Excellent American History Books for Kids
Whatever curriculum you use for homeschool history, you can (and dare I say, must) read great books with your children. The stories of the people who made our history are the most important part of America. Places, dates, treaties…these are all important, but they mean almost nothing without the stories of the people behind them. And trust me when I say that an exciting story cements the important events in a person’s mind for the rest of their lives. By popular request, I’m sharing my list of excellent American history books for kids. (And I’m including a free printable list to take with you!)
This list could never be exhaustive. There are so many wonderful books for children to read about American history. Sadly, public education makes very little room for this kind of instruction. But even the parent of a public-schooled child can add these books to their family reading time and create a love for history that’s severely lacking in this country.
My list of books includes non-fiction and historical fiction. I think both are very important. Good historical fiction uses factual events and people to weave a story that the author imagines might have happened. I avoid themes of feminism and any kind of racial supremacy. There will be some uncomfortable stories, but the truth is sometimes unpleasant. We should know all facets of it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the history books I publish! These are firsthand accounts of history in America, and are a perfect addition to any history curriculum. Click on the photos to order.
I’ve done my best to list these in chronological order for your benefit. And if you aren’t using a specific curriculum, I highly recommend this book series for ages 9-13 as your spine (and it works great as a read-aloud for younger kids):
The Light and the Glory for Young Readers: 1492-1787
By Peter Marshall, David Manuel & Anna Wilson Fishel. Adapted for children ages 8-12, The Light and the Glory for Young Readers explains American history through the lens of the providential-history approach, showing how God intervened over and over again in history just to create a place where His followers could worship. Telling the tale of Columbus, the Spanish missionaries, Roanoke Colony, and more, learn how Jamestown’s proximity to swamps shows that they didn’t seek the Lord’s direction, how King Phillip’s War was due to God lifting protective grace, and how “this fighting was more than a war over land. This was a spiritual battle… yet, God continued to take care of His people by showing them special favor.” Study guide with questions and answers included. 186 pages, softcover. Ages 8-12.
The original Light and the Glory series is perfect for high school.
Related Post: American History Through the Life of George Washington
The List, Chronologically
Christopher Columbus: Adventurer of Faith This is one of the books in the wonderful Sower Series (see the end of this list). These are based on the writings and journals of important people in history, and do not leave out their relationship with God. Great for all ages as a reader or read-aloud. Veritas Press also sells First Voyage to America, which is the actual ship’s log retold. I haven’t read it but I trust VP book lists. Older students can read the actual Log Books of Columbus.
Hudson by Janice Weaver tells of the life and explorations of the man who explored the area now known as New York City.
Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey is a faithful retelling of the actual events of our Pilgrim forefathers as written down by them. It is a perfect children’s book for kids too young to read Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, which I highly recommend for high school and adult readers.
While the above books tell about Plymouth, Massachusetts, Three Ships Come Sailing teaches about the very important history of the Jamestown settlement.
Pocahontas by the D’aulaires is a beautifully illustrated book in a series of wonderful children’s books by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire. I highly recommend all of their books!
Alone Yet Not Alone – This book is based on a true story of two young girls in colonial America who are kidnapped by Indians. It is an exciting story of history and God’s protection and faithfulness.
George Washington: Man of Faith and Courage by Norma Cournow Camp The biography of Washington written for children, explores his childhood and growing up and how he became the leader of the new United States of America.
Mary Rowlandson – This is a difficult but true story of an American woman’s capture by Indians in colonial America, and her testimony to God. Definitely for older readers.
The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds is an exciting tale of bravery and responsibility set during the French and Indian War.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (A) Johnny has a front-row seat in the events of the American Revolution with Paul Revere and John Hancock! A very popular story that was made into an excellent Disney film.
Patriots, Redcoats, and Spies by Robert Skead is a wonderful children’s adventure series based on the real story of Washington’s Culper spy ring during the war of the Revolution.
Yankee Doodle Boy by Joseph Plumb Martin The true story of a boy who enlisted in the Continental Army at the age of 15. This firsthand account is the most valuable kind of history book!
The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton Washington lived an extraordinary life! Some of his most miraculous, true stories are told in this short book that will remind you of the hand of God in our nation’s founding.
Amos Fortune, Free Man is a moving story of a man captured from his home in Africa and sold as a slave in America during the 18th century. He never gives up on gaining his freedom.
Abigail Adams: First Lady of Faith and Courage by Evelyn Whittier – I grew up reading the books in the Sower Series books, and this one was very influential to me as a girl and a history lover. She was the wife of President John Adams and the mother of another President, John Quincy Adams. She was a Christian and a great example of biblical femininity.
The Captain’s Dog: My Journey With the Lewis and Clark Tribe by Roland Smith. Based on (and including snippets of) the actual Journals of Lewis and Clark, this book is a fun version of the exploration journey through the eyes of Meriweather Lewis’ dog. I recommend the true Journals for high school.
Diary of an Early American Boy by Eric Sloane (A) This book is an incredible and rare find in that it is truly the diary of a real American teen boy in 1805. He describes life on his farm for an entire year. Highly recommended!
Francis Scott Key by David R. Collins. Key is the author of the Star Spangled Banner, and was a famed lawyer in his day. Reading this book as a child gave me a lifelong reverence for our national anthem.
The Boy in the Alamo by Margaret Cousins is highly recommended by educators as the best retelling of the story of Freedom in Texas.
By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman We loved this book so much! It is full of humor, history, and geography, and focuses on the California Gold Rush.
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman We read this book alongside Abraham Lincoln: God’s Leader for a Nation and it was a really interesting comparison of two famous lives of the 19th century in America.
The Boy’s War by Jim Murphy A wrenching look at the American Civil War through the eyes of its youngest soldiers. Thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers were merely boys of 12 to 16 when they went to war. They fought and struggled alongside men three times their age. In this work, their photographs and firsthand accounts bring to life the realities, hopes and devastation of war. (Sonlight)
Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith – This is a great read, telling about the western portion of the Civil War from the perspective of a teenage boy.
The Story of My Life (Helen Keller) – Autobiographies are my favorite way to teach history, and the story of Helen Keller is history AND character. This girl did everything she could to beat the odds, and her story is remarkable!
Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – There is almost nothing as Americana or classic for children as the Little House books. If you’re only familiar with the TV show, please do yourself a favor and read these right away. There is very little similarity between the TV series and the actual books. As usual, the books are so much better. These are classics worth reading at any age, and read repeatedly.
Ol’ Yeller by Fred Gipson. A young boy in the Texas hill country is tasked with “being the man” of the house while his father is away, and gains plenty of maturity and strength while doing so.
Rascal by Sterling North. Boys will love this true story about a young boy who adopts a baby racoon, lives with his widowed father, and is allowed to live the life of a free spirit — hunting, fishing, tracking, building, and just being a boy. Set during World War 1, it has historic references to the outside world, but the main focus is on young Sterling, his naturalist (and well-educated) father, and their love of nature and the adventures they have there.
Bud and Me: The True Adventure of the Abernathy Boys by Alta Abernathy This is a true and exciting tale of two young boys and their trips across the United States on horeseback in the early part of the 20th century.
The Wright Brothers: They Gave us Wings by Charles Ludwig The story of the Wright brothers is a fascinating one of boys who were educated by their mother and were given plenty of opportunity to explore new ideas.
Sargent York: His Own Life and War Diary by Alvin York This is a wonderful book for boys! York was a reluctant soldier in WW1, but when he finally ended up in France, he applied his backwoods shooting skills to the Germans and became a war hero. The way he writes and tells his own story is as entertaining as the story itself. Not to be missed!
Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz I first read this as a teen (girl) and loved it. It’s the true story of a boy growing up in the dangerous streets of New York in the 1950’s. He was the leader of a ruthless street gang before his miraculous conversion to Christianity. Good for teens.
Book Series to Look For
These are a gem from your parent’s or grandparent’s day, and the originals are hard to find now. Stacey at Pics N Papers says, “Well-researched non-fiction history is so often dry, especially when it’s in textbook or encyclopedia form, written by a committee (barf). Landmark books are non-fiction history books; however, they were almost all written by talented authors whose passion it was to make history exciting and tell real stories as if they were novels.” She is absolutely right.
We have a few of the original hardbacks (and I get them CHEAP at library book sales). They are awesome. Highly recommended.
Childhood of Famous Americans
I started collecting these (also from library book sales) in the original hardback version and using them in our homeschool. There are now reprints in affordable paperback editions. I do *not* know if the newer editions are revised. I am researching that info right now and will update this post. ThriftBooks has a nice listing that shows you want the old and new editions look like.
Note: I have not found that all of the old books were reprinted. Case in point: Patrick Henry. You can still search for an old hardback original, but I couldn’t find the same title in reprint form. Same withe Nathan Hale, John Hancock, William Penn, and other (important) figures.
These were first introduced to me as a child when I was homeschooled. I read most of these growing up, and now we read them in our history curriculum. If you need a biography for your kids for any time period, check out one of these FIRST.
I read them aloud to all of my kids at all ages, but for independent reading they are suitable for middle school and up.
All of these books are worth having in your home library. Sometimes Beautiful Feet Books will offer the entire collection on sale!
There are probably many more wonderful books that I have forgotten about. What are your favorite stories about American History? Comment below so my readers will see!
You can read more of my posts on teaching history in your homeschool here:
- Churchill and Henty: A World History Curriculum
- How NOT to Teach American History
- How to Teach History Without a Curriculum
- Mystery of History Volume 1