Give your children the gifts of literacy and time - read to them every day!
Historical fiction set in the US:
- Chicken Soup With Rice: A Book of Months, by Sendak - a fun, silly set of rhymes that go through each month of the year with refrains like "Sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice".
- Flamingos on the Roof, by Calef Brown - a new favorite - nonsense rhymes full of word play, with colorful, interesting illustrations, for preschool through middle elementary.
- Tikkatoo's Journey, by Amanda Loverseed - an Eskimo folktale about a little boy who makes a hero's journey to bring his sick grandfather a piece of the sun. Wonderful, stylized illustrations.
- Owl Moon, by Yolen, illustrated by Schoenherr - a quiet story about a little girl who goes with her pa for a walk in the winter woods hoping to see an owl. (Caldecott winner)
- Louhi, Witch of North Farm, by Barbara Cooney - a folktale from Finland about how Louhi steals the sun, and is then persuaded to bring it back. I love nearly all Barbara Cooney's illustrations, but the pictures in this book may be my favorites!
- Eleanor, by Barbara Cooney - about how Eleanor Roosevelt grew up; too long for pre-schoolers, but good for elementary, maybe first grade and up.
- Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books, by Winters, illustrated by Carpenter - a picture book biography of Abraham Lincoln for elementary-age listeners.
- Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers, by Karen B. Winnick - the true story of how a little girl wrote a letter to Lincoln suggesting that he grow a beard, and how she later got to meet him - elementary.
- Abraham Lincoln, by Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire - a somewhat longer illustrated biography of Lincoln - read aloud to first or second graders and up (1940 Caldecott medal winner).
- George Washington, by Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire - folk-style illustrations with a straight-forward biography of the first president. The fact that he had slaves is mentioned, but without comment on the problematical ethics.
- George Washington's Breakfast, by Jean Fritz - a little boy who was named after George Washington, and shares his birthday, goes looking for information about Washington; early to middle elementary.
- ...If You Grew Up With George Washington, by Gross, illustrated by McCully - information and pictures about life in colonial Virginia; elementary
- So You Want to Be President? by St. George, illustrated by Small - a light-hearted approach to the message that our presidents were/are very human, with their individual quirks and different backgrounds, and that anyone can aspire to our highest office. Appropriate for fairly young children, although some of the humor will go right over their heads. (Caldecott medal book)
Historical fiction set in the US:
- Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder - first book of the classic series, this one is set in Wisconsin in the 1800's, and written from the author's memories of life in a log cabin with her older sister, Mary, and their parents. Short chapters and the simple story make this suitable for quite young listeners, maybe as young as first grade.
- By the Great Horned Spoon, by Sid Fleischman - full of humor and adventure, this is a story set in the California gold rush days, as young Jack and his aunt's butler Praiseworthy set out to strike gold and save Jack's aunt from poverty. It is a bit of a tall tale, but lots of fun. (middle elementary and up)
- Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan - another pioneer story, this one is about two children whose mother has died, and whose father has a "mail order bride" coming to join them on the prairie. Short and sweet, for second grade or above listeners.
- All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor - a classic family story, set in the early 1900's in New York City, about five sisters growing up in a poor Jewish immigrant family. (middle elementary)
- Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt - Set in rural southern Illinois in the 1860's, this is a classic coming-of-age story. The main character, Jethro, is a young boy when Lincoln is elected president. Two of the older boys in the family(along with his school teacher) fight in the Union army, and one fights for the Confederate army, while Jethro must take on more and more of the work of running the family farm. It would be good to have a map of Civil War battles handy as you read, so you can see where the different battles (described in letters and newspaper articles) were fought. (Fourth or fifth grade and up listeners)
- The River Between Us, by Richard Peck - another Civil War era story, with a mystery blended in, the main story is framed by a 15-year-old boy's 1916 trip to visit his grandparents' home, but most of the narrative is in the voice of his grandmother as a teenage girl during the Civil War, and revolves around two "young ladies", one light-complected and the other dark, who arrive on a boat from New Orleans and board with the family, and may not be exactly what they seem. (Third or fourth grade and up)
- Sarah's Ground, by Ann Rinaldi - based on actual people and events, this is the story of a "Yankee" young woman, and a "Southern" gentleman who are working together to manage Mt. Vernon during the Civil War - a quieter story that will probably appeal more to girls (upper elementary to middle school)
- Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes - set in the decisive time leading up to the Revolutionary War, Johnny is a talented apprentice silversmith in Boston. Paints a picture of colonial life, and weaves Johnny's personal story in with historical events and appearances by several of the founding fathers. (fifth or sixth grade and up) (Newbery medal)
- Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman - looks at events in the Civil War from various viewpoints; does contain some realistic violence, so use your judgement about what your children are ready to hear, but probably fifth grade and up. (Newbery medal)
- The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come by John Fox - an old-fashioned classic, set in Civil War Kentucky, not something your kids would be likely to pick up and read on their own, but a good, long read-aloud for middle elementary and above.
- 1776, by David McCullough - historical (nonfiction) account of the difficult war for independence - a fresh look at George Washington
- A Free Man of Color, by Barbara Hambly - historical fiction and a mystery, set in New Orleans in the early 1800's, this book sheds light on the little-known culture of the free blacks at a time when "Americans" were regarded as outsiders and the "civilized" population of New Orleans still spoke French. It is the first book in a series of mysteries featuring the same main character.