This is the second in my (hopefully) ongoing series of blog posts based on fiction books that all deal with a similar theme. Last time I listed fiction books about Ancient Egypt. This time I will be listing books about the Tudors.
As per my last post: Standard terms and conditions apply.
The books I have compiled are all fictional works, and have been chosen to supply teachers, parents and educators with resources to support literacy in topic work, or as books to stretch your child if they have a particular interest in a theme or topic.
I will indicate if I have read the book. In these cases I will point out any areas that may be unsuitable for certain age groups, or need monitoring by an adult.
If I don’t specifically mention that I have read the book, it means I haven’t read it.
As such, if you think the book might be of interest I would urge you to read it through first, before reading/teaching from it, as I have no way of knowing if the books contain what some parents/adults might consider unacceptable material.
All the books I recommend are published for children, but when dealing with older children’s fiction there may be content that is not suitable for younger children. It is your responsibility to check this if you are considering buying the book for a child or teaching the book to children.
If you have book recommendations on this subject, please send in a comment.
If you have read one of the books I am recommending please put your thoughts/reviews in the comments section.
Not all the books I recommend are currently in print. I will indicate where this is the case. Books go in and out of print all the time, which is why I am including every recommendation.
A Traveller in Time by Allison Uttley –
This novel is one I read in my own childhood and enjoyed. A children’s BBC adaptation was also made of the book in the Seventies, although whether it is available, and whether it has stood the test of time is debatable. If it is available, it would make a good class resource. The book is still in print, and tells the story of a young girl called Penelope who is able to travel backwards and forwards in time. It is written from Penelope’s viewpoint, and tells the story of her visit to an old manor house, and her discovery, during her stay that sometimes when she moves from room to room, she also travels from time to time. She moves back and forwards between her present and the time of Elizabeth I, becoming inadvertently tangled in the plot to free Mary Queen of Scots from Elizabeth’s imprisonment. The book is suitable for confident year 5 and 6 primary school readers (aged 10 and up). It is suitable for using in topic based class work, although it is rather long for a guided reading text. I would issue a word of caution in that it is very old fashioned. Uttley was writing right at the beginning of the 20th Century, and her language is rather formal, and the book is quite slow in pace. It would be very easy for a modern child to become bored with this, and it may be better to introduce it by selecting key, exciting passages from further on in the book and getting children hooked that way.
King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
– This book tells the story of an orphaned American teenager, Nat Field. He is a gifted actor who has become part of an all male theatre troupe, dedicated to performing Shakespeare’s plays. Their enigmatic director has arranged for them to visit London at the time of the opening of the new Globe theatre, built as an exact replica of the one Shakespeare part owned and used in his day. Nat is to play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One day, after rehearsing in London he falls ill. He is rushed to hospital, delirious, and diagnosed with the first outbreak of Bubonic plague for nearly four hundred years. What follows is a time slip adventure where Nat Turner of modern times is transported back in time to the original Globe to play Puck opposite Shakespeare himself. It is not clear until the end of the book whether Nat is dreaming or whether his time travel really happened. This is a fantastic adventure story, fast paced and full of the sights and sounds and smells of Elizabethan England. Nat is a wonderful character and a great guide to the differences between our modern world and that of Shakespeare’s day. The book is short enough at just over 150 pages, to use for guided reading in class. I would recommend it for primary year 5 and 6 children. I have read this book, both as a child, and again recently. I would urge teachers/educators to be aware that there are two instances of swear words being used, both in context, but which will need explaining. There is also a three page section where Nat describes going to see a bear baiting ‘entertainment’. The subject is vividly described and you may want to think about how you would present this, or indeed if you would present it in class. Do not let this put you off the book though. It is a really great evocation of Tudor times.
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
– I have not read this book, but reviews suggest that it is suitable for young adults, so perhaps aged 12 and up. It seems to be a story set in Tudor times, but which also contains elements of fantasy and the hero and heroine being mixed up in the world of faery. These things, coupled with the fact that it is 280 pages long suggest that it is probably unsuitable for primary aged readers, and guided reading sessions. It may however have some interesting sections which could be harvested for using in classroom situations. Depending on how young adult this YA book is, it may also be good to recommend to enthusiastic children who want to find out more about Tudor times on their own.
The Bassumtyte Treasure by Jane Louise Curry
– is currently out of print, but second hand copies are available through Amazon for a penny plus postage. The story deals with a ten year old American boy called Tommy, who travels to the U.K. to stay with his family in a mysterious house. Tommy believes that a family rhyme, passed down through the generations, holds the key to unlocking treasure, and embarks upon an adventure which leads him to time travel to the Tudor era. The book seems to be aimed at a primary year 5 and 6 age group. Whether the book is old fashioned in style or not is hard to say as I haven’t read it.
The Lady Grace Mysteries by Grace Cavendish
– This is a whole series of mystery novels, written under a pseudonym as if by the central character herself. Lady Grace Cavendish is the favourite lady’s maid of Queen Elizabeth I. Because Grace is small and sneaky, she is able to meddle in court affairs and solve mysteries, all at the Queen’s behest. These are short books, which are fun to read and which add local colour and excitement to the topic of the Tudors, but which are not terribly ‘factual’ in their fiction. They would be lovely to have in the classroom as extra interest items for enthusiastic children to pursue the topic further, but it would be tricky to use them in guided reading, which is a shame because they’re nice and short. I have linked to the first of the series called, Assassin, but there are quite a few of them. I would recommend them for sevens and up.
Tudor Chronicles by Terry Deary
– Much like the Lady Grace books, there are a whole bunch of these. Written by Terry Deary, they are a sort of fictional accompaniment to his hugely popular best selling Horrible Histories series, fleshing out the facts with adventurous and/or humorous stories set in a particular historical time. I haven’t read these, but I suspect, based on his other work that they would be suitable for seven year olds and up, maybe younger if the children were being read to. They would be good for guided reading in class, and as companion pieces to the Horrible Histories series of books and television shows. They are educationally useful, and popular with children. This series seems to be currently out of print, but it may be that it is due to be reprinted shortly, as Deary is perennially popular in schools and homes alike.
Brother Dusty Feet by Rosemary Sutcliff
– Rosemary Sutcliff was a prolific children’s author, specialising in historical adventure fiction. Her most popular book is probably Eagle of the Ninth, a daring adventure story set in Roman Britain. Here she concerns herself with the adventures of an 11 year old boy, bored of working on his family’s farm he joins a band of travelling players as they tour the land of Elizabeth I’s England. This would be suitable for year five and six primary children, and possibly younger if an adult were reading the book aloud. At 224 pages it is too long for guided reading. I was also told by the person who recommended it that it is a tad old fashioned in style. If you are thinking of using this in a classroom setting therefore, you must check that your children will be engaged with the story and not put off by the style of story telling.
The Armourer’s House by Rosemary Sutcliff
– Currently out of print, this book tells the story of Tamsyn, a young girl whose dream is to go to sea, but who is sent to London to live with her Uncle, an armourer in far away London. Alone and disoriented Tamsyn finally finds her purpose when she meets a wise woman on the streets of Tudor London. As with Brother Dusty Feet above, I was advised that this book might be too old fashioned for modern readers. Second hand copies are available via Amazon if you wish to find out more.
The Players Boy by Antonia Forest
– Currently out of print, this is the story of a young boy making his way in the time of Shakespeare and his plays. I could find no more information as to suitability etc.
Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Trease
– This is an adventure story about a fourteen year old boy who throws a stone at an enemy of his family’s house and ends up embroiled in plots and counter plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I. At 320 pages it is too long for guided reading, but could be great for recommending to children who are intrigued by the whole Tudor period. It is recommended for children of about ten years and older. I have not read this book, so please take time to review it thoroughly before using it in class or buying it for a child. Trease had a long and prolific career as an author, and his books on the Vikings were exciting but quite old fashioned and slow to start. It may be the case that this book would work best for confident readers who are willing to persevere with a story.
Gunner’s Boy by Ann Turnbull
– This is marketed under the umbrella title ‘Tudor Flashbacks’. There is very little information other than this, except that this book follows the fortunes of a young boy who wants to go to sea, and signs on with a ship at the time the British are about to go head to head with the Spanish Armada. Judging from the limited review material available it may be part of a series which depict fictionalised children living factualised historical lives. It is not clear what age group this book is suitable for.
The Time Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasures by Julia Jarman
– This is one in an ongoing series about a cat called Ka, who can take his owner on adventures through space and time. In this volume Ka has disappeared into Tudor times, but his concerned owner, Topher, discovers that cats were tortured in Elizabethan times, and sets off to rescue Ka from danger. This series of books has been recommended to me by a ten year old girl who is extremely keen on historical adventure stories. School librarian magazine recommends it for 8-10 year olds. At 144 pages it is suitable for guided reading, and may be useful for embellishing topic work on the Tudor period.
The Queen’s Token by Pamela Oldfield
– This is a short (64 pages) adventure story about a young boy called Hal who is a poor stable boy who dreams of serving the court of Henry VIII. The story tells of Hal’s adventure in pursuing that dream. There are no reviews available, although judging by the cover and synopsis this book is aimed at 7-10 year olds. It may well be suitable for guided reading.
The Wool Pack by Cynthia Harnett
– An out of print tale, and winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal, The Wool Pack tells the story of Nicholas Fetterlock, an apprentice in his father’s wool business, who is gradually pulled into the murky world of smuggling and espionage against the world of Tudor commerce. The book reviews claim that this is an exciting and accessible adventure story that will resonate with modern readers. It does not give an age range, although one of the reviewers talks about reading it when he was twelve. Could be used in class to add colour and interest to the Tudor topic at KS2.
The Rogue’s Gold by John Pilkington (Usborne Elizabethan Mysteries)
– This is the first in a trilogy of books about the boy actor, Ben Button and the mysteries he unfolds and solves whilst part of a troupe of travelling players in the time of Elizabeth I. The books are about 220 pages long. There is only minimal description of the plot for all three books on Amazon, and no customer reviews, although all three books are still currently in print.
At The House of the Magician by Mary Hooper
– This is the first in a series about a young woman called Lucy, sent to work in the house of Dr. Dee, Queen Elizabeth I’s advisor and renowned magician. Lucy uncovers plots and intrigues and battles against a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. One reviewer recommends it as suitable for a12 year old, confident reader. The content seems to be slightly scary, slightly romantic and a lot mysterious. Judging from the cover art I would recommend this for teenage reading rather than primary school material, though depending on how scary and how romantic the content it might work for upper KS2 children whose reading age and comprehension are very advanced.
Raider’s Tide by Maggie Prince –
This is described as a novel about a ‘feisty Elizabethan teenager’ who defies her family’s dictates to marry her cousin and who falls in love with the Scots invader she has vowed to protect her family from. This is clearly a novel for teens rather than primary school children. The words ‘smouldering’ and ‘passionate’ are also used in the synopsis. Recommended for 13 and older.
Stars of Fortune by Cynthia Harnett –
This is written by the Carnegie award winning novelist Cynthia Harnett, whose book The Wool Pack is also on this list. This book is still in print, but little or no information about it is available on Amazon. Good Reads says that it is an adventure story about the four young children of George Washington, and their attempts to help Queen Elizabeth I flee the country. It is not clear what age group it is suitable for.
A Cold Wind Blowing by Barbara Willard
– This is the first volume in a series called Mantlemas by author Barbara Willard. It is currently out of print. Little information is available on Amazon, although second hand copies are currently available from a penny plus postage. Good Reads says that it is set at the time of Henry VIII’s split with Rome and involves a mysterious woman who has no memory of her past, and her romantic involvement with a young Englishman. There is no information as to age suitability although I would always tend to peg romantic fiction as being suitable for a higher reading age group than non romantic fiction.
You Never Knew Her as I Did by Mollie Hunter
– Currently out of print, although copies are available via Amazon, this is another Tudor mystery story. Teenage Will Douglas, bastard son of the lord of Lochleven castle, gets mixed up in the plot to help Mary Queen of Scots escape her exile from the castle. A reviewer recommends it as a romantic historic read for 12 years and up.