This year, I have the privelege of being on the jury for the Geoffrey Bilson Award- an award given annually to the best historical novel for young people by a Canadian author. As the reading period draws to a close, the next stage of the process is to narrow the selection from 30 or so down to my top ten.
With a few books left to go, I can already see from my notes that I will have some whittling down to do of my list. I must confess though that the remaining books were at the bottom of my stack for a reason, so I'm not expecting to fall in love with any of them (but I am certainly open to being surprised).
Regardless of which book the jury selects as the winner, I have learned a lot about what makes a historical novel stand out for me. I enjoy reading about different time periods and events in history, and the ones that I loved contain vivid historical details but have contemporary voices.
I also discovered that while reading about small-town Ontario in 19- (fill in the blank here) was interesting the first time around, by the sixth book there isn't much left to say. Just because your mother/grandmother/aunt told you stories about their childhood doesn't mean that young readers will be interested in hearing about it.
This leads me to a question for the readers- How do you define "good" historcal fiction?