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Old Times October What makes good historical fiction?

Below is a list of desirable characteristics for historical fiction and it is worth noting that the elements of believability and universal themes and emotions overlap with realistic fiction.  Good historical fiction must (Barone, 2010, p. 68; Nilsen and Donelson, 2009, p. 244;  Gamble and Yates, 2008, p. 138)

  • be accurate, faithfully recreate minds and motives (authentic rendition)
  • have a setting that is integral to the story
  • have believable characters that encourage empathy
  • provide evidence that even across great time spans people share similar emotions and solve problems in similar ways (universal themes), and
  • provide references to well- known events and people so the reader can place the novel in correct historic framework and come away feeling they know time, place, event better.


Barone, D. (2010). Children’s literature in the classroom: engaging lifelong readers. New York: Guidford Press.

Gamble, N and Yates, S. (2008). Exploring Children’s Literature (2nd Ed). London, UK: SAGE.

Nilsen, A. P and Donelson, K. L. (2009). Literature for today’s young adults (8th ed). Boston: Pearson.


About hgtl

I am a secondary English/History teacher (BA DipEd, MA (Education) and a Teacher Librarian (MEd). I LOVE to research and through this site aim to -Support the introduction of the Australian Curriculum (especially in History) through sourcing quality and varied internet based sources (research guides) - Support teachers through conducting education based literature reviews - Provide suggestions on useful Web 2.0 tools - Offer other services such as curriculum writing, library collection assessment, novel recommendations (see my blog


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