Classical Childrens Books

19th Century Literature

This is a list of great 19th century literature for children.

There is a reason much of classical literature is from the 1800's. The culture and language is similiar to the modern era. Children can relate to the characters more readily than they might understand someone from the middle ages. But at the same time, the era is distant from us. They represent our ancestors who did not have cars, phones, or computers.

Since there is an abundance of classical literature from that era, this list of 19th century literature will be under development for a while. You may also notice some overlap between these pages and the reading lists by grade.


A Gathering of Days

by Joan W. Blos
Rural New Hampshire
Catherine and her best friend Cassie live in adjacent farms near the small town of Meredith, New Hampshire where rumblings of the tension between the Southern and Northern states will never affect them. But then a man appears in their woods and needs their help. The two girls disagree at first about the right thing to do. Catherine learns that change is a part of life - the communities and her own. Soon she will have to face changes without her friend.

Hans Brinker

Previously titled "The Silver Skates"

Mary Mapes Dodge

early 1800s
Hans hopes to win the coveted silver skates which will be awarded to the winner of the ice skating race. But the money he is saved to purchase skates is needed to pay the doctor to treat his ill father. A heroic story.

Sarah Whitcher's Story

By Elizabeth Yates

A true story
New Hampshire
The story of a pioneer community that unites to find a girl lost in the wilderness, and the faith of her father to keep believing when hope seems lost

The Black Schooner

By Emma Gelders Sterne

True story
True story of the revolt on a slave ship and the trial of those involved. Also titled "The Story of the Amistad" after the ship.

Keep the Lights Burning Abbie

By Carol Ryrie Brink

Based on a true story
Off the coast of Maine
Story of a lighthouse and the light keepers daughter

Old Yeller

By Fred Gibson

Hill country of Texas
Story of a pioneer family and their dog

Little House Books

By Laura Ingalls Wilder

True story of a pioneer family, in a series of books about the family in the late 1800's. As the 19th century turned into the 20th century, Laura realized that the pioneer life was disappearing. She wrote these stories so her grandchildren could understand life in the 19th century.
Movie and TV series
More titles following this family are listed in sets of classic literture.

Caddie Woodlawn

By Carol Ryrie Brink

Historical fiction - based on author's grandmother
Entertaining story of a spirited pioneer tom-boy

Little Women

By Louise May Alcott

New England
Four sisters grow to maturity, leaving their childhood home but staying about of each others' lives. Read more about the stories of the March sisters in sets of classic literture.


By Johanna Spyri

Swiss Alps
An orphan is taken to live with her hermit grandfather on the Swiss Alps. Later she is moved to the city with a wealthy family where she yearns for her life on the mountain.

Sarah Plain and Tall

By Patricia MacLachlan

Historical fiction
Late 1800's
Kansas Prairie
Mail order bride, a widower and his two children

A Little Princess

By Francis Hodgkin Burnett

A story of a British heiress attending a private boarding school in London who loses her father and her fortune.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

By Frances Hodgson Burnett

Historical fiction
Late 1800's
An orphan becomes the heir of an earl

The Railway Children

By E Nesbit

Historical fiction
Turn of the Century
Three happy siblings in a wealthy family lose their fortune when there father disappears. They move to the country near an old railway station.

Anne of Green Gables

By Lucy Maud Montgomery

Late 1800's
Prince Edward Island, Canada
The delightful story of an orphan child who goes to live with on a country farm. More adventures of Anne await her fans. See her other stories in sets of classic literture.

Rebecca of Sunnybrooke Farm

by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Maine, 1890's
Those who like Anne of Green Gables will also enjoy meeting Rebecca, the dark-haired dreamer from Sunnybrook Farm. Raised in poverty by her widowed mother, Rebecca leaves the farm to live with her spinster aunts who have little imagination or comprehension of their adventurous nieces.


By Eleanor Porter

Late 1800's
An orphan girl moves in with her stern, wealthy aunt; and changes an entire town.

Daddy Long Legs

By Jean Webster

Late 1800's
New England
This story illustrates the changing culture at the turn of the century. Judy was raised in an orphanage, but now has the chance to go to college due to an anonymous donor. She describes her entrance into the wider world through a series of letters to him including her a socialist philosophy.

Captains Courageous

By Rudyard Kipling

Realistic Fiction
Reading Level: 6th - 8th grade
From the author of Jungle Book, Captain Courageous tells the story of a wealthy tycoon who falls overboard ship and is miraculously rescued by a fishing boat. But what happens when the boy who has never worked in his life is required to work for his passage?

Thee Hannah

By Marguerite de Angeli

Young Hannah does not understand why her Quaker family does not allow some of the pretty clothing worn by other girls and desired by Hannah. However, when she is asked to help a mother and sick child trying to escape on the underground railroad, she begins to understand more of her family's ways.

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville
A large novel of the epic battle between a whale and mankind. This accurately portrays life on board ship in the early 19th century. The unabridged version is too weighty for elementary and many middle school students; making abridged versions famous with boys who enjoy the story of the indefeatable whale.

Jubilee Trail

by Gwen Bristow
Middle School and Above
California before 1949
Garnet is a fashionable young woman yearning for freedom from the stifling class restraints. She is attracted to the adventurous life of Oliver who travels to and from California on the Jubilee Trail. Garnet marries him and joins him, never imagining the hardship, danger, and heartaches she will meet. She befriends Florinda, an actress fleeing a shadowy past. Due to some of the content and characters, this story would not be appropriate for young children (for instance, prostitutes on the trail, though no descriptive sexual scenes.) It will give middle school and older readers a glimpse at life on the trail and in California prior to 1849.

Letters from the Corrugated Castle: A Novel of Gold Rush California

by Joan Blos
5th-9th Grade
California Gold Rush
Eldora is an orphan who has moved to California during the Gold Rush with her aunt and uncle - the only family she has ever known. An unexpected letter comes from a wealthy ranch owner stating Eldora is her daughter. With changes all around her, Eldora learns the true meaning of family and friends.

Around the World In Eighty Days

By Jules Verne

Middle School and Above

The calm, sensible, and highly predictable Phileas Fogg bets his fortune that he can beat the odds and travel around the globe in an unheard of 80 days (unheard of for the 1800's.) Has Fogg lost his senses, or is he really a the criminal the English detective thinks he is? A literary starting point for the casual study of cultures (don't take any of it tooooooo seriously) and geography.

More 19th Century Literature

Charles Dicken's Novels are 19th century stories from England. Starting in middle school, everyone should become familiar with these unforgettable characters.

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