Can you recommend a historical fiction book for 11 year old?

My son has been asking questions and shown interest in what life was like when countries were ruled by kings. What could they do? Could they have anyone they want killed? What was their life life? Etc…

Do you know of a good historical fiction book that paints a good picture of what life was like back then - primarily about a king(s), but also the people they ruled over. Since we are in France it would be a plus if it took placed in France.

I guess if there is a history book that would be interesting to an 11 year old that might work too, but I’m thinking fiction may keep him more interested.


I’m thinking Eco (eg Baudolino, The Name Of The Rose), but 11 might be a couple years too young for that. There’s always The Canterbury Tales, which is both historical fiction and historical fiction.

This is dated and maybe not exactly on point, but one of my favorites.

Wanting it to be set in France makes me think of Dumas, but that’s Renaissance, not really Middle Ages (it does feature kings and queens; so it has that going for it). It’s also definitely appropriate for an 11 year old (a lot of the other stuff I can think of might need parental approval first). And they are classics of literature, so that’s an added advantage.

11 is definitely low for Eco, I think. Eco sort of expects a passing familiarity (at least) with the history being portrayed. If he’s a really avid reader he might enjoy it in a couple of years, though.

Thanks for the replies.

Would the writing style / language used be a barrier for an 11 year old for any of these suggestions?

His skills lie more on the math side of things. He usually reads things like Diary of a Wimpy Kind and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

For Dumas, it’s going to depend on the work and the translation selected. I’m pretty sure you can find very accessible English translations of the Three Musketeers, for example.

Not medieval, but Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret is pretty good, set in Paris in the 1930’s. (The movie Hugo is based on it.)

These are sci-fi, not historical fiction, but:

  • Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book is a time-travel book that goes back to 14th century Oxford.
  • Michael Crichton’s Timeline goes back to the 100 Years War and takes place in France.

Yes I was going to specifically mention Three Musketeers as well. Not exactly king centric but…

Dumas’ other famous work, The Count of Monte Christo is also worth considering.

There’s also Le Mort d’Arthur. Which is, as you can guess, about King Arthur. It’s not exactly hard fiction, but it is king centric. He’d also stand to like it more than many suggestions.

Eco is way above his grade. He is brilliant, but also so detailed and obscure in references that without a solid understanding of the topic, your son will likely be completely lost.

I don’t have any suggestions for specifically French King’s though. Maybe you could look at something like A Tale of Two Cities or Les Miserables for a more recent history.

Skip the first 20 pages and you can ignore all the evolution stuff.

My son really wants some good coverage on the life of kings because he is fascinated by how different their lives must have been . Does anyone have any experience with Terry Jones Medieval Lives? Kings are one of the types of people it covers. It seems light enough to keep my son’s interest. And… Monty Python!

If I can find him something on kings then I think I can move to some fiction mentioned above. It looks like there are a bunch of good suggestions. There are some I’d like to read to him because I’ve never read them myself.

I know that gender can be a tricky thing at that age, but I’ve been looking at the Royal Diaries series for my daughter, which are all historical fiction of real historical female royalty:

I haven’t read them yet though, so can’t vouch for them directly, but they seem well received. If nothing else, the authors from that series might be a starting point for finding other YA historical fiction?

I recall reading Ivanhoe as a youth, but quite frankly can’t imagine I finished it.

I taught Door in the Wall to diverse 5th or 6th grade students. It’s a challenging read, but comprehensible.

Willis’s Doomsday Book is an amazing book, but it’s very depressing I think. I had (gifted) 7th and 8th graders who enjoyed it.

Their historical accuracy has been debated, but Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice and Catherine, Called Birdy have many fans. I’ve not read them myself.

I did read and loved EL Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. It’s probably at the upper end of reading level for the average 11-year old.

It’s not a novel, but he ought to see Castle by David Macaulay if he hasn’t already.

Hard to point to historical fiction that is suitable for kids, because so much of it is explicitly written for adults. A good history book for kids (with illustrations) might very well be the thing to go for; e.g., like the cartoon history of the universe, mentioned above.

If you have the opportunity, I’d visit one of the museums that focus on royalty in France, e.g., Versailles, Fontainebleau, a medieval castle… that sort of stuff. Both because it’s a fun experience - you’ll get to see how the royalty lived in the old days, but also with a little luck you can probably find some suitable and interesting history books in the museum shops related to the historical period of the castle/chateaux, etc - often specifically written for kids.

In fiction, the only thing that I can think of (other than Dumas) which is not for adults, is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s duo of historical novels: The White Company and Sir Nigel (yes - he wrote other stuff than Sherlock Holmes - and allegedly preferred these works to his famous detective). Both are novels in the “good old” Victorian tradition, with lots of jousts, chivalric deeds, and battles - but well researched, and the characters are a delight. The writing style may be an obstacle (Victorian english writing, with the dialogue written to sound appropriately “medieval”) - if you/he can get past the writing, though, they’re rollicking good adventures for the boyish and boyish at heart.

> It is in the heart of the great Cistercian monastery that this chronicle of old days must take its start, as we trace the feud betwixt the monks and the house of Loring, with those events to which it gave birth, ending with the coming of Chandos, the strange spear-running of Tilford Bridge and the deeds with which Nigel won fame in the wars. Elsewhere, in the chronicle of the White Company, it has been set forth what manner of man was Nigel Loring. Those who love him may read herein those things which went to his making. Let us go back together and gaze upon this green stage of England, the scenery, hill, plain and river even as now, the actors in much our very selves, in much also so changed in thought and act that they might be dwellers in another world to ours.

While they don’t deal with kings as main characters I can heartily recommend a series of books by Ronald Welch as far as historical novels for young people go.

They are written for young adults (although I still read them from time to time) and are fictional but based on factual events and contain a reasonable amount of information on life at the times they were written and also the political intrigues of the time. They are always set around a major conflict though which may not appeal.

Most of the books deal with a character from the same Welsh family line at different periods of history; for example the Indian Mutiny (Ensign Carey), the English Civil War (For the King) or World War One (Tank Commander). There is no continuity as such so it is not a problem to read them out of order.

Unfortunately they are mostly out of print and some can be very hard to find or expensive for 2nd hand - not sure what the situation is in the US with that. I keep an eye on the auction sites and they pop up from time to time; mostly old school library books that are no longer wanted or were not returned perhaps. Some are quite valuable.

I think there are two on Kindle - Knight Crusader (a very good one IMO, lots of historical stuff there) and the Gauntlet which is also pretty good.

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I devoured a series of biographies that my local library stocked. They were about famous historical Americans, with the twist that the bulk of the biography featured the childhoods of these people. I must have read dozens of them: Ethan Allen, Kit Carson, Ulysses Grant, Sitting Bull, etc. I think they’ve been reprinted somewhat more recently than I read them as this series. I remember them being a great introduction to historical figures for kids, which along with the Illustrated Classics series gave me a better history and literature education than anything in school ever did.

My oldest daughter loved the Illustrated Classic books. There was a store in Monterey that had them on discount and we would get her a few every time we were there.

Wrong time period, but Shaara’s The Killer Angels is fantastic historical fiction.

First, thanks for all of the great suggestions!

I think my current plan is address the historical curiosity of my son by watching the Terry Jones Medieval Lives BBC series on Youtube. It’s only 8 episodes can easily do it in France. After we finish that I think I may pick up the Kindle version of The Door in the Wall.

The Illustrated Classics is a good idea. I’ll have to see if the english library here has any of them. If not I’ll probably wait until be get back to the US in January. I saw The Three Musketeers is in that series.

The Cartoon History of the Universe Volumes 1-7 might also be a good source to find other specific things he is interested in. I had Castle by David Macaulay at one point. I wonder if I still have it or if I sold it.

Really, there are a lot of good suggestions for us to come back to. Thanks for all of the great help!

Not sure about the age rating, but it seems like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the right kind of fiction for you.