Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 4, 2015

Talking about Historical Fiction for Young Readers

History is an invitation to cross between known worlds. It may let us see the present freshly by looking at it from another angle. Writers of historical fiction put characters at the center of big and small dramas. We trespass across time, search lands we can never truly know, and may try, in our imaginations, to inhabit the feeling of a body gone from the earth. We love to research – finding people and places we’re willing to keep in our minds for a long time — and we learn to let research go. As Allan Wolf wrote in The Watch that Ends the Night, “When it comes to historical fiction, history is the birdcage; fiction is the bird.”


This Wednesday, January 7 at 7: 00 p.m. at Forbes Library, Northampton, MA I’ll join three local novelists and poets to read and talk about history for young readers. Burleigh Muten will read and discuss her verse novel about Emily Dickinson, Miss Emily. Ellen Wittlinger will read from This Means War, about how events of the 1960’s affect an eleven-year-old girl. Jane Yolen from Centaur Rising, which blends history and fantasy. I enjoyed going back to Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands, where the youngest Alcott sister, who I wrote about in my forthcoming novel, Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott, was just a toddler during the year that her sister began keeping a diary, and came to be a writer.

Formore about these books and themes, please read History in Fiction, For Young and Old, an article by Naila Moreira, the event’s curator. I’m happy to live in such a rich community of writers and readers, and look forward to this!



  1. Ah, Northampton. Perhaps I could return as an Ada Comstock scholar…. Looking forward to your blog post about this, my friend.

    • Hmm, we should all get a do-over degree as Ada Comstock scholars. But I’m hoping sometime your schedule brings you to Northampton!

  2. What a great program, in such a gorgeous library. I’m embarrassed to say that our big library system, in three counties, has no writing programs, no events with children’s writers. Nothing. We used to, but no more. Have no idea why.

    • I think some local writers, in this case Susan Stinson and Nailia Moreria, have pretty much put things into their hands on a volunteer or at least nearly so labor-of-love basis. We grow to depend on such, but if the love doesn’t end, for various reasons the labor must — which might have happened at your library. One or two extraordinary and energetic people go, and there’s a lull. I am grateful!

  3. I wish I could attend. Sounds wonderful!

  4. As I said on your FB page, this sounds so wonderful, Jeanne. Thanks for the extra article. I do think you’re right, special people make special things happen, everywhere! Have fun…

    • Linda, you are one of those special people that brings so much wonder through words. Thank you for that, and your good wishes.

  5. Once again, Jeannine, I’m wishing I could be a mouse in the corner! It will be such an interesting evening. All my best wishes to you and to the other presenters! xox

    • Thank you, Amy. So good to connect over the miles here on the Internet, but there are times it would be handy to shrink real space. I’ll carry your good wishes with me.

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