When I looked on Amazon.com to see what new historical fiction books are being published this month, I discovered quite a few time travel stories. You can’t deny that time travel is a fun way for kids to learn about history – just look at the enduring popularity of the Magic Tree House books, the best-known example of this type of story. Still, my first instinct was to wonder why Amazon had chosen to classify those titles as historical fiction. To me, they seem more like science fiction or fantasy.
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that this classification isn’t so wrong. It’s true that it isn’t possible to go back in time (at least, not that I’m aware). That particular aspect of time travel novels is decidedly fantasy. On the other hand, though, I’ve read several time travel books recently, and I have to say that their authors did an outstanding job handling the historical aspects. They had clearly done their research, and exploring a given time period through the eyes of a modern child allowed them to seamlessly incorporate the details that modern kids want to know. One particular title painted a more vivid, more accurate picture of 15th century England than many historical novels I’ve seen.
I still don’t think that time travel novels belong in quite the same category as novels set completely in the past. They’re almost their own genre, a hybrid of fantasy and historical fiction. But if the titles being released now handle history as well as the books I’ve read, I don’t have a problem with Amazon including “historical” as one of the tags. After all, kids will definitely learn some history by reading them – and ultimately, that’s the point.
Do you think time travel books should be classified as historical fiction? Are there any that you particularly enjoy?
Melissa Luttmann is Associate Editor for Young Adult History/Historical Fiction at Wonders & Marvels.