
A marrano's rise to power
A dramatization of the story of Don Yosef Nasi and his mother-in-law, Dona Gracia, marranos who rose to be among the most influential figures in Europe and Asia.

Description from Publisher

A Place Not Home
The story of a young Jewish girl and her family try to flee Hungary during the 1956 revolution.

The House on Walenska Street
Esther lives on Walenska Street in Nesvich, Russia, with her two sisters and her mother. Her father has died and their life is hard as they try to make ends meet. Mother depends on Esther to help take care of her younger sisters. Esther's special job is to read the letters from their cousins in America, and write back to them. The year is 1913, and she writes to tell them all is well, and fantasizes about their life in America. This is a very gentle story that reveals a lot about the trials and tribulations of simple family life in the Russia of that day, and the hopes of going to a better life. Esther is a good daughter, but has her rebellious moments. She runs off and gets lost. She finds her way back, only to hide as Russian soldiers break into their home to steal food and valuables. This is a touching story with beautiful full-page illustrations, based on the life of the author's grandmother.

Description from Children's Literature

Strudel Stories
In this nostalgic collection of stories, three generations of strudel makers share personal histories with children of the next generation. These stories are presented as the secret ingredient to an excellent homemade strudel. In Sarah's kitchen, we hear tales of Eastern European Jewry involving a little boy who cheated death twice. In Bertie's kitchen, we hear about the immigration of a little girl who had the courage to turn her coat inside out when the feared Ellis Island medical inspector marked her with the dreaded chalk "X." Willy, a grandfather with a gift in the kitchen and a huge love for baseball, tells about the orphaned refugee boy accepted into his family after the Holocaust. Classroom teachers could use this book as a resource for an immigration unit. The stories are very sweet, like the pastry they are named for. Several segments discuss the mechanics of strudel making and depict children helping in the kitchen, waiting to be entertained by stories.

Description from Children's Literature

The Prince of Egypt: The Novel
Banks is best known for The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels. Choosing an accomplished author for this novel based on the movie results in an immensely readable tale rather than the usual stilted fare produced as a movie tie-in. Although the book and movie both claim Exodus as the original source, they have made alterations to increase the tension between the main characters. In this version, Moses is brought to the palace and adopted by pharoah's wife, rather than by his daughter. Thus, Moses grows up as a brother to Ramses, who will later resist his requests to release the Hebrew slaves. In usual Hollywood fashion, a romantic interest is planted; Moses' future wife Tzipporah is a beautiful, strong-willed Bedouin girl. The liberties taken with the narrative do not detract from the biblical themes presented.

Description from Children's Literature
Keeping Faith in the Dust
Keeping Faith in the Dust
This is a unique recounting of a familiar story-the siege of Masada in the first century C.E.-from the diary of a teenage girl. Hannah begins her journal as a young girl of thirteen, wide-eyed at family trips to the bustling market in Jerusalem and eagerly anticipating her imminent womanhood. Yet she confides her skepticism of Judaism, a religion that requires total devotion and much personal sacrifice.

Yet as Hannah's family is forced to move first to Jerusalem, and then to Masada, her religious awakening provides her with the strength and inspiration to endure persecution, terror and shattering personal loss. By the end of her diary, Hannah embraces Judaism as fully as she embraces life-and ultimately death-among a band of courageous martyrs fighting for the survival of Israel.

Description by publisher
The Cross by Day, Mezuzzah by Night
The Cross by Day, Mezuzzah by Night
Isabel Caruso de Carvallo, a devout Catholic girl, is shocked to learn that in reality she is Ruth de Cojano, a secret Jew, part of a group referred to derogatorily by the Spanish Catholics as Marranos. In 1492 on her thirteenth birthday, the age of Jewish adulthood, Ruth is told about her great-grandparents, who were forced to convert to Christianity or die. For 100 years, the de Cojanos have lived in Seville as the Caruso de Carvallos, practicing ancient Jewish rituals and reciting Hebrew prayers in secret. Although all Marranos are in danger, Ruth's family has been especially on guard: her father is the chief royal tax collector of Seville, and the Inquisition relishes making examples of people in high positions. If its true religion is revealed, the family faces torture and burning at the stake. So Ruth, her parents, and her infant brother prepare to flee their beloved Spain with the tens of thousands of Jews being expelled. Through a gripping first-person narrative, Ruth relays her feelings, her fears, and her confusion. This commanding novel jars us through its portrayal of the senseless brutality of the Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of Spain's Jews in the fifteenth century. It is a lesson related with suspense, emotion, and lasting impact.

description by Booklist

Lion And The Unicorn
It's hard to be brave. Lenny Levi has been trying ever since his father went off to fight in World War II, leaving him with a medallion depicting a fighting unicorn and lion. When bombs start to drop all around his house in London, his mother puts him on a train to the country for safety. There, mean children make fun of him and, well, being brave seems almost impossible. Thankfully, Lenny discovers a safe haven, a walled garden with a lonely looking stone unicorn, and he retreats there often. When he meets a quiet one-legged young man in the garden one day, Lenny slowly begins to learn the deeper meaning of courage. Once again, Shirley Hughes displays an unwavering sense of character, and beautifully colored, soft illustrations place the narrative in its physical and emotional context. Her sensitivity to the nuances of feelings in young people makes her stories profoundly appealing and satisfying. In this story of fear and loneliness, she brings the experiences of a time gone by into the present with clarity, wisdom, and elegance.

Description from Amazon.com
Plots and Players
Plots and Players
1594 and a young Shakespeare is working on a new play, The Merchant of Venice, amid growing anti-Jewish sentiment in England. Three Jewish children try to save Queen Elizabeth's Jewish physician when he's falsely accused of spying for Spain. Can the children help Shakespeare see the prejudice of his work? Can they save the doctor?

One More River
Lesley's life is perfect until her wealthy father decides to give up everything and move the family to a kibbutz in Israel to get them back to their roots. The adjustment is hard on everyone and is complicated by the onset of the Six-Day War. Dramatic conflict and personal acclimatization are both depicted with a strong sense of reality.

Description from Horn Book

The Deeper Song
Judith, the daughter of a high priest working on King Solomon's temple, feels there is no place for her in G-d's patriarchal form of Judaism. So at great personal risk, she joins the goddess cult of Asherah. After a massacre at the sacred grove, Judith is discovered, and the servant girl who brought her to the initiation is murdered by order of Judith's father. At the initiation ceremony Judith meets Samuel, a cousin who understands how she feels about being a smart, educated young woman in a society that doesn't know what to do with such a creature. But Samuel has a plan for Judith. Since her greatest talent is storytelling, he wants her to write down the oral tradition of the Jewish people, creating a book that will become Judaism's cornerstone. At first, Judith does not want to do anything to help her father's religion. She comes to see, however, that she has the ability to do what no other scribe can--incorporate the lives and the power of Jewish women into the stories.

It is likely that few teens have any knowledge of the biblical war between Judaism and the goddess-cult religions, circa 550 B.C.E., but even without that underpinning, readers will quickly come to understand what is at stake for Judith. She's a strong character, but like Samuel (a caring supportive '90s kind of guy), she has a modernity to her characterization that often fits uncomfortably into the setting. The theory that a woman may have written parts of the Old Testament came to public attention in Harold Bloom's The Book of J (1990), which Pfitsch only credits briefly. After Judith takes on her own role as writer, the book comes to a too-quick conclusion; however, the irony of a woman writing down the sacred stories is well developed and one of the book's strongest points.

From Booklist

Jerusalem Diaries and Other Stories
Festival stories spanning 2,000 years of the Holy City's history.

Description from Publisher

I read this book when I was much younger, and I have a fuzzy memory of enjoying most of the stories. But the one story that I still remember clearly -- and that is worth the price of the entire book -- is "Reb Aharon in Search of a Miracle." Despite its rather cumbersome title, this story -- about a young Jewish boy blinded by a grenade in Jerusalem in 1910 -- is truly affecting.

Description from Amazon.com Reader Review

The Storyteller, Vol. 1



The Storyteller, Vol. 2



The Storyteller, Vol. 3



The Storyteller, Vol. 4



The Storyteller, Vol. 5
Jewish stories are part of the heritage of our people, often capturing the essence of Jewish experience. The stories in this volume will provide hours of reading enjoyment for older children and teenagers. Parents and teachers will turn to them again and again when they are called upon to be storytellers themselves. The contribution of Nissan Mindel to the treasury of Jewish stories is inestimable. He has, for the past five decades, researched and presented to both English and Yiddish-reading audiences stories mined from sources inaccessible to the average American Jew. They cover a wide range of subjects: great Jewish personalities, the festivals, Jewish life in medieval and pre-Holocaust times, the Holocaust, and life behind the Iron Curtain. The world of innkeeper and nobleman, shepherd and woodchopper, spice merchant and gem dealer, comes alive to reveal to us the workings of Divine Providence or the events that shaped Jewish history.

Description from Publisher

Out Of The Depths
By the mid-nineteenth century, many wealthy European Jewish families, lured by new-found political freedom and riches, had abandoned the Torah way of life in favor of high society. When Edward Lindenstein, the arrogant and frivolous scion of one such family, married Minna, a religious girl, there were bound to be difficulties. This enthralling novelette traces Edward & Minnas shifting fortunes from the capitals of Europe to the far-flung shores of Africa and South America. A tale of greed, deceit, piracy on the high seas, and the ultimate triumph of faith.

Description from Publisher

The Broken Bracelet
To escape the persecution of the Inquisition, the four members of Rabbi Zacuto's family leave Lisbon for Constantinople but become separated on the way and are only reunited after many years of harrowing adventures. A tale of family and adventure that will not be put down till the end.

Description from Publisher

Naftali the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus and Other Stories

by Isaac Bashevis Singer
A collection of short stories which explores the humor and life of the people of Poland.

The Rabbi's Girls
Rabbi Levin teaches his daughters that life is both bitter and good in this account of a crucial year for the Levin family, as "seen through the eyes of 11-year-old Carrie. And fine eyes they are, that create with a sense of strength and gentleness, joy and sadness, and draw characters that are convincingly and memorable."--Language Arts.

Description from Publisher

The Cohens of Tzefat

The 2,00 year saga of a Jewish family overcoming all odds, from Roman legions to Arab artillery.
A wounded Jewish officer in the Yom Kippur War feels his mind fill with a panorama of events tracing the history of his people and his part of Israel.

The moving and exciting story of the Cohen family, traced through exciting vignettes of historical fiction, spanning the course of 2,000 years.

Description from Publisher

The Great Potato Plan
Simcha thought that he, Mama and the little ones would soon be on their way to join papa in America. But when a terrible war breaks out in europe they are unable to leave Warsaw. Simcha knows Papa expects him to keep the family safe while they are apart. Can Simcha come up with a plan to save his family from starvation and from attacks by Russian soldiers?

Description from Publisher
Prince Of Akko The swashbuckling story of Chaim Farhi, a heroic young Jew who comes to grips with the most cruel. greedy, dishonest, Jew-hating pasha in all of Palestine.

Description from Publisher

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