Booklist: Children's Books about the Victorians
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 recommended 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...
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.
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.
Son of the Circus - A Victorian Story
E. L. Norry
VOICES is an exciting narrative non-fiction series that celebrates the lives of BAME protagonists during key eras of British history, for children aged 8+. 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 is a gripping adventure that examines attitudes to race in the Victorian period.
Twelve Minutes to Midnight
Set in Victorian times, this story by popular middle-grade author Christopher Edge 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.
Oliver Twist and Other Great Dickens
Comic style picture book
Delve into the fascinating world of Victorian England as shown through the stories of Charles Dickens, here retold by Marcia Williams in her iconic comic book style. Stories include Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol.
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.
The Vanishing Trick
Chris Mould & Jenni Spangler
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Bluest of Blues
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. In the book, the author's own drawings and cyanotypes are combined with reproductions of Anna Atkins’ original work. This beautifully presented picturebook makes a great choice for KS2 children looking Victorian inventions and it makes a perfect illustration of the importance of the role that woman have played in the development of science and art, which is in this case nothing short of inspirational.
What Mr Darwin Saw
Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom
This highly illustrated picture books introduces readers to the life and legacy of Charles Darwin. Through diary-like text sections, cartoons and captions, the story offers insight into Darwin's life and how his understanding of evolution developed through real life experiences with nature. Also available from the same author-illustrator team are 'The Wordsworths' and 'The Brontes'.
Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret
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.
You Wouldn't Want to Be a Victorian Miner!
John Malam & David Antram
This humorous non-fiction book is part of the very popular 'You Wouldn't Want to Be' series. The entertaining text gives an insight into what life would have been like as a coal miner in Victorian times. Learn about pit ponies, mining methods, canaries and some top survival tips for coping with the harsh conditions and dangers of work underground.
The Secret Diary of Jane Pinny, Victorian House Maid
Philip Ardagh & Jamie Littler
Illustrated 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 Jane Pinny, a hard-working maid in a Victorian house. A good choice for lower KS2.
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.
A Christmas in Time
Sally Nicholls & Rachael Dean
Short chapter book
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 time-slip adventure makes an enjoyable choice for learning about Christmas festivities in Victorian times.