The best books for kids who love a medieval quest

Nancy McConnell Author Of Into the Lion's Mouth
By Nancy McConnell

Who am I?

Before I could start writing Into the Lion’s Mouth, I spent a lot of time researching the medieval and renaissance Venice. I was astounded to see how relevant that history is to today. Not only are there many parallels that can be drawn between the past and today there is so much to learn about the consistency of human nature. I find myself currently gravitating towards books that mix history and fiction and these are some of my favorites.

I wrote...

Into the Lion's Mouth

By Nancy McConnell,

Book cover of Into the Lion's Mouth

What is my book about?

Venice is sinking, so they say.

And so are Nico's chances to prosper in the most glorious city in the world. Nurse Francesca is threatening to send him to a farm to pick olives, he has failed at two apprenticeships, and one of the most powerful men in Venice would like to sink his lifeless body into the deepest canal. Orphans have very few options, and Nico might be forced to choose the one he most wishes to avoid, leaving Venice behind forever.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Why did I love this book?

A warm inn, and a stranger’s tale gather together a group of travelers as they become fascinated by the story of three gifted children that is sweeping the land. I loved the way this book brought the story of the people in the inn and the marvelous children together step by step. Peppered with real historical figures and legends this book is a must-read for the middle-grade medieval enthusiast. 

By Adam Gidwitz, Hatem Aly (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Inquisitor's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award

An exciting and hilarious medieval adventure from the bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm. Beautifully illustrated throughout by Hatem Aly!

A New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Editor's Choice A New York Times Notable Children's Book A People Magazine Kid Pick A Washington Post Best Children's Book A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book An Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book A Booklist Best Book A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book A Kirkus Reviews Best Book A Publishers Weekly Best Book A School Library Journal…

The Crowfield Curse

By Pat Walsh,

Book cover of The Crowfield Curse

Why did I love this book?

I found this book through a recommendation from a friend and I am glad I did. A truly spinetingling page-turner, The Crowfield Curse has all the elements of a medieval thriller. A strange magical creature, a mysterious grave, and a deadly curse. What more could you expect from your average medieval abbey? Beautifully written and thoroughly engaging it’s a keeper for your bookshelf.  

By Pat Walsh,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Crowfield Curse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*"A wondrous mystery." --Kirkus, starred review

*"Suspenseful and spooky...with an edgy battle between good and evil." --School Library Journal, starred review

If the deepest secret has been spoken, can the deadliest curse be broken?

Sent into the forest to gather firewood for the medieval abbey where he's an apprentice, Will hears a cry for help, and comes upon a creature no bigger than a cat. Trapped and wounded, it's a hobgoblin, who confesses a horrible secret: Something is buried deep in the snow, just beyond the graveyard. A mythical being, doomed by an ancient curse...

What does this mystery have…

Book cover of The Cross of Lead

Why did I love this book?

I have come to expect a wonderful story when I pick up an Avi book and this one does not disappoint. A true hero’s quest, we follow Crispin across medieval England as he tries to make a life for himself after his previous meager life is shattered. But as with all quests, there is something else going on and Crispin has to use his brain and courage to figure out who he truly is. 

By Avi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Cross of Lead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Newbery Medal winner The Cross of Lead is "a page-turner from beginning to end... full of adventure, mystery, and action" (School Library Journal).

Sometimes I ran, sometimes all I could do was walk. All I knew was that if the steward overtook me, I’d not survive for long....

Crispin is a poor thirteen-year-old peasant in medieval England. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he has been declared a "wolf’s head," meaning he may be killed on sight, by anyone. He flees his tiny village with nothing but his mother’s cross of lead. 

In the English countryside, Crispin meets…

The Shakespeare Stealer

By Gary Blackwood,

Book cover of The Shakespeare Stealer

Why did I love this book?

Set in London at the historic Globe theater, orphan Widge is forced by his cruel master to try to steal the works of William Shakespeare. This book really illuminates the time period. I loved how it pulled me right in and kept me constantly on Widge’s side. Filled with twists and turns this book is hard to put down. 

By Gary Blackwood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shakespeare Stealer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A delightful adveture full of humor and heart set in Elizabethan England!

Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, colorful characters, villainy, and drama.

* "A fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity." --School Library Journal, starred review


The Midwife's Apprentice

By Karen Cushman,

Book cover of The Midwife's Apprentice

Why did I love this book?

This book was a Newberry Award winner and it’s easy to see why. It is hard not to love Alyce and root for her as she grapples with the difficulty of learning midwifery under the not to tender tutelage of Jane the Midwife. The story is at times funny, poignant and fascinating. I was moved by the courage and persistence Alyce shows. This book transported me to another era and left me wanting more. 

By Karen Cushman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Midwife's Apprentice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A poor girl in medieval England gains a name, a purpose, and a future in this “delightful”* and beloved Newbery Medal-winning book. Now with a new cover!

* “A truly delightful introduction to a world seldom seen in children’s literature.” —School Library Journal*, starred review

* “A fascinating view of a far distant time.” —Horn Book, starred review

* “Gripping.” —Kirkus, starred review

A girl known only as Brat has no family, no home, and no future until she meets Jane the Midwife and becomes her apprentice. As she helps the short-tempered Jane deliver babies, Brat—who renames herself Alyce—gains knowledge,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Middle Ages, orphans, and curses?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, orphans, and curses.

The Middle Ages Explore 362 books about the Middle Ages
Orphans Explore 136 books about orphans
Curses Explore 64 books about curses

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, One Came Home, and Under the Egg if you like this list.