Good Example Of Essay On Evaluating History Fiction

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, Books, History, Novel, Fiction, Students, Family, The Book Thief

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/24

Historical fiction emerges as an important tool for educators to use in presenting historical information that is accurate and valid for students. Historical fiction narrates stories that are drawn from events that took place in the past and have been documented. Often, historical fiction contains actual persons who lived in the past; however, there is a tendency of the principle characters being presented as fictional. Through historical fiction, readers become increasingly involved in the day-to-day activities and lives of people having understood their trials and triumphs as presented by the historical setting. Historical fiction literature is gaining prevalence among authors, and the writing style of such literature is overly dependent on the characteristics of the intended readers, whether they are beginners or older readers. Besides, the criteria for evaluating historical fiction in the bid to determine its quality, the content, style, visuals and the technical aspects of the text have to be considered (Groce and Groce 99). This discussion will delineate the extent to which two historical fiction texts, ‘Locomotive’, written for beginners, and ‘The Book Thief’, written for older readers, complies with the criteria for evaluating historical fiction, the appropriateness of the texts to children’s literature and how the teaching of ‘The Book Thief’ would be designed to encourage the students to appreciate the historical context it is set in.

Book Summaries

In the historical fiction picture book title ‘Locomotive’, the history of the early railroads in America is explored. The book is authored by Brian Floca, who also doubles up as the illustrator. The advent of the use of steam in running engines is elicited in this book. The book depicts a situation in which a family is traveling from Omaha, Nebraska to their new home in San Francisco in 1869. Conductors, brakemen, and engineers travel together with the family as the author describes every step of the journey, such as what it takes for the train to run, the places one pass through, the feeble bridges, food and toilets as well as the sleeping arrangements throughout the trip. Besides, Floca presents his narration by capitalizing on the description of the speed, sounds and the strength of the colossal locomotive. Despite the thrill of the journey, the family arrives at San Francisco in one peace and is thankful for the train (Bird 1). The historical context of the advent of trains is perfectly fictionalized in the book.
On the other hand, ‘The Book Thief’ novel is authored by Markus Zusak and illustrated by Trudy White. The book, intended for readers of the novel are those who have established reading prowess. The story of the novel is narrated by Death and involves Liesel, a young German girl of nine years old, 1939, who is given up to foster parents by her mother, Hans and Rosa, after her brother dies while travelling to Munich by train. Liesel steals a book from the gravediggers who help bury his brother. Liesel is traumatized by the death of her brother to an extent that she experiences nightmare, but Hans comforts her, besides helping her read, and they develop a great connection. After befriending Rudy, Han’s neighbor, Liesel is turned into a fanatic reader. Meanwhile, Hans is hiding Max, a Jew, in his basement, and Liesel befriends him too with the onset of World War II. However, Max is eventually captured and following a bombing that Liesel survive, Han, Rosa, and Rudy are killed. Liesel lives for long and dies at an old age (Ardagh 1). The ordeal of the Holocaust and World War II is thoroughly fictionalized through the novel.


The ‘Locomotive’ book meets the requirements of the evaluation criteria for historical fiction. First, the content of the book meets the basic criterion for quality narratives. For instance, the novel explores the truth in the history of the railway system in America rather than glossing it over, as it has often done in other texts. The setting and characters of the story are believable in the sense that the story is set in 1869, which coincides with the completion of the construction of the railway line in actual sense (Floca 3). Floca describes the characteristics of the switchmen by stating “You can tell that one is new to the job/ if he still has all his fingers" (p. 18). It means that the switches were being operated manually by men, which clearly portrays the situation in 1869 when there was little development of the railway system. Moreover, the location setting of the story is accurate because the first railway road was built to connect the Pacific coast of the San Francisco Bay. The plot of the story represents an accurate representation of the historical events such that the advent of the train was often referred to as the "The iron horse, the great machine!” (p. 5). Furthermore, the wonky bridges described in the book authenticate the plot of the story with respect to the historical setting (p. 37). Finally, the use of visual in the throughout the book is eminently in telling the story. The inculcation of these basic requirements a historical vision in the book sets it apart from the pack.
Similarly, ‘The Book Thief’ novel follows the criteria put forward for evaluating historical fiction. On the first note, the basic criterion for quality narratives is met in the novel, in the sense that the truth is hashed out in respect to the graphical situation during the World War II in the Nazi German. The characters used in the novel are believable as well as their actions. Max, who is a Jew, hides lives without water and food in a closet (Zusak 87). This action is an ideal representation of the Holocaust where Jews were being murdered by the Nazi soldiers in Germany. The novel is set in Molching, Germany, which on the way to the Dachau concentration camp. This setting is accurate since Liesel can see Max being paraded, among the other prisoners, as they are taken to the concentration camp (p. 492). The plot of the novel represents the actual occurrences during the World War II. For instance, Hans and Alex, Rudy’s father, are forcefully drafted into the Germany army due to the dictatorship of Hitler (p. 366). The authenticity of the novel’s plot is presented through the actions of the Nazi soldiers, which involved the searching of houses in order to identify Jews and parade them (p. 238). Even though, the novel lacks sufficient visuals to tell the story, the cover photo gives much insight into what the story is all about. The novel gives the point of view of the occurrences during the World War II through the eyes of Liesel as narrated by Death.
The evaluation of these historical fiction texts suggests that the ‘Locomotive’ is excellent for children’s literature. It is because the book employs the use of visuals in telling the story, something that is appropriate for children who find it hard to understand complex texts. The use of pictures and large fonts in the book is an effective use of visuals. Moreover, the poetic style used in presenting the story makes it easy for children to understand as opposed to long sentences that can be confusing. On the other hand, ‘The Book Thief’ is not appropriate for literature for children because of the technicality of the language used throughout the book. The lack of extensive visuals in supporting the storytelling worsens the situation and qualifies the novel as appropriate for young adults who are adept in comprehending complex readings. The length of the novel is also a significant issue in the sense that one has to be enthusiasts so as to complete the novel. More importantly, the sad and graphic nature of the events in the novel hampers the appropriateness of the novel in literature for children.
However, through instructional activities, students can appreciate and understand the theme of ‘The Book Thief’ despite the complexity. First, the complex language and some concepts in the novel are very difficult for students to read independently and hence the use of teacher read-aloud would be appropriate (Fountas and Pinnell 2). Rather than reading the whole novel to the students, the teacher will point out the difficult concepts and address them through reading them aloud in class and let the students tackle the easily comprehensible parts on their own. Secondly, the teacher should capitalize on the power of groups by arranging the students into small reading groups and guiding them appropriately. In essence, the students ponder over the complex issues, such as the theme, and with the support of the teacher, they understand it better (p. 3). To boot, the teacher should foster a feeling of self-efficacy in the students by motivating them. Once the students have the feeling that they are coming out as competent in reading a text, their engagement with the texts is heightened and hence a better appreciation and understanding of the theme (p. 4). Teachers play a key role in enhancing the capability of understanding texts among students.

Works Cited

Ardagh, Philip. It's a Steal. The Guardian, 2007, January 6. Web. 23 February 2015.
Bird, Elizabeth. Review of the Day: Locomotive by Brian Floca. School Library Journal, 2013,
July 30. Web. 23 February 2015.
Floca, Brian. Locomotive. New York City: NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013.
Fountas, Irene & Pinnell, Gay. The Critical Role of Text Complexity in Teaching Children to
Groce, Eric & Groce, Robin. “Authenticating Historical Fiction: Rationale and Process”.
Education Research and Perspectives, Vol. 32 (1), 2005, 99-119.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. London: Definitions, 2008. Internet resource.

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