Out Of Print (But Really Good) Historical Fiction

The process by which books go out of print mystifies me. While compiling lists of book recommendations for the subgenres featured here, I turned to my own bookshelf for inspiration. And I found that several of my very favorites are out of print. (Or, at least, Amazon.com lists them as “available from these sellers,” which is a pretty good indication.) So, if you see these books at a library, or a secondhand book store, snap them up!

Quest for A Maid, Frances Mary Hendry, Image from GoodReadsQuest For a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1992, 288 pages) Meg Wright is nine years old when she sees her sister, Inge, kill the King of Scotland. Who is several miles away. Witchcraft, a sea and shipwreck adventure. Also great characters: Meg, whose perspective captures the historical details, her sister’s magic and decidedly gray-area morals, adorable young Davy Spens, and the Maid of Norway, a young girl at the center of all kinds of scheming and conspiracy, just because she’s born to be queen.

 

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (Puffin, 1981, 204 pages) The setting and plot alternate between present day New Zealand Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, Cover image from GoodReadsand Victorian England, so this novel gets bonus points for time travel. Sullen and awkward, Abigail Kirk knows she doesn’t fit in with her classmates. She’s a shy loner, and she likes to make her own dresses. A piece of antique lace she sews onto a dress transports her to Victorian England, into the lives of the Bow family, who won’t let her leave, because they think she’s the “Stranger” destined to save the family. The way Abigail resists, and then, is drawn into their lives, is beautifully written. I remember reading this in sixth grade, and being completely in love with Jonah Bow, one of the characters from the past. It also stands up to rereading.

A Witch Across Time by Gilbert B. Cross (Athenaeum, 1990, 224 pages).  Spending the summer on Martha’s Vineyard while recovering from an emotional breakdown, Hannah encounters the ghost of a young woman who was falsely executed as a witch in 1692. The lines between the past and Hannah’s present begin to blur, as Hannah gets haunted by this girl. I remember Hannah hallucinating, and her family worried that she was crazy. I also remember being scared out of my deliciously shivering tween mind. In high school, I was in a one-act play that had more or less exactly this “girl haunted by a witch, people think she’s crazy” ghost plot. Crossroads, I think it was called.

Doing research for this site, I ran across dozens of enticing books I haven’t read, only to check at the NYPL, and find them, yep, out of print! Boo! Hiss! Or maybe British-therefore-hard-to-find-in-bookstores-here. That also happens.

Some hard-to-find-books I haven’t read yet:

Gatty’s Tale– Kevin Crossley-Holland. I think this is less out of print than it is British.

More to be added… what are your out of print or hard to find favorites?

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