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Help! Need Middle Ages Non-Western Lit Suggestions


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I've started putting together literature for the my 11 year old DS (grade 6--avid, strong reader) and my 9 year old DS (grade 4--average, reluctant reader).  We will be covering the middle ages next year.  While I have a very complete list of European/Western literature selections for both ages, I really prefer to have a more balanced selection--I try to avoid the 'predominately Eurocentric history/literature slant' and could use some suggestions for non-western literature (and history supplemental resources) for the middle ages.


I've been searching the web but have only found a couple options.  Any one have suggestions?



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Ah, a woman after my own heart! I don't know of many books fitting your needs. The only one I can think of that hasn't been mentioned deals with Jewish girls in the Americas during the Inquisition - Out of Many Waters. That's just after your desired time period as well, and it's still pretty Eurocentric. Let me do some googling and see if I have more luck.

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A Single Shard (Korea)

The Samurai's Tale (Japan)

The Lance of Kanana (Middle East)

Arabian Nights (Islamic Golden Age)

The Three Princes (folktale from Saudi Arabia and Russia)


Thanks for the suggestions!  I had A Single Shard and Arabian Nights on my list for my older son but the other suggestions sound good too.

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Folktales are timeless and this might be a great time period to include lots of folktales from around the world.


Below are both fiction and non-fiction titles, and for a range of ages, from 1st through 8th grades. Hope something there gets you started! :) Warmest regards, Lori D.






- The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa (McKissack) (gr. 4-7) -- non-fiction

- A Glorious Age in Africa (Chu) -- (gr.. 6-9) -- non-fiction

- Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (Musgrove) 

- The Rat Catcher's Son (London) -- folktales

- Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum (Bryan) -- folktales


Middle East

- The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World (Barnard) -- (gr. 4-8) -- non-fiction

- Arabs in the Golden Age (Moktefi) -- (gr. 5-8) -- non-fiction



- Twenty Jataka Tales (Khan) -- Indian folktales

- Tales of a Korean Grandmother (Carpenter) -- folktales



- In the Land of the Jaguar: South America and Its People (Gorrell) -- (gr. 5-8) -- non-fiction

- The Secret of the Andes (Clark) -- (gr. 4-8) -- Incas; unknown time period 

- The Corn Grows Rip (Rhoads) -- (gr. 3-5) -- Mayas; unknown time period

- The Rain Player (Wisniewski) -- picture book; folktale






China - Lady of Ch'iao Kuo: Warrior of the South (Yep) -- (gr. 5-8)

China - Maples in the Mist: Poems for Children from the Tang Dynasty (Ho)

China - The Painted Wall and Other Strange Tales (Bedard) -- folktales (gr. 7+)

Korea - Sondok: Princess of the Moon and Stars (Holman) -- (gr. 5-8)

East Africa - The Lion Hunter; The Empty Kingdom (Wein) -- (gr. 7+)



China - Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan (Kang)

China - Emress of China, Wu Ze Tian (Jiang Cheng an) (gr. 1-4)

China/Middle East - The Silk Route: 7000 Miles of History (Major) (gr. 4-8) -- non-fiction

Middle East - Muhammad (Demi) - biography



Mayan culture - Lady of Palenque: Flwoer of Cacal (Kirwan) -- (gr. 5-8)



Middle East - The Amazing Discoveries of Ibn Sina (Sharafeddine) -- (gr. K-4) -- biography

Mayan culture - The Well of Sacrifice (Eboch) -- (gr. 5-8)





Mayan culture - Time Warp Trio: Me Oh Maya (Scieszka) -- (gr. 3-6)



Japan - Of Nightingales That Weep (Paterson) -- (gr. 6-9)

Japan - Sign of the Chrysanthemum (Paterson) -- (gr. 6-9)

Korea - A Single Shard (Park) -- (gr. 5-8)

Europe/Middle East/China -- The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela (Shulevitz) -- (gr. 5-8) -- non-fiction



Mongolia - I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade (Wilson) -- (gr. 5-8)

Mongolia - Genghis Khan: Mongol Emperor ( Humphrey) -- (gr. 4-7) -- biography

Mongolia - The Mongols ( Nicholson) -- (gr. 4-7) -- non-fiction

Mongolia - Ghenghis Khan (Demi) -- (gr. 1-4) -- biography

Mongolia - The Kite Rider (McCaughrean) -- (gr. 6-9)

China - Kubla Khan: The Emperor of Everything (Krull)

Mali (West Africa) - Sundiata: Lion King of Mali (Wisniewski) -- (gr. 1-4) -- non-fiction



Middle East/Africa/India - Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta (Rumford) -- (gr. 3-8) -- non-fiction

Mali (West Africa) - Mansa Musa: The Lion of Mali (Burns) -- (gr. 2-7) -- non-fiction

Mali (West Africa) - Mansa Musa: Leader of Mali (gr. 4-6) -- non-fiction



Korea - The Kite Fighters (Park) -- gr. 4-6)

Haiti (Caribbean) - Anacaona: Golden Flower (Danticat) -- (gr. 5-8)

Nigeria (West Africa) - Girlhood Journeys series: Kai -- A Big Decision; The Lost Statue; A Mission for Her Village (Gayle) -- (gr. 3-5)



Angola (West Africa) - Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba -- (gr. 5-8)

Central America - The Goldsmith's Daughter (Landman) -- gr. 6-10) -- Aztec culture conquered

North America - Walk the World's Rim (Baker) -- (gr. 5-8)

North America - The King's Fifth (O'Dell) -- (gr. 6-10) -- from European conquistador perspective, but it becomes clear that the conquering and "gold madness" is a bad thing

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We really liked


A Single Shard (already mentioned...medieval Korea)

Shadow Spinner (backstory for Arabian Nights)


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (China...but more like a meta-story incorporating fairy tales/folk tales than anything resembling historical fiction...still a good story; maybe more for your younger student?)

more by Grace Lin, too


Also, I had my 6th grader read...

Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

The Kite Fighters

But, because I didn't get my prereading done, I don't know either of these stories well. I think she liked one and wasn't as impressed with the other. But, I don't remember which reaction went with which book.

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Thank you so much for all the suggestions!! Now I can move on to the rest of planning for next year  :hurray:


Just going to throw in that a lot of books about non-Western cultures may say "Ancient", but are really Medieval (500AD-1500AD). In some cases, it is because the culture had not changed much from BC times until there was contact with Western cultures right at the end of the Western Medieval time frame (500AD-1500AD). So if you didn't cover some of those cultures in very much depth during your Ancients period, you can easily include them now (i.e., Mayan and Incan empires and African kingdoms).


Also, sometimes what book publishers call "ancient China or "ancient Japan" (or other major country/region) is really set during that Western Medieval time frame. So it can help to set yourself up with a very quick/rough overview timeline so you can fill in with books that may have been labeled "ancient" but are really about Medieval.


Ducksters website is great for History and Geography to provide you with very big overview timelines of key events, and key people/facts:


Asia: China timeline; Japan timeline; India timeline

Americas: Aztec timelineMaya timelineInca timeline

Africa: Ghana; Mali; Songhai; Central African Kingdoms

Middle East: Islamic world  timeline

Europe: Middle Ages timeline

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So many great books already listed! We read The Fall of Constantinople by Bernadine Kielty this past year and it was really good. It tells the story of the 4th crusade from the eastern point of view.

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Especially seconding The Well of Sacrifice, which was one of those books that's lesser know, didn't win any big awards and which I never would have read if we hadn't been especially studying Mayan culture but which was really, really good. Very well written and informative, which is exactly what you want from historical fiction.


The Ghost in the Tokkaido Inn is a little later, but covers what might be generally termed "medieval" Japan, so you could include that as well. That series is excellent.


Also not mentioned was Jiang Ji-li's Monkey King book, which is short and a great little Western kid-friendly set of Monkey King retellings - sort of more ancient China, but I thought it was worth a mention. I think we in the West are often so culturally unfamiliar with non-Western myths and stories that it really doesn't hurt to hit some of them as background every time we do the various regions. It's not like people stopped reading The Ramayana or telling Ananzi tales in the middle ages, ya know? 

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The Ghost in the Tokkaido Inn is a little later, but covers what might be generally termed "medieval" Japan, so you could include that as well. That series is excellent.


Yes, I debated back and forth about whether or not to put the 17th, 18th, and up to mid-19th century Japanese Samurai books on the list or not. They technically fall timeline-wise in the next "era", but culturally, the Samurai culture is SOOO similar in many ways to the European Medieval Knight culture that it is probably better to do those simultaneously, rather than apart. :)


Some of those books would include the Samurai mystery series by Hoobler, but also:

- 18th century = The Master Puppeteer (Paterson) -- gr. 6-10 -- a favorite here!

- 18th century = The Samurai's Tale (Haugaard) -- gr. 7+

- "ancient Japan" = The Cat Who Went to Heaven (Coatsworthy) -- gr. 4-6 -- Buddhism

- unspecified time = The Big Wave (Buck) -- gr. 4-6 -- tsunami and Japanese farming peasants

- unspecified time = Call It Courage (Sperry) -- gr. 4-6 -- South Pacific islander boy solo adventures

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