Jill Williamson

Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She writes stories that combine danger, suspense, and adventure for people of all ages. An avid reader, she started Novel Teen Book Reviews (www.novelteen.com) to help teens find great books to read. Her first novel, By Darkness Hid, releases from Marcher Lord Press on April 1, 2009. Learn more at www.jillwilliamson.com.

Fun Learning Through Fiction

Historical and Biblical Fiction That Teaches and Entertains

With taxes out of the way, it’s time for a lot of homeschooling parents to be thinking about what books to order for next year. So I thought it appropriate to discuss what the historical and biblical fiction genres have to offer.

In my opinion, there is no better way to understand what life might have been like before our time than to read fiction novels that show history through the eyes of a great character. True, these are fictional stories, but some are based on fact. And the authors who write these genres do extensive research so that they are able to portray the setting and world events in a historically correct manner.

Some of my favorite books are historical. As a girl, I loved the Little House on the Prairie books and the Anne of Green Gables series. Both Laura and Anne were such wonderful characters that I was able to truly understand what life had been like for girls in their time.

Many wonderful historical and biblical novels are available for teens and adults. I can’t possibly list them all. But I will give some of my recent favorites and suggestions where more can be found.

Civil War

William Henry Is a Fine Name by Cathy Gohlke (2006 Moody Publishers)
I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires by Cathy Golke (2008 Moody Publishers)
Ages 12 and up
These books were amazing. They follow the story of Robert Glover just before and during the Civil War. William Henry Is a Fine Name won the 2006 Christy Award. I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires was a finalist for the 2008 Christy Awards. I felt as if I was experiencing the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and the heart of the issues of slavery as I read these books. The character Robert is so real, and his journey and growth so powerful, he becomes a friend. As he cheats death again and again, he discovers that slavery comes in many forms, and only by becoming a slave to Christ will he ever be truly free.

World War II

Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry (2007 Journeyforth—a division of BJU Press)
Ages 12 and up
In Gunner’s Run, Jim Yoder, a World War II B-26 gunner, falls from his plane and parachutes into Nazi Germany. I enjoyed Jim’s suspenseful journey of staying out of the gestapo’s clutches and how he depended on God to get him through. Having a grandfather who fought in WWII, it was fascinating to read stories of people trusting God and working together to help one another out of enemy territory. Gunner’s Run put me smack in the middle of a side of WWII I have never studied. It was fascinating.

The French and Indian War

Guns of Thunder by Douglas Bond (2007 P&R Publishing)
Ages 10 and up
This is an intriguing story of a boy’s life during the French and Indian War. A lot of history is packed in here, including some historical issues of faith. Overall, the story was interesting as were the historical facts and the kind of work Ian did daily on his family’s farm.

Seventeenth-Century Scotland

Against the Tide by Hope Irvin Marston (2007 P&R Publishing)
Ages 10 and up
This story is based on the life of martyr Margaret Wilson. I knew little of church history from this time period and found the struggle fascinating. Margaret’s story was incredible and heartbreaking. King Charles II demands that everyone attend his church services and sends out dragoons to see that people obey. But Margaret’s family wants to worship God in their own way. She learns that some people are made for service and some are made for sacrifice. Although Margaret wants to serve God without having to give up her life, she is determined to let God choose her path. I enjoyed learning the history and peeking into the life of this woman who lived so long ago.

The Old West

Beyond the Smoke by Terry Burns
Ages 8 and up
After his wagon train is attacked by Comanche raiders, Bryan Wheeler is stranded in the Wild West. He quickly gathers a few supplies and sets out to find a safe place. He meets plenty of

trouble on his journey, including a violent slave owner, a young Indian boy, and a town with a sheriff set on giving him trouble. I enjoyed following Bryan as he made his way to a new life. No matter what he encountered, he always acted with integrity.

The Eleanor series by Eleanor Clark (2007 Honor Net)

Ages 8 and up
This is a series of six books that follow the lives of young girls in six different historical times. Mary Elizabeth: Welcome to America takes place in the early 1600s and centers around a family that immigrates to American from Wales. Victoria Grace: Courageous Patriot is set during the time period of America’s War for Independence. Katie Sue: Heading West tells the story of Katie’s family as they travel from Tennessee to Texas on a wagon train in the mid 1800s. Sarah Jane: Liberty’s Torch is set in 1886, when the Statue of Liberty was dedicated. Eleanor Jo: The Farmer’s Daughter takes place on a Texas farm during World War II. As people in the community work together by rationing food and cutting back so they can send money overseas, Eleanor starts to think of ways she can help.


Where I Belong by Rebecca Kenney (2008 Journeyforth—a division of BJU Press)
Ages 9 and up
This is a fascinating story of what it might have been like to travel with Abraham’s camp. Miu is taken from her Egyptian home by a band of raiders and sold to Abraham as a slave for his wife Sarah. Miu grows close to Hagar, a young Egyptian woman who reminds her of home. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, is to inherit Abraham’s kingdom. But when Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bears a son, Ishmael loses his inheritance. Miu’s world hangs in the balance. She wonders about this God whom Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael serve. If he’s so good, why does he keep taking things away? I enjoyed seeing this biblical hero through the eyes of a slave girl. Her questions about God are honest and explore the popular question: If God is so good, why do bad things happen? Miu learns to look for the good in every situation and finds where she belongs.

Both BJU Press and P&R Publishing have extensive collections of historical and Biblical fiction titles for juvenile and teen readers. Check out their Web sites for more information:


I also recommend the following for older teens:

Anything by Bodie and Brock Thoene. They have written over forty-five works of historical fiction.

Francine Rivers’s Mark of the Lion series is set in first century Jerusalem, Rome, and Ephesus after Christ’s death and resurrection (Tyndale House).

Before the Season Ends and The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard are historical fiction novels in the style of Jane Austen’s work (Harvest House).

By Darkness Hid