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Best Books for the Tudors Topic

This booklist features recommended children’s books about the Tudors.

Plots and playwrights, executions and explorers, monarchs and musicians….there’s no denying that the Tudor topic is one of the most exciting periods in British history to study. We’ve picked out some of our favourite texts suitable for primary school children to help explore the Tudor topic. For chapter books about Tudor times, dig into Berlie Doherty’s Treason or The Queen’s Fool, or for something a little more interactive try the search-and-find book Find Tom in Time: Shakespeare’s London.

Look out for stories featuring merry monarchs like Elizabeth I and Henry VIII, for galleons and gallows and also for tales containing no end of perils including plots to the throne, sneaky spies and deadly executions, in our selection of the best children’s books about the Tudors…

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Chapter books about the Tudors

Berlie Doherty
Chapter book
Most suitable for upper KS2, Berlie Doherty offers a tensely dramatic tale with plenty of detail to explore about Tudor life. Set in the time of Henry VIII, this story explores the high tensions around religion and politics in this era as well as opening discussions about the power of the monarchy.
Ally Sherrick
Chapter book

Cat Sparrow lives in Tudor England during the reign of King Henry VIII. When her sister Meg is taken away by a strange figure, Cat sets out on a quest to find her. Living with a learning difficulty in a Tudor world means that Cat is often perceived by others as a ‘half-wit’. With the help of a young actor, called Jacques, who has his own quest to complete, Cat embarks upon her quest and ends up joining a travelling troupe before joining Katherine of Aragon’s court as the queen’s fool. With plenty of historical details as well as everything you’d hope for in a Tudor adventure, from plots and perils to tournaments and feasts, this story offers fresh perspective into life during the Tudor period. Free chapter-by-chapter reading resources are also available to download from the publisher.

Patrice Lawrence
Chapter book

Part of the ‘Voices’ series, which celebrates the experiences of BAME figures in British history and written as a first-person narrative, Diver’s Daughter gives a uniquely fascinating perspective into life in Tudor times.

Eve, our narrator, and her mother start the story in South London. Eve’s mother was stolen from Mozambique as a child and so the story offers insight into the lives of black families in England during this time, something that is rarely mentioned in either historical fiction or non-fiction texts about the period and something that, in the notes at the back of the book, the author further discusses.

Patrice Lawrence paints a vivid picture of life within the cramped and dirty London streets, which transports the reader into Tudor times. The action moves from London down to the South Coast and brings in the story of the sinking of the Mary Rose, as well as the fascinating lives of the divers who went to search for its treasures.

It is a gripping story to enjoy, with intrigue and so much suspense, and offers so many opportunities for discussion about the Tudor period. The author has included lots of Tudor vocabulary, which can be investigated within the topic.

The book would be highly recommended as a class novel or used as a guided reading text within upper KS2, although could also be enjoyed by confident readers within Year Four and Five.

Michael Morpurgo
Chapter book

Award-winning children’s author Michael Morpurgo brings past and present together when Tudor explorer Sir Walter Raleigh visits a modern day family as a ghost. A good text to choose for making past-and-present comparisons as well as for learning more about the figure of Sir Walter Raleigh and his legacy.

Eloise Williams
Chapter book

I confess historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this book delivers, not only an exciting plot but a wealth of historical information that brings it to life. The details are so vivid (and disgusting in places!) that the reader is completely immersed in Elizabethan life and can imagine it all, complete with smells and severed heads. In fact, it is that very detail that makes this book such an immersive read. You feel Honesty’s revulsion at the washing process, the biting cold, the contrast between rich and poor.

Set in 1601 at the end of the Tudor period, this story is written from two points of view to cover both Honesty’s and Alice’s perspectives, which gives the reader the added advantage of knowing what the other character does not. The tension builds as the secrets are revealed and misunderstandings leave each girl in danger.  The tension of the court and the danger for girls in that day and age is ever present and the reader is willing to act in ways that would be easy now, but back then they would have had no agency to break free of society’s norms and the role of women.

Whilst Queen Elizabeth I makes a brief appearance, this is not about royalty, but rather those nameless individuals who lived and died without recognition to keep the Court going and the ordinary people, who lived in grinding poverty which we cannot begin to imagine, right in the same building as the richest and most powerful people in the land.

Shorter chapter books about the Tudors

Philip Ardagh
 & Jamie Littler
Chapter book

Part of Philip Ardagh’s popular ‘The Secret Diary of…’ series, this is highly entertaining historical fiction for a young audience, bringing a place, a time and a way of life alive for its readers. This one focuses on Thomas Snoop, a trainee spy looking to uncover Tudor traitors making plots against the king.

Pamela Oldfield
 & James de la Rue
Chapter book

An illustrated Tudor story accessible to most readers in lower KS2, providing a lighter read than some of the other children’s novels based on this topic. Stable boy Hal longs to work at King Henry’s palace, but his dreams appear to be dashed when he gets accused of being a spy. Free guided reading notes are also available to download from the publisher.

Terry Deary
 & Helen Flook
Chapter book

From the author of the popular Horrible Histories, this book is part of the ‘Tudor Tales’ series. The story is about a young boy who dares to challenge King Henry VII’s claim to the throne. The text, which is accompanied by fun illustrations, is easily accessible to most pupils in lower KS2. You may also like the other tales in this series: The Thief, the Fool and the Big Fat King, The Maid, the Witch and the Cruel Queen and The Actor, the Rebel and the Wrinkled Queen.

Non-fiction books about the Tudors

Marcia Williams
Graphic Novel

Retelling key events from Tudor history in an accessible way, pupils will enjoy looking over this book time and time again. The historical tales are retold in Marcia Williams’ distinctive comic book style, with speech bubbles and many humorous details in both the text and illustrations that pupils will love. Topics include the Wars of the Roses, the Spanish Armada, Christopher Columbus’s voyage to America and Henry VIII’s many marriages.

Michael Rosen
 & Sarah Nayler
An engaging, easy-to-use and informative biography of Shakespeare with humorous illustrations.So what was it like to live in Shakespeare's time? What do we actually know about him? And how does someone become that famous? These are just a few of the questions addressed in this lively and accessible book on the life and works of William Shakespeare by award-winning author Michael Rosen. Ideal for browsing, the text is divided into clear sections and includes studies of four of Shakespeare's plays, intriguing facts and information about Shakespeare himself and the world at this time, accompanied by a useful timeline.
Emma Roberts
 & Sarah Tanat Jones

Shakespeare for Everyone is a step-by-step book that describes William Shakespeare’s plays and poetry in an engaging and informative way. Although there is a lot of text within the book, it remains easily manageable to read in distinct sections using the contents page and varying text layout on each page.

The book contains not just the details of Shakespeare’s writing in comedies, tragedies, histories, romances, poetry and sonnets but also about his life and the impact of his work. Each page has interesting facts about his writing, life, quotes from texts and historical links.

This is an excellent text to use for anyone studying Shakespeare or his works. It gives detail about his works and ensures a deeper understanding of his life and legacy. The illustrations by Sarah Tanat Jones add extra understanding to the text and the plot of different plays are portrayed in a range of visual ways, including in story map style presentations. To add further to the detail within the book, there is a glossary and a timeline of the greater works of Shakespeare.

Fatti Burke

Part of the ‘Find Tom in Time’ series, ‘Shakespeare’s London’ is a brilliant book for introducing young readers, and reluctant readers, to the concept of exploring Shakespeare’s historical context. Tom travels back to Shakespeare’s London, and the book tells the story of his adventure, whilst providing an immersive and very educational experience of what the city was like in the playwright’s time.

Each double-page spread is a ‘Where’s Wally’ style image in which Tom, his Grandma, and his cat are hidden for children to find, along with various other characters and happenings listed in a ‘Can you Spot?’ box on each picture. On his trip back in time, Tom visits the Belle Sauvage Inn, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, and, of course, the Globe, among other places, and each location plays its part in the story of Tom’s day and has its own two-page picture.

Peppered across the busy illustrations are also fascinating facts about each place and its role in Shakespeare’s London – did you know that the Tower of London housed a Menagerie of exotic animals from across the world, or that builders once used St Paul’s Cathedral as a shortcut, carrying their heavy loads right through its centre?

This is an excellent choice for a school library, combining fun with learning, and a great book to have in the classroom during a topic on Shakespeare.

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