Recommended children's booklists sorted by age or topic

Home > Curriculum Topic Booklists > History Topic Booklists > Victorians Topic

Victorians Topic

recommended victorians childrens books

Victorians Topic Booklist

Known as an age of invention and industrial development as well as an era of poverty, child labour and crime, the Victorian period really was a time of great contrasts. We’ve put together a list of the best children’s books about the Victorians – watch out for a colourful cast of characters including charlatans, pickpockets and travelling showmen as well as resourceful street children, brave orphans and inspiring innovators…

SAVE 20% with Peters

Visit our booklists on Amazon

Support independent bookshops

Chapter books about the Victorians

Berlie Doherty
Chapter book

This novel is a very popular choice for KS2 classes. Loosely based on a true story, Street Child is the inspirational tale of a poor Victorian boy fighting for survival on the grim streets of Victorian London. The novel is full of suspense and is a gripping read that will captivate pupils and teachers alike.

Eloise Williams
Chapter book
A change from the many stories set in Victorian London, this popular novel finds its setting in nineteenth-century Cardiff. With a gripping plot from start to finish, this book tells the story of a young girl called Nansi, who tries to survive the bleak reality of being impoverished and female in the perilous streets of Victorian England. We love the cast of characters and the richly evocative Victorian setting.
E. L. Norry
Chapter book

Son of the Circus: A Victorian Story, tells the story of Ted, the mixed-race son of Pablo Fanque (the first recorded black circus owner in Britain) and his introduction to life with the circus. This exciting story explores racial prejudice in the Victorian period as well as the culture and history of the circus.

The story is engagingly written and the struggles of the main character feel real as his story develops. The fact that Pablo’s struggles and tribulations were true makes the story even more emotive.

The book raises lots of questions and teaching points. The idea that a son was expected to continue a family trade (and the pressure that may bring), the way different races were viewed and treated in the past and the choices children get to make (or not make) as they are forced to move and change. The story would appeal to readers interested in historical stories and the links with the Greatest Showman may make it accessible to those who would not immediately choose it from the shelf.

This is a gripping adventure that examines attitudes to race in the Victorian period.

Christopher Edge
Chapter book

Christopher Edge has had a lot of success with his science fiction books such as The Longest Night of Charlie Noon and The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day and it is interesting to see a different style of novel from him. Twelve Minutes to Midnight is the perfect gothic thriller for those more mature children in Upper Key Stage 2 or at the start of Key Stage 3. Set in Victorian times, the book has the perfect dose of mystery, horror and adventure to hook those children who find some other Middle-Grade novels not grown-up enough.

The story follows the adventure of Penelope Tredwell, a 13-year-old writer who battles to determine what is happening to Bedlam madhouse’s patients as they continue to wake up at the same time each night and produce cryptic messages. The story is full of twists and turns that leave readers guessing what is going to come up next and the characters are continuously having to adapt. Penelope is feisty, courageous and determined – a perfect mix to engage a wide range of readers and ultimately a character that readers will like.

I personally think that children will gain more from the book if they have a good knowledge of key historical events – this will support them in making key links that make the book even more effective. There are also some great references to famous authors, particularly of novels that are now deemed to be classics. It would be a great opportunity for children to explore these authors more deeply and it would also give readers a better understanding of the Victorian era that this novel is set in.

Lindsay Galvin
Chapter book

Exciting and original historical fiction charting the discoveries of a cabin boy aboard Charles Darwin’s Beagle in 1831. Syms Covington finds himself stranded on an island in the middle of the Galapagos, separated from the crew of the Beagle with whom he had been travelling as a cabin boy before a storm hit. To make things worse, there is a huge beast threatening his survival on the island. Not just any huge beast – but a dragon. A fire-breathing, very real dragon. Syms will need to use everything he can think of to survive, as well as a little help from an unlikely friend.

As well as curriculum links to evolution and the work of Darwin, the story also explores the ethics of dealing with creatures both familiar and unknown as humans go about exploring animal habitats.

Jenni Spangler
 & Chris Mould
Chapter book

An evocative and suspenseful Victorian story with thrills, twists and turns that plays on prevalent superstitions and social issues of the time. There’s plenty of history to explore in the background to the story (in particular child poverty and the invention of the camera), and themes of friendship, belonging and hope provide nuance to the darker elements, making this an original and enjoyable middle grade read recommended for fans of Michelle Harrison and Lemony Snickett.

Jacqueline Wilson
Chapter book

This story by the popular children’s author Jacqueline Wilson has recently been made into a television series on CBBC. Hetty Feather tells the story of a Victorian orphan girl called Hetty and the adventures she has under the strict rule of the matron at the Foundling Hospital where she is sent to learn to become a maid. Also available is Hetty Feather’s Christmas.

Lyn Gardner
Chapter book
Rose Campion is an orphan who has been drawn into the glamorous world of musical theatre. One day, when a popular actor mysteriously disappears, the veneer of the colourful musichall scene begins to fall apart and Rose must use all of her skills and resources to face the troubling reality of the crime and grime of Victorian London. Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret is a well-written mystery story suitable for Years 4-6.
Catherine Bruton
Chapter book

Another Twist in the Tale’ is a rip-roaring adventure set in the Victorian era. The ‘twist’ in the tale is given away right at the start and refers to a character rather than a plot device: what if Oliver Twist, that famous Dickensian orphan, had a twin sister? What would her story have been? Catherine Bruton’s newly-invented ode-to-Dickens explores just this idea.

The reader is immersed into Dickens’ London through the sights, smells, tastes and unique characters. There remains that dark, sinister quality we associate with his writing – summoning the feeling that you never know what dreadful thing may emerge from the shadows or how our heroine’s fate may suddenly be altered in the blink of an eye. The story highlights the plight of girls and women during the Victorian era and sets a feminist tone, as we see the prominent, colourful, female characters strive to overcome the disadvantages of their plights and find their place in a world where power so readily falls upon the men.

Catherine Bruton, author of No Ballet Shoes in Syria, has a clear passion for the works of Charles Dickens and the story, settings and character depictions are a faithful tribute to his writings. This is an exciting and enjoyable story which I am sure will engage young readers, drawing them into a modern version of the world of Dickens.

You can listen to the first chapter here.

Barbara Henderson
Chapter book

Set in Victorian times, this is the story of the children who worked on the dangerous job of building the famous Forth Bridge.

This is a truly exciting adventure that brings a real historical scenario to life. The thought of being perched up on top of the bridge with no safety measures at all made my blood run cold! Add into that some villainous villains and a child hero and you have a recipe for breath-taking episodes and action-packed escapades, with a seamless blending of fact and fiction.

The book is quite a slim one and very easy to read. The shorter length makes it very attractive to children who want to read more complex material but have less stamina and are put off by lengthy books.

As Tom Palmer, quoted on the cover, says , “I loved it”. The cover image behind Palmer’s quote turned out to be a photograph and a montage (by Richie Chan and Tsekhmister)- it looks like a painting by an impressionist artist and is very beautiful. There are also small drawings dotted around the text by Sandra McGowan. Based on real people and real events, the additional photos at the end add to the reality of the time and place.

The topic of Victorian child labour is often covered in schools and this story has a new dimension to add to the more commonly covered workplace scenarios of mines and factories. The story will also appeal to budding engineers, with fascinating insights into the construction of one of the UK’s most iconic bridges.

Barbara Henderson
Chapter book
Readers of 'Punch' will find themselves quickly immersed in its world of the darkened streets of late Victorian Scotland. After being accused of setting the local market place on fire, twelve-year-old Phineas flees and soon finds himself in the company of a travelling puppet show. As Phineas learns the art of puppetry, he feels unsure who he can really trust and begins to confront some difficult memories from his past. There is a real contrast between the sense of darkness that never really leaves Phineas and the gleeful escapism of the travelling show. This text is suitable for upper KS2, and especially well-suited for those looking for a Scottish setting.

Shorter chapter books about the Victorians

Lucy Strange
 & Pam Smy
Chapter book Dyslexia-friendly

Bess lived with her Ma, a well-known actress, in London enjoying life and helping in the theatres. This all changes when her Ma falls ill and passes away, meaning she is sent to a London workhouse. She makes the decision to move to a northern rural cotton mill where she is promised a better life, an education and better living conditions. This is not the reality that Bess and the other children face when they arrive. She is put to work as a threader on the large, noisy and dangerous machinery in the over-hot mill.

On her first day she and the others are told of the vicious and blood-thirsty mermaid who lives in the millpond who will attack any child who tries to escape the mill or work – Bess thinks this is nonsense and is a myth. However, when she finds herself in trouble and wanting to leave her new ‘home’ she sees something in the murky waters – reaching for freedom.

Lucy Strange has written a fantastic story that merges myth and Victorian history. The story is easy to read and engages the reader straight away by feeding small snippets of the plot and of Bess’ life before the mill. I really enjoyed the historical information about life in the cotton mills for children – the way it was incorporated into the story made you feel for the children and gave you a sense of what they went through during the Industrial Revolution.. The simple black and white illustrations are effective as they add to the story but still allow your imagination to flow when reading about the mermaid. I would definitely recommend this book to be used in schools when looking at the Victorian period or mythical writing.

Sally Nicholls
 & Rachael Dean
Chapter book

Time slip adventures are the order of the day in A Christmas in Time (Nosy Crow) by Sally Nichols and Rachael Dean. Alex and Ruby fall through a magic mirror and land just before Christmas in 1873. There’s plenty of fun to be had preparing for a Victorian Christmas and a host of old traditions are explored. The two children also learn of the misfortune and peril faced by many during this period. Good will and festive spirit abound though, and this makes an enjoyable and fast-paced Christmas time read for fans of historical fiction…



Terry Deary
 & Helen Flook
Chapter book
In a tunnel under the Thames, an urchin named Jenny and the young Queen Victoria dream of a wonderful new idea - underground trains! Twenty years later, the dream is finally becoming a reality. However, the construction of the Underground is tearing London apart and destroying the home of Jenny and her family. When Jenny comes face-to-face with the Queen again - will she tell her about the human cost of the 'dream'?
Karen McCombie
 & Anneli Bray
Chapter book
Orphan Ettie Shaw is penniless and homeless on the streets of London when she is spotted by her older brother Joe.Joe has fallen in with a notorious pickpocket gang run by a man called Fagin, and Ettie has to disguise herself as a boy so she can come back with him to Fagin’s lair.At first Ettie is able to help out with mending and other domestic jobs, but when one of the other boys falls ill, Fagin demands that Ettie go out pickpocketing with Joe and everything goes horribly wrong …Fagin’s infamous gang comes to life once more in this exciting Oliver Twist-inspired adventure from bestselling author Karen McCombie.

Picturebooks and graphic novels about the Victorians

Fiona Robinson

This is such a beautifully presented picturebook with striking print images and drawings. 

Anna Atkins is acknowledged to be one of the first women in the world to take a photograph, and one of the first people to publish a book of photographic images. After being given a camera in 1841, Anna was excited by this new process, but it was her introduction to Herschel’s discovery of cyanotype printing that sparked a passion for cyantography; the process of using chemicals that react to sunlight to dye paper and print images. In the book, the author’s own drawings and cyanotypes are combined with reproductions of Anna Atkins’ original work.

Fiona Robinson chooses to tell Anna’s unique story through a timeline, which is an effective format, highlighting the key moments in her life starting with the loss of her mother as a child through to her successful career as a botanist. Her father, a scientist himself, is represented throughout the book as a passionate role model who continually inspires Anna, as well as encourages her interest in nature and science, which for the time, was unusual for women. This in itself is what makes this such an inspiring book, reminding us of the important role that so many pioneering women in history have contributed to science and art over the years. It also encourages the reader to explore the connections between science and art.

The Bluest of Blues feels very topical and relevant for this generation. The empowerment of women illustrated through Anna’s true story is inspiring and just as important and relevant in education. The rising profile of ‘STEAM’, over ‘STEM’ (where the arts are regarded as equally important amongst science, technology, engineering and maths) makes this story a perfect illustration of the importance of such subjects and also of the role that women have played in the development of science and art, which is nothing but inspirational.

Alexandra Stewart
 & Emily Sutton
Non-fiction Picturebook
Roll up! Roll up! And meet the incredible, the colossal, the world-famous … JUMBO!Our story begins in 1860, in the mountains of East Africa, where a baby elephant struggles to his feet and takes his first shaky steps … This is the deeply touching story of an elephant who captured the world's imagination, brought beautifully to life with enchanting storytelling and gorgeous artwork. Follow Jumbo’s amazing journey from his remote home in the rugged mountains of East Africa and the time he spent delighting visitors with elephant rides and comedy routines at London Zoo. Be amazed by his spectacular stint in P.T. Barnum’s 'Greatest Show on Earth’ and how he led a herd of elephants across the newly-built Brooklyn Bridge to test its strength. Discover how Jumbo’s remarkable life and legacy transformed our understanding and treatment of these magnificent creatures. With a page-turning narrative by Alexandra Stewart and breathtakingly beautiful artwork by Emily Sutton, the true story of Jumbo’s incredible life will fascinate young and old alike.

Non-fiction about the Victorians

A mini guide to the life and legacy of Queen Victoria, complete with colour illustrations and photographs. This book covers the various stages of Victoria's life and reign as well as additional details about everyday life during the Victorian reign. Recommended for ages 7-11.
Ann Kramer
The ultimate children's non-fiction guide to all things Victorian. This guide is brought to life with colour photographs, infographics, statistics, facts and timelines as well as a wall chart. Topics include inventions, the monarchy, schooling, railways, working conditions and leisure.
Colleen Paeff
 & Nancy Carpenter
Discover the true story about the determined engineer who fixed London’s pollution problem in this funny, accessible nonfiction picture book featuring engaging art from the illustrator of Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine.It’s the summer of 1858, and London’s River Thames STINKS. What is creating this revolting smell? The answer is gross: the river is full of poop.But the smell isn’t the worst problem. Every few years, cholera breaks out, and thousands of people die. Could there be a connection between the foul water and the deadly disease?One engineer dreams of making London a cleaner, healthier place. His name is Joseph Bazalgette. His grand plan to create a new sewer system to clean the river is an engineering marvel. And his sewers will save lives. Nothing stinky about that.With tips for how to prevent pollution today, this fascinating look at science, history, and what one person can do to create change will impress and astound readers who want to help make their planet a cleaner, happier place to live.
Kate Winter

The Fossil Hunter by Kate Winter is a gem of a book. It is a splendid addition for any child learning about Mary Anning, fossils, dinosaurs and what life was like for a working-class woman 200 years ago. The book is hardback, large and begins with a timeline of Mary Anning’s life with page numbers corresponding to different eras.

This eye-catching book is full of facts and perfect to dip into or read altogether. Topics are highlighted such as the challenge of being a woman, where recognition for scientific discovery did not happen and the unfairness of this, and why her story is important. Text is broken up into sections; there are very few large sections of text and is therefore inclusive for all types of readers. The glossary at the end of the book is accessible and interesting. Every page has watercolour illustrations which can spread across whole pages and there are beautiful panoramic fold-out pages where you find out more facts about fossils, dinosaurs or a look into Mary’s cabinet.

This is a great book to share with children (or any age!) about the inspirational Mary Anning and highly recommendable.

SAVE 20% with Peters

Visit our booklists on Amazon

Support independent bookshops

Booklists you might also like...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your Review

Stone Girl Bone Girl


Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Year group(s) the book is most suitable for:

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Does the book contain anything that teachers would wish to know about before recommending in class (strong language, sensitive topics etc.)?

Would you recommend the book for use in primary schools?


Curriculum links (if relevant)

Curriculum links (if relevant)

Any other comments

Any other comments