As a young girl, I was not excited about history until I discovered historical fiction. Fortunately, I happened to read "good" historical fiction. Good children's historical fiction should have a young person as a main character that a modern day child can relate to easily. The child reading it should be able to say, "I might act like this character if I faced the same situation." Sometimes the main character may be fictional, or it might be a real historical figure. Either way, the history must be accurate. For example, there should not be indoor plumbing in a story set in the 1700s. Facts about historical figures, even controversial ones, should also be represented accurately. A book describing George Washington's household should not ignore the the fact that he had slaves. Introducing children to the faults of historical figures makes for interesting reading because they learn that even our national heroes were human.
To make the experience of the book last after a child finishes reading it, check the back of the novel for the list of sources that the author used in researching the book. Take your child to the library and investigate these sources for a closer look at how the main character lived or the historical figures with whom he or she interacted. You might even be able to incorporate the novel into your family vacation. For example, if the book is set during the Civil War and mentions certain battlefields, you can visit the place where the novel's character fought.
If you can get a reluctant history reader hooked on historical fiction, the fascination with their favorite character might get them permanently hooked on history.
For an example of good historical fiction, look for any of Ann Rinaldi's books in the young adult section of your library or bookstore.