Enthralling Historical Fiction Audiobooks for Tweens

As a tween, I was obsessed with historical fiction like Number the Stars, Beware, Princess Elizabeth, and series like Dear America and The Royal Diaries. I could not get enough of these books, and my childhood bedroom is still packed with them today. Audiobooks enrich historical fiction with accents, soundscaping, and multi-cast narration. Below are some of my favorites, giving voice to tweens’ experiences and challenges, and taking place around the world throughout history.

no no 9780593744277 The Night War by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Gilli Messer

Beloved and two-time Newbery Honor-winning Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is back with another war story. Primarily set at the Chateau de Chenonceau in World War II France, Miri is a Jewish girl who has lost everything and decides to risk her life to help others. Gilli Messer’s narration is gorgeous, moving seamlessly through different languages, from prose to song, and portraying Miri’s most inner struggles. There is a surprise speculative element in the second half of the novel, which will keep listeners guessing.

9780593793800 Max in the House of Spies by Adam Gidwitz, read by Euan Morton

This is a beautiful spy-fantasy story set in World War II London. Max, a Jewish German boy, is separated from his family and sent to Britain for his safety. He is Accompanied by two mythological creatures hanging out on each shoulder, representing his Jewish and German identities. He soon finds that he’s been sent to live with spies and adventures follow. Euan’s narration is quick-witted and layered — tween listeners will love this adventure.

9780593820841 Across So Many Seas by Ruth Behar, read by Allison Strong, Victoria Villarreal, Sol Madariaga, Frankie Corzo, and Ruth Behar

In 1492, Benvenida and her family are banished from Spain for being Jewish. Over four centuries later, in 1923, Reina’s father ships her away to live with an aunt in Cuba. In 1961, Castro forces Alegra to flee to Miami. Then in 2003, Alegra’s daughter, Paloma, dives into her family’s heritage while on a family trip to Spain, where she makes a momentous discovery. This is truly a beautiful audiobook, and each narrator delivers heart and passion to their character.

9780593820520 Amil and the After by Veera Hiranandani, read by Sid Sagar and Veera Hiranandani

In this poignant follow-up to The Night Diary, Amil misses their former home (in what is now Pakistan). Both Muslim and Hindu, he feels adrift in Bombay and suffers from post-traumatic stress after the events of Partition. Strikingly tender, Amil’s story asks all of us to do more for our neighbors when we see them struggling. Sid Sagar’s narration is quiet and contemplative and captures the energetic heart of a young boy.

9780593611937 Once in a Blue Moon by Sharon G. Flake, read by Isaiah Seward

This novel-in-verse set in the Jim Crow South follows a Black boy named James Henry with severe anxiety due to a traumatic incident involving his mother. Through his passion for astronomy, along with the love and support of his twin sister, James Henry is slowly able to heal. James Henry’s story is a great conversation starter to discuss mental health with tweens, while Isaiah Seward’s narration makes Once in a Blue Moon a measured and soothing listen.

9780593743263 The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri, read by Daniel Nayeri

Set in the 11th century along the Silk Road, Monkey owes his life to Samir, the “Seller of Dreams.” Samir is a scammer whose tales often land him in trouble. With a target on his back, Monkey decides to be his protector as payment for saving his life. With its historical setting and lore-like storytelling, this audiobook read by the author makes listeners feel like they are sitting around a fire listening to a legend.

9780593588079 A Seed in the Sun by Aida Salazar, read by Victoria Villarreal and Aida Salazar

In this novel-in-verse, a farm-working girl with ambitious dreams encounters activist Dolores Huerta and participates in the 1965 workers’ rights protest. Lula Viramontes navigates the challenges of her life, including dangerous work conditions, caring for her family, and avoiding her father’s temper while realizing the importance of raising her voice in the fight for better treatment and wages for farmworkers. Victoria Villarreal’s narration adds depth to Lula’s emotional journey.

9780735287372 The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, read by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley, Kimberly Farr, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, and Arthur Morey

Adam Gidwitz’s humor and heart shine in this full-cast audiobook production. Set in medieval France, stories about three children and a dog unfold at an inn, à la The Canterbury Tales. The children, a young monk, a Jewish boy, and a peasant girl with visions, find themselves on an epic quest culminating at Mont Saint-Michel. Medieval music by Benjamin Bagby of Sequentia enhances the audiobook and includes an adaptation of the medieval epic poem “The Song of Hildebrand,” narrated for the audio recording in English by Gidwitz with harp accompaniment by Benjamin Bagby of Sequentia. Bagby also contributes a bonus track, the first known recording of the Hildebrandslied, in Old High German. This audiobook adaptation is a truly immersive experience.

9780307710604 Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman, read by Janet McTeer

Author Karen Cushman is best known for her Newbery Honor book Catherine, Called Birdy. This audiobook wasn’t recorded until years after the book was published, but the music and narration by Janet McTeer immediately places the listener in Matilda’s world. Entitled Matilda is in for a shock when she becomes assistant to Red Peg the Bonesetter in Blood and Bone Alley. She’s used to an upper-class lifestyle and, at first, can’t relate to the people she meets there. The medieval world of Blood and Bone Alley is so vividly painted, and listeners feel empathy as Matilda learns to care about her patients.

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