The best Scottish historical fiction books for middle graders

Victoria Williamson Author Of Hag Storm
By Victoria Williamson

Who am I?

I grew up in the heart of Scotland addicted to visiting museums and exploring local stories and legends. Now as an adult I’m either to be found with my nose in a history book or out on an archaeological dig. I love to weave the lives of Scottish heroes such as Roberts Burns into books filled with fantasy and adventure for children, and to write spine-chilling tales for adults where supernatural creatures from Scottish myths lurk between the pages. I recently co-created a series of educational writing videos for school children to help them explore the history of their local area, and hopefully inspire the historical authors of the future!

I wrote...

Hag Storm

By Victoria Williamson,

Book cover of Hag Storm

What is my book about?

The witches are gathering... 

It’s autumn 1771, and 12-year-old Rab spends all of his time doing backbreaking work on his family’s farm instead of attending school, but when he finds a hag stone in one of the fields, everything changes. Looking through its circular hole, he sees witches gathering in a coming storm, and they’ve set their sights on his family. Can Rab save his sisters from the clutches of the witches’ coven before their Halloween ceremony in the old church? Filled with mystery and magic, Hag Storm is a spooky historical adventure with a supernatural twist, based on the life of the young Robert Burns, and his most famous poem, "Tam o' Shanter."

The books I picked & why

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A Pattern of Secrets

By Lindsay Littleson,

Book cover of A Pattern of Secrets

Why this book?

A Pattern of Secrets is a wonderfully atmospheric Victorian adventure that tells the story of two children from very different worlds – one of a twelve-year-old boy living in poverty, the other of a girl with apparently everything she could want. Their paths cross when Jim’s father loses his livelihood when the factory owned by Jessie’s father closes and an unfortunate misunderstanding costs Jim’s family their savings and their home. Jim and Jessie are not so very different though, and Lindsay Littleson weaves together their stories in a beautiful dual narrative that shows how two children from very different backgrounds could have more in common than they could possibly have imagined.

Black Water

By Barbara Henderson,

Book cover of Black Water

Why this book?

Black Water is a thrilling tale of adventure by master storyteller Barbara Henderson. Thirteen-year-old Henry’s adventures trying to foil the smugglers, while facing the dangers of pistols, quicksand, and of course, the treacherous sea which could sweep him away at any moment, keep readers turning the pages to find out more!

This is a wonderful introduction to smuggling, the work of Excise men on the Scottish coast, to the job that Robert Burns did for a time, and even to some of his poetry. With an atmospheric setting and wonderful authentic narrative, this tale based on real historical events is a must-read for primary school children and a great choice for a class novel.

The God of All Small Boys

By Joseph Lamb,

Book cover of The God of All Small Boys

Why this book?

James is sent away to live with his mill-town relatives in this nostalgic, coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of Dundee during WW1.

Some summers were made for growing up…

Dundee, 1917. When his father goes to fight in the war, 11-year-old James is sent to live with his mill-town relatives and his cousin, Billy. At first, James feels lost and alone: his cousin hates him, the school bully is after him, and he is worried about his father’s safety. Gradually, he finds a new world of friendship, freedom, fun, and The God of All Small Boys, in a summer that will change his life forever...

I found this story both funny and sad, and altogether emotionally gripping. Highly engaging, and full of historical details of Dundee during the First World War – a sure favourite for middle grade readers.

Charlie's Promise

By Annemarie Allan,

Book cover of Charlie's Promise

Why this book?

Would you break the rules or break your promise? On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy called Josef hiding in the woods near his home. Josef can’t speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform. Charlie promises to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city. It’s a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship, and Charlie’s promise, to the limit

This is a beautiful story full of heart and empathy, and a welcome reminder of the kindness of strangers and the innocence of childhood.

The Beast on the Broch

By John K Fulton,

Book cover of The Beast on the Broch

Why this book?

12-year-old Talorca is a Pictish girl living in northeast Scotland in 799 AD. When Gaelic-speaking Dalriadans arrive in her village, her world is turned upside down. Her only friend is the mythical Pictish Beast, who has been injured by the Dalriadans. Talorca decides to take a stand against the intruders and hatches a plan to drive them out. But she can only do that with the help of the wild beast on the broch…

With a loyal and endearing heroine, a beast steeped in mystery, and a wonderful cast of characters, this tale of adventures is grips the reader all the way to the end.

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