World History Reading List
Middle Ages, 1200’s & 1300’s
The medieval books on this section of the Middle Ages Reading List span a variety of topics!
Share with your history students the riches and grandeur of Africa in the 1200’s & 1300’s using some of these beautifully illustrated books, appropriate for all elementary grades.
European Culture comes next, with a variety of themes. Adam of the Road, Crispin: the Cross of Lead, & Otto of the Silver Hand are all huge favorites for elementary to upper elementary students medieval books.
Browse below to find some of the best medieval books set in the 1200’s and 1300’s!
Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali by Khephra Burns, illus. Leo & Diane Dillon. UE-JH
An advanced picture book tells of one of the great rulers of the empire of Mali. Mansa Musa amazed the countries of his day with his splendor and wealth. Beautiful illustrations.
The Spider Weaver: A Legend Of Kente Cloth by Margaret Musgrove & Julia Cairns. The Blue Sky Press, 2001. K-UE
The origins of Kente cloth is based in this legend, delightfully told and illustrated. (Note: The exact date of its origin is uncertain, ranging from the 11th to the 17th centuries. The book is placed here for ease of reference.)
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski. Clarion Books, 1992. E-UE
Predecessor to Mansa Musa, Sundiata overcame great odds to become king of the Malian empire. Picture book with magnificent paper cut illustrations.
14th Century Towns edited by John D. Clare.
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray. E-UE
Newbery Award. An 11-year-old minstrel’s son roams 13th century England in search of his father, allowing the reader to glimpse the way of life of long ago. Recommended.
The Apple and the Arrow by Mary & Conrad Buff. UE-JH
Newbery Honor. Do you vaguely remember the name William Tell and how shot an apple off someone’s head? If you thought it was merely a fairy tale, this book will set the record straight! It is not only true (and that “someone” was his son), but part of the awe-inspiring actions of bravery that ultimately led to Switzerland’s independence. Recommended.
Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page by Richard Platt, illus. Christ Riddell. Candlewick Press, 1999. E-UE+
13th century life in a castle is “transcribed and illuminated” for the entertainment of the reader. Includes all pertinent aspects — even the hunt, medical practices, and the dungeon. Recommended.
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi. Hyperion. UE+
Newbery Award. Set in England’s peasant revolt of 1381, the exciting adventures of the boy, Crispin, reveal the many injustices of feudalism. The sequel is Crispin at the Edge of the World (see below).
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
(see above). This story did not have many happy moments, and ended
without resolve (I assume to make way for a 3rd volume to the series).
Be aware that it contains pagan elements and some disturbing violence
and bloody descriptions.Dick Whittington and His Cat by Marcia Brown. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950. *K-E
Caldecott Honor. The setting of this fun fictional story gives a child a look at old London, especially as it relates to an orphan boy. Also presents trade in the far East. *Two-color illustrations may/may not hold enough interest for the K child.
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. UE+
With his father fighting for the king in Scotland, a nobleman’s son faces challenges of his own. The story incorporates the Black Death and also portrays a castle under attack.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illus. Robert Byrd. Candlewick Press, 2007. UE-JH
Originally written as a set of monologues for a school play, each short piece describes medieval times from the perspective of a youth from a different medieval social setting in England in 1255. All is interspersed with background pages & medieval-inspired illustrations. Nicely done!
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson, illus. Kathryn Hewitt. Getty Publications, 1999. U-UE
Follow Marguerite as she collects animal skins, goose feathers, and various plants and stones for dyes to help her book-illustrator father complete a prayer book. What an entertaining way to learn about the art of illumination!
Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle. UE+
Motherless Otto was raised in a monastery, but life changed when he returned to the family castle in Germany. A rival baron captured and imprisoned him in this exciting adventure. One of the story’s characters is Emperor Rudolph, king of Germany in 1273 and the first Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor. Recommended.
Canterbury Tales, adapted by Barbara Cohen. UE+
Selected tales told in modern English. Illustrated. Caution: Tales include spousal abuse and immorality.
Chanticleer and the Fox by Chaucer, illus. by Barbara Cooney. Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1958. E-UE+
A Chaucer story for all ages. Includes a lesson to be learned at the end. Fun!
Favorite Medieval Tales Mary Pope Osborne, illus. Troy Howell. Scholastic Press, 1998. UE+
A collection of the tales passed down through the years by Medieval minstrels & bards. Includes Beowulf, The Sword in the Stone, and The Song of Roland (Charlemagne). Includes historical notes in the back by both the author and illustrator.
A Selection from the Canterbury Tales retold by Selina Hastings. UE+
Selected tales are easy to read, with colorful illustrations. Caution: Several tales detail the unfaithfulness of spouses and similar immorality.
All recommended books on the plague are set during the Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Check those selections!