Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Historical Fiction? by Dave and Neta Jackson

     I am a huge historical fiction fan.  If well done, historical fiction books bring history alive and teach my kids without them even realizing it.  I came across this article by Dave and Neta Jackson, a husband/wife writing team who are on our list of favorites.  I couldn't have answered the question, "Why Historical Fiction?" any better myself, so I am copying it in it's entirety here, with permission from the authors.  Please note at the bottom how you can get copies of all 40 of their historical fiction titles for kids as eBooks.  

Copyright © 2002 by Dave and Neta Jackson. All rights reserved.  
Used with permission from the authors.

Why Historical Fiction?
By Dave and Neta Jackson

From time to time, parents ask us why we write the Trailblazer Books as historical fiction rather than nonfiction biographies. It is a good question, and we do not in any way disparage biographies (after all that's where we get our material). But we've done some careful research and thinking in choosing historical fiction for this series, and we're glad to share it with you.

If a reader is expecting biography, historical fiction can be troubling because the author takes dramatic license and "fills in the blanks." But well-done historical fiction teaches a LOT of history and is true to the essence of the story.

In the Trailblazer Books, we too are concerned that our readers separate fact from fiction. On page 5 of every book, we give a preview of which characters and events have been added to round out the story.

But the reasons we chose historical fiction over straight biography as a way to teach/reach this generation of children about great Christian heroes are these:

(1) We wanted to write books for kids like the ones we enjoyed as kids--action adventure stories ... but with a purpose. We were particularly interested in capturing boys who typically are reluctant readers at this age.

(2) A whole biography covers too much time in a person's life, and because most of life (even for heroes) is rather mundane, many young readers lose interest. We thought it better to expand a short period of the hero's life that gives a faithful representation of WHO the hero is and his or her PRIMARY life's work.

(3) But in doing research, we often came up short. E.g. George Mueller founded an orphanage for thousands of orphans--but we could find very few facts about any specific orphans. So we did research on TYPICAL orphans of that day, took some of the real events that actually did happened at Mueller's orphanage, and wove them into a single story in The Bandit of Ashley Downs.

(4) Children learn more through story than through a list of facts. To capture readers, they need to identify with the main character. That is why we tell all the Trailblazer stories about great Christian heroes through the eyes of a young person. Sometimes that young person is an actual historical person (e.g. The Whitman's nephew Perrin in Attack in the Rye Grass). Sometimes we create a fictional young person that is TYPICAL or REPRESENTATIVE of real characters or situations (e.g. Ned Carter in Chimney Sweep's Ransom). We feel that doing this was a way to convey the truth of John Wesley's ministry to the poverty-stricken miners in northern England.

(5) Well-done historical fiction can teach a lot about history. In fact, well-done fiction can teach a lot about truth! Jesus told stories--it was one of His favorite teaching tools. He told fictional stories (the parables) to teach timeless truths because he knew that was the best way to capture his listeners attention, something that would help them remember what he was trying to say.

(6) The average reader of the Trailblazer books is going to know a lot more about church history and the great Christian heroes than most adults (!) because they learned it through a dramatized story that they can remember.

(7) However, we do urge parents and readers to supplement the Trailblazer Books with appropriate biographies as their children get older. At the end of every book we give a list For Further Reading, though not all biographies have been written for children. We like to think of the Trailblazer books as opening a door of curiosity about these great Christian men and women of the faith that will lead to further study of countries, cultures, historical events, different denominations, and our heritage as Christians.

We hope your kids enjoy not only the Trailblazer Books, but go on to be avid readers and strong Christians. You'd be surprised how many letters we get from parents who say their kids would never read a book on their own but now have read all 40 Trailblazers and from kids telling us that after reading the Trailblazers, they want to be missionaries.

Last November we spent a month in China teaching creative writing. At one of the schools, a teacher told us she was there because of the Trailblazers. We've heard that testimony from more than one missionary and thank God that He has allowed us to realize our goals: (1) encourage young readers and (2) inspire them, through the examples of Christian heroes, to serve God.

All 40 Trailblazer books have been released as eBooks, available for as little as 99¢ per title when the whole series is purchased on CD. Plus, for a limited time, it is possible to receive eight accompanying curriculum guides free when agreeing to tell others about the series. For more information, go to

1 comment:

  1. I love Neta Jackson and am currently in the middle of her Yada Yada Prayer Group series. I'll look into some of these for my kids. Thanks!