The best books that bring real events and real kids alive for readers

Frieda Wishinsky Author Of Avis Dolphin
By Frieda Wishinsky

Who am I?

From the time I was a kid, I loved books about real people who lived through difficult and colorful times.  As a writer, I’ve written about people whose lives fascinated and inspired me like Franklin Law Olmsted (The Man Who Made Parks) I believe that a riveting story or memoir gives the reader a strong sense of a person and the times in which they lived. And after reading one of these books, I wanted to know more about the person and the period in which they lived.


I wrote...

Avis Dolphin

By Frieda Wishinsky, Willow Dawson (illustrator),

Book cover of Avis Dolphin

What is my book about?

Avis Dolphin is an unforgettable novel inspired by the true account of a young girl on the ill-fated Lusitania. It’s also a story of friendship, courage, and resilience set amidst war and unexpected terror.

The books I picked & why

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A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir

By Beverly Cleary,

Book cover of A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir

Why this book?

Beverly Cleary's kid's books have been enjoyed by many generations of readers. I loved her true to life, tinged with humor books as a reader, teacher, and writer.

Like me, many readers wonder about the lives of people we admire and luckily Cleary has written a riveting, direct, and insightful memoir that helps us connect her fiction with her real-life experiences. Throughout Cleary comes across as someone we wish we knew.

A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir

By Beverly Cleary,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl from Yamhill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Told in her own words, A Girl from Yamhill is Newbery Medal-winning author Beverly Cleary's heartfelt and relatable memoir-now with a beautifully redesigned cover! Generations of children have read Beverly Cleary's books. From Ramona Quimby to Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse to Ellen Tebbits, she has created an evergreen body of work based on the humorous tales and heartfelt anxieties of middle graders. But in A Girl from Yamhill, Beverly Cleary tells a more personal story-her story-of what adolescence was like. In warm but honest detail, Beverly describes life in Oregon during the Great Depression, including her difficulties in learning…


Catherine, Called Birdy

By Karen Cushman,

Book cover of Catherine, Called Birdy

Why this book?

What was life like for a young woman in medieval times? Cushman brings the life and challenges of a feisty, aware young woman to life through the words of her diary. Readers will empathize with Catherine and cheer her strength at a time when young women had few rights, few opportunities, and limited resources. Cushman weaves her knowledge of the era seamlessly into this book of fiction.

Catherine, Called Birdy

By Karen Cushman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Catherine, Called Birdy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR MOVIE STREAMING ON AMAZON PRIME.

A funny coming-of-age novel about a fourteen-year-old girl's fight for freedom and right to self-determination in medieval England.

Catherine's in trouble. Caught between a mother who is determined to turn her into the perfect medieval lady and a father who wants her to marry her off to much older and utterly repulsive suitor.

Luckily, Catherine has a plan. She has experience outwitting suitors and is ready to take matters into her own hands . . .

Karen Cushman's Catherine, Called Birdy is the inspiration for Prime Video's medieval comedy film directed by…


The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

By Eugene Yelchin,

Book cover of The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Why this book?

What was life like under the Stalinist Soviet regime? Author Eugene Yelchin vividly and often hilariously recounts his own experiences during those repressive, poverty-stricken, and politically difficult times. Filled with Yelchin’s charming black and white drawings, readers of all ages will applaud Yelchin while learning much about those long-ago times in a country still run by a repressive regime. This timely, poignant book is a great read.

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

By Eugene Yelchin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Genius Under the Table as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Honor Winner

With a masterful mix of comic timing and disarming poignancy, Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin offers a memoir of growing up in Cold War Russia.

Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents’ dream that he become a national hero when he doesn’t even have his own room? He’s not a star athlete or a legendary ballet dancer. In the tiny apartment he shares with his Baryshnikov-obsessed mother, poetry-loving father, continually outraged grandmother, and safely talented brother, all Yevgeny has is his…


A Year Without Mom

By Dasha Tolstikova,

Book cover of A Year Without Mom

Why this book?

This engaging graphic novel follows twelve-year-old Dasha as she is forced to separate from her mom who leaves for America to make a better life for the two of them. The spare yet touching text brings us into Dasha’s world in Russia and her fears and hopes for a new life. Based on Tolstikova’s own experiences, the book draws the reader into Dasha’s fears and joys.

A Year Without Mom

By Dasha Tolstikova,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Year Without Mom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is the early 1990s in Moscow, and political change is in the air. But Dasha is more worried about her own challenges as she negotiates family, friendships and school without her mother. Just as she begins to find her own feet, she gets word that she is to join her mother in America - a place that seems impossibly far from everything and everyone she loves.

Dasha Tolstikova's major talent is on full display in this gorgeous and subtly illustrated graphic novel.


Stitches

By David Small,

Book cover of Stitches

Why this book?

In this riveting memoir told through minimum text and vivid black and white graphic art, we learn of the hardships, sorrow, and choices Small dealt with as a young man. Although heartbreaking, this is ultimately a story of courage despite a painful upbringing. The reader senses how art helped Small cope with sadness, disappointment, and confusion growing up in a difficult family.

Stitches

By David Small,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stitches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David Small, a best-selling and highly regarded children's book illustrator, comes forward with this unflinching graphic memoir. Remarkable and intensely dramatic, Stitches tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who awakes one day from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he has been transformed into a virtual mute-a vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot. From horror to hope, Small proceeds to graphically portray an almost unbelievable descent into adolescent hell and the difficult road to physical, emotional, and artistic recovery.

A National Book Award finalist; winner of the ALA's Alex Award; a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, the Middle Ages, and the Soviet Union?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, the Middle Ages, and the Soviet Union.

Russia Explore 257 books about Russia
The Middle Ages Explore 297 books about the Middle Ages
The Soviet Union Explore 249 books about the Soviet Union

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Black Cauldron, The Wolf Hunt, and Beyond the Bright Sea if you like this list.