WWRW: U.S. History Literature for kids, plus E, F, G picture books

Diving right in hereon a Thursday with another What We’re Reading Wednesday, even though I’m not totally sure Jessica is hosting this week.  She likes to keep herself busy, that one.

Literature for teaching U.S. History:

Exploration and Colonization:

leifLeif the Lucky  and Columbus by the D’Aulaires: I love me some D’Aulaires.  They’re a husband/wife author/illustrator pair that were made famous by their thoroughly investigated  and artfully designed children’s books in the 30’s.  Their biographies are enjoyable and readable.  One complaint: they make reference in the Columbus book to people believing the world was flat, but I’ve read elsewhere that by Columbus’ time that was not common belief.


Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla

Here’s an easy reader on the life of Squanto.  It’s not the best example of literary prowess, but it’s easy enough for a 2nd grader to read and gives an interesting overview of Squanto’s life.



Anything in the “If You Lived…” series

Departing a bit from the Charlotte Mason style to give you some straight up non-fiction books.  This whole series is good for providing basic details about a period in time or a certain people.  There are quite a lot of books in the series, and many are available at libraries.


Revolutionary War:

SamSam the Minuteman  and George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley:  These two easy readers are a great complement to each other.  Sam is written from the perspective of the son of a Minuteman in the battles of Lexington and Concord; George is from the perspective of a young British soldier in the same battles.  These fiction books are easy enough for 1st-3rd graders to read but are full of facts that will engage an older child.  The books were recommended up to the 6th grade level in my daughters’ U.S. History class, but even my boys (pre-k and early kinder) enjoyed these books immensely, so that should give you some idea of the breadth of their appeal.


benBenjamin Franklin by the D’Aulaires.  Another good one.  I recently read on a Facebook thread the Ben F wasn’t that great of a guy, which was news to me.  This biography doesn’t give any sordid details, of course, and that’s how I prefer it for my kids.  They can learn the sordid stuff later.





Illustrated Non-fiction by Gail Gibbons

gorillaOne of my favorite things about Twenty Six Letters to Heaven are the suggestions for non-fiction topics.  I’m a literature girl myself, so I don’t often think to head into the non-fiction section, but this gives me a nudge.  The author doesn’t give specific book suggestions, just an animal or science topic that aligns with that letter.  For example, we’re on G this week, and she suggests goats and gorillas.  As a result of this, we’ve found some great books, but my favorite new find is the author Gail Gibbons.  She’s apparently written about every conceivable topic of interest to children, from apples, to soccer to yeppers-you-guessed-it: gorillas.  Her books are chock full of information and eyt unlike a lot of non-fiction, they’re also good as read-alouds.

This post is already crazy long, so I’m going to give highlights for the next bit, m’kaaaaayyy???

E Books (Twenty Six Letters to Heaven)

Eli and Ella by Bill Peet.  Peet is a new author/illustrator to me.  I really enjoyed both of these books.  Ella is about a spoiled circus elephant who gets her comeuppance from a nasty farmer. Eli is a cranky old lion who makes some unlikely friends just in the nick of time.  Both well-told stories with fun illustrations.



Eulalie and the Hopping Head by David Small.  I’m including this one for the weird factor (hello?  Frog hopping around in a doll’s head, making everyone think the doll is alive?) and for the sweet factor (the mom loves her messy frog daughter so much more than the compliant-but-boring doll).  There you have it: cute but very odd.



F Books (Twenty Six Letters to Heaven)

fur familyLittle Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown. This book is so weird.  So so strange.  The little fur family walks around wearing furs, which begs the question: which cousins did they kill get these coats?  There’s also a funny little ditty that ends with the impressive lyrics: “This is a song.”  It’s now a common little song around our house.  I did enjoy this book, but really only because of it’s oddities.



Fish is Fish and Frederick by Leo Lionni.  Lionni is new to us, too.  I love his quirky stories, animal characters, and his whimsical artwork.  Frederick is a mouse who muses during the autumn gathering months (annoying his family) but then provides entertainment and community in the long winter months.  Fish is Fish is a funny story about a frog/fish friendship.  My kids love the pages where the frog describes people, for example, and the fish imagines a fish with clothes on.



Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti.  This book touches on the lives of both saints, but what really sets it apart are the illustrations by Bimba Landmann.  Breathtaking golds, blues, and reds.  I may end up purchasing this one.  And hey, St.Francis feast day is this Saturday, so check your local library!



G Books (Twenty Six Letters to Heaven)

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 (Picture Puffins) by Alice and Martin Provensen.  I had never heard of Louis Bleriot, or his glorious flight.  The prose AND the illustrations in this one are fantastic.  Could appeal to older kids too.



The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (author/illustrator).  A new favorite, for my kids and for me.  Liam discovers a a struggling garden on an elevated railway in the middle of a dreary city.  He nurses it to life and soon the whole city is involved.  Another one with fantastic illustrations.  (The prose can be a bit clunky, as Brown is an artist by trade, but we all still enjoyed it.)



Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say. I used to read this book to my English Language Learners when I taught middle school.  It tells the story of Say’s grandfather’s immigration to the U.S., his return to  Japan, and then Say’s own immigration to the U.S. years later.  Another one with incredible illustrations.  (It’s a Caldecott winner.)



And did you see this idea from Aslan’s Library about “Owning the Library” (keeping track of all the wonderful library books you’ve read)?  It looks like a wonderful idea to me.


  1. We love Swimmy by Leo Lionni!

    And The Curious Garden is one of my oldest’s most favorite books ever. He has loved it since he was a toddler, and has grown up to be quite the gardener, thanks in part to that book, I think.
    Catherine recently posted…WWRW: Holding the StirrupMy Profile

  2. I love picture books for history also! If you like the “If you lived…” series, you may have already heard of this other one I really like : “You Wouldn’t Want to be a ….” Mammoth Hunter / Roman Gladiator / Victorian Servant / World War II Pilot, etc… There are a lot of them!
    I also love Gail Gibbons – like you said, she’s written about ev-er-y-thing. If we’re studying ____, I know I’m safe b/c she’s got a book on it 🙂 (we’ve got her pumpkin book out right now…)
    Theresa @ OrdinaryLovely recently posted…Picture Books for Little Soup Lovers (Books. Lists. Love.)My Profile

  3. Love these posts! Every time you do one, I just clickety-click on over to the library site and put everything on hold. Keep them coming!


  1. […] Gabriel and Ezekiel: U.S. History using the D’Aulaire biographies (I wrote a little about them here.) […]