The best history books for young adult readers interested in the American Revolution

Jeffery McKenna Author Of Saving Dr. Warren... "A True Patriot"
By Jeffery McKenna

Who am I?

I have loved American history all my life. I thought I knew the events and key figures in the American Revolution. Then, in 2001, I learned about Dr. Joseph Warren. The more I learned, the more I wanted to tell his story. I travelled to Boston. I walked the Freedom Trail. I followed the red bricks that wind through historic Boston until they end at Bunker Hill. I saw the marble statue of Dr. Warren at Bunker Hill honoring his death. His influence and footprints are on every location along the Freedom Trail. My passion is to tell his story; my hope is that all Americans can remember his sacrifice.

I wrote...

Saving Dr. Warren... "A True Patriot"

By Jeffery McKenna,

Book cover of Saving Dr. Warren... "A True Patriot"

What is my book about?

Steve O'Dell loves to write and does it well. But as an eighth-grade student at Needham Middle School, his talent sometimes seems more an embarrassment than a blessing. Then, on Veterans Day 2001, Steve’s award-winning essay propels him into an adventure twisting through Revolutionary battles and bloodshed. Thanks to the bizarre bequest of a manuscript and a musket ball from a long-lost family war hero, Steve’s journey with Dr. Joseph Warren experiencing the Revolutionary War and true patriotism begins.

Join Steve as he races through time trying to save one of America’s most forgotten Founding Fathers!

The books I picked & why

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Johnny Tremain

By Esther Hoskins Forbes,

Book cover of Johnny Tremain

Why this book?

Johnny Tremain first appeared in 1943 and remains a must-read classic for three reasons.

First, Ester Forbes takes the reader along the paths of 1770s Boston, as if she walked the ancient streets and visited the colonial merchants’ stores herself. Second, the descriptive language and beautiful imagery Forbes uses throughout Johnny Tremain places her work among the best of the already elite Newberry Award-winning novels. Third, Forbes’ writing and knowledge merge together as she creates authentic fictional and true historical characters. Dr. Warren and his best friend Paul Revere are brought to life inside the Green Dragon Tavern and the walls of their homes. Americans know Revere, but for many, their first introduction to Dr. Warren is from the pages of this novel.

My Brother Sam Is Dead

By James Lincoln Collier, Christopher Collier,

Book cover of My Brother Sam Is Dead

Why this book?

I’ve included the Colliers’ classic because it was one of the first historical fiction novels that I ever read.  Over forty years later, I can still remember the magic. Upon reading the first page, I was transported instantly from my desert home in Las Vegas to a Tory tavern in Redding, Connecticut. The enchantment in the pages worked a magic over me that I never forgot  In some ways, this led me to write my own historical fiction novel. The title is simple – My Brother Sam is Dead. The meaning, the message, and the Meeker Family’s pain profound. You will not soon forget the Meeker family’s terrible misfortunes and the unimaginable unfairness of war. In the end, you will question all wars... even our very war for independence.  


By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Chains

Why this book?

Chains tells the story of the enslaved during a revolution for independence. The irony of the enslaved risking their well-being for a new nation whose founding and ideals fell short of granting all men and all women “certain inalienable rights,” is not missed in these pages. In fact, it is masterfully delivered for all readers – young and old. Anderson is a master weaver. She beautifully threads stunning strands of real history within the tapestry of her modern classic. Most Americans are not aware that the mayor and other leaders of New York nearly succeeded in ending the rebellion against their King. In the late spring of 1776, a plan formed to assassinate General Washington. Anderson weaves the intrigue of the assassination with the role that an enslaved girl could have had in squashing it - effectively saving the American revolution.  

Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away

By Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Kathleen Van Cleve,

Book cover of Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge: George and Martha Washington's Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away

Why this book?

I love to find “hidden gems” in history. Ona Judge is a gem. First published in 2017, Never Caught, the Story of Ona Judge is a biography that reads like an engaging novel. It depicts the life of George and Martha Washington’s young enslaved girl that grows to a young woman in the shadows of the most powerful couple in our new nation. At age 16, Ona leaves Mount Vernon to accompany President Washington and Martha while they live in New York and then Philadelphia. She is treated splendidly, but she is still property. This terrible truth crashes upon Ona when Martha, wanting to give the absolute best gift she can to her difficult, disagreeable, and stubborn granddaughter, decides to give her Ona – her most cherished possession, as a wedding gift. Rather than be property to be gifted and given, Ona escapes. This book shows how President Washington was the “Indispensable Man” in the formation of our nation. It also shows his weakness as he struggles with the inherent “sin of slavery.”  

The Secret of Sarah Revere

By Ann Rinaldi,

Book cover of The Secret of Sarah Revere

Why this book?

I selected The Secret of Sarah Revere for two reasons. First, Ann Rinaldi may have published more middle school historical fiction stories about the American Revolution than any other author. Those interested in middle school historical fiction should become familiar with Ann Rinaldi. Second, The Secret of Sarah Revere struck close to my personal passion – the memory of Dr. Joseph Warren. Ann Rinaldi’s main character is Paul Revere’s second daughter. Through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Sarah Revere, Rinaldi brings to life the relationship and intimate doings of two best friends – Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren. The story is great historical fiction as Paul Revere’s family and friends come to life in 1770s Boston. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the American Revolution, Boston, and slaves?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the American Revolution, Boston, and slaves.

The American Revolution Explore 75 books about the American Revolution
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Slaves Explore 58 books about slaves

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