Teaching History through Children’s Literature

Civil War: Picture Books

 Polacco, Patricia.  Pink and Say.  Philomel Books: New York. 1994.

 This book is beautifully illustrated, which only enhances the strong bonds of friendship portrayed in this story.  This picture book, which takes place during the Civil War, tells the story of two boys and their fight for a common goal, freedom.

 The reason why I chose this book is because it has the basic concept of friendship integrated into elements of the Civil War.  The story illustrates the tone throughout the Civil War.

Harness, Cheryl.  Ghosts of the Civil War.  Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York. 2002.

 This story is uniquely told through dialogue of modern day children, which travel back in time to the Civil War.  The story is broken down battle by battle.  It explains the significance of the Civil War and how it has influenced present day society.  Throughout the story, the children realize how their lives have changed as a result of the Civil War.  The book is beautifully illustrated.  The characters' emotion is defined through their detailed facial expressions.

 The reason I chose this picture book is because it is not the typical picture book format and the illustrations are amazing.  It includes a detailed description of Civil War and can easily be differentiated to fit all learners. 


Civil War: Informational Picture Books and Biographies

 Graves, Kerry A.  Going to School During the Civil War: The Union.  Blue Earth Books: Mankato, MN.  2002.

 Describes the education system during the Civil War in the north.  Topics include preserving the union, schools in the north, public schools, and the importance of loyalty and support of the Union.  Book also includes photographs, maps, keywords, and Internet sites for further research. 

 Graves, Kerry A.  Going to School During the Civil War: The Confederate.  Blue Earth Books: Mankato, MN.  2002.

 Describes the education system in the south during the time of the Civil War.  Topics include: fight for states’ right, schools in the south, education of slaves and boarding schools, and life during the war.  Book also includes photographs, maps, keywords, and Internet sites to visit for more information. 

 The reason I choose these two books is because the two can easily be compared.  Students can learn about the Civil War while learning comparing and contrasting skills.  These books also come at the Civil War in an unusual perspective, education.


Adler, David A.  A Picture Book of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Holiday House: New York.  2003.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was one of the causes of the Civil War.  This picture books tells how Harriet Beecher Stowe caused controversy and made people pay attention to an issue that could no longer be avoided. 

 The reason I chose this book is because it demonstrated the significance of women’s role in the Civil War.  A majority of the other books emphasize the male heroes of the Civil War.

 Adler, David A.  A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln.  Holiday House: New York. 1989.

 Simplistically tells about Lincoln’s childhood and family life.  Tells of Lincoln’s travels and his study of law.  Book also discusses Lincoln’s participation in the Civil War such as the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.  The book is colorfully illustrated with single page spreads. 

 Bial, Raymond.  Where Lincoln Walked.  Walker and Company: New York: 1997.

 The book is illustrated through actual photographs.  Book includes information on Lincoln’s childhood, adult life, and presidency. 

 The reason I choose these books are because Lincoln played an important role in the progress of the Civil War and all students should know about him.

Slavery: Biography

 January, Brendan.  Martin Luther King, Jr. Minister and Civil Rights Activist. Ferguson Publishing Company: Chicago.  2000.

 This biography includes information on Martin Luther King, Jr’s childhood, studies, organized boycotts, his dream, the battle he had to fight to achieve his dream, and lastly his accomplishments.  Timeline and other resources provided.

Slavery: Novels

 Paulsen, Gary.  Nightjohn.  Delacorte Press: New York.  1993.

Sarney, a young slave, makes a trade with Nightjohn, tobacco for a chance to learn to read.  This story is simplistically written, but conveys a serious message of what slavery really was like. 

 The reason I chose this book was because not only is the physical aspect of slavery addressed, but the emotional obstacles to remain optimistic and faithful are addressed.

 Pearsall, Shelley.  Trouble Don’t Last.  Alfred A. Knopp: New York.  2002.

 This novel is about a young slave and his friend Harrison, who decides to runaway.  Problem is “trouble follows me like a shadow.”

 The reason I chose this book is simply because the title intrigued me.

 Ayers, Katherine. Stealing South: A story of the Underground Railroad. Delacorte Press: New York.  2001

 Will Spencer is asked to assist a runaway slaves brother out of the South.  This boo tells Will’s journey from Ohio to Kentucky and his battle with his conscience.

 Ayers, Katherine.  North by Night: A story of the Underground Railroad.  Delacorte Press: New York.  1998.

 Lucy Spencer has been helping runaway slaves since she was 12.  By reading her journal entries, the reader learners about her adventures and her journey of becoming a young woman.

The reason I chose Katherine Ayers novels is because the two stories are told from different perspective, a young girl and a young boy, and how they assist runaway slaves escape to freedom.

 Liberty Bell

Great Depression: Novels

 Ayers, Katherine.  Macaroni Boy.  Delacorte Press: New York.  2003.
Michael Coasta, a 12-year old boy, lives in the time of the Great Depression.  Michael's grandpa becomes ill and he determined to figure out how.  He realizes his grandpa is not the only one with this illness, but so do two hobos down the street.  Is there a connection between these deaths and the large amount of dead rats in the warehouse?

 De Young, C. Coco.  A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt.  Delacorte Press: New York.1999.

This novel tells a story about a young girl named Margo and how she admires Eleanor Roosevelt.  As a result of the Great Depression, Margo’s family begins to struggle financially, so Margo writes a letter asking for assistance from Mrs. Roosevelt.  An inspirational story. 

 Curtis, Christopher Paul.  Bud, Not Buddy.  Delacorte Press: New York.  1999.

Bud is on a mission to find his father, a jazz musician, or so he thinks.  This story describes the Great Depression through music and art.  Bud, Not Buddy is a Newberry Metal award winner.

 The reason I chose this book is because it seems to take a lighter approach to the Great Depression even thought it is a serious topic. 

Immigration: Multicultural Novels

 Nixon, Joan Lowery.  Ellis Island Land of Hope.  Bantam Books: New York. 1992.

 Rebekah and her family flee Russia in search of a better life.  On the ship ride to American she befriends Kristin and Rose. Rebekah realizes that when they arrive in American, their friendship will end and they will go their separate ways.

 The reason I chose this book is because throughout the story the girl illustrate the different obstacles American immigrates have to face and overcome.  The book also shows three cultures coming together Irish, Swedish, and Russian and forming a friendship.

 Giff, Patricia Reilly. Nory Ryan’s Song.  Delacorte Press: New York.  2000

 This story is about Nory’s struggle to get through the potato famine in Ireland as opposed to going to America and starting a new life with her family.

 The reason I chose this book is because it illustrates a different perspective and how important culture is in the topic of immigration.

World War II: Novels and Picture Books

 Bradley, James.  Flags of our Fathers: Heros of Iwo Jima.  Delacorte Press: New York.  2001.

 In 1945, American Marines, many of them teenagers, fought to raise the American Flag in the battle at Iwo Jima. 

 This story gives a sense of American pride, glory, and heart break all in one story.  This book is based off the adult novel and has been adapted for younger readers by Michael French.

 Mochizuki, Ken.  Baseball Saved Us.  Lee & Low Books Inc: New York.   1993.

 Based on real event in Japanese American interment camps during World War II, “Shorty” gains respect and dignity through playing baseball.

This story has historical truth and makes you aware of the finer things in life, which is why I chose to incorporate it. 

 Coerr, Eleanor & Ed Young.  Sadako.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons: New York.  1993.

 A Japanese legend says that if an ill person makes 1000 paper cranes, the gods will grant that person a wish. 

 This legend tells about the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and the long term effects it had on the Japanese people.  A moving and inspiration story.

Holocaust: Picture Book and Novel

 Nerlove, Miriam.  Flowers on the Wall.  Margaret K. Mc Elderry Books: New York. 1996.

 Rachael and her family decide to paint flowers on the wall of their apartment to brighten it up in Warsaw, Poland during World War II.  The family eventually gets taken to a Jewish ghetto and fades just as the flowers on the wall.

 This story portrays the powerful and haunting feelings of what is was like to live throughout the time of the Holocaust in simplistic language.

 Opdyke, Irene Gut.  In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer.  Alfred A. Knopp: New York.  1999.

 Irene Gut hated working for the Germans during World War II, so she decided to take advantage of the information she knew by rescuing and freeing Jews from the ghetto.

The reason I chose this book is because I was intrigued by the cover and summary provided on the book.

Informational Books

 Johnson, Robert D.  The Making of America: The history of the United States from 1492 to the Present.  Nation Geographic:Washington D.C. 2002.

 This book is written in a simplistic way and divided by time period, so it is easy for children to use for research.

 Miller, Wanda J.  U.S. History through Children’s Literature: from the Colonial Period to World War II.  Teacher Ideas Press: Englewood, CO.  1997.

 This book gives whole group and small group readings ideas, as well as End-of-Unit Celebration (assessment).

 Glandon, Shan.  Caldecott Connections to Social Studies.  Libraries Unlimited: Englewood, CO.  2000.

 This book provides an endless array of activities to integrate literature and social studies.  Includes how to introduce biographies, cultures, composition ideas, and culminating activities.  


Scholastic for Teachers
Great website for educators, parents, and students.  This website has a wide variety of activities and lessons for all grade levels.

Great search engine for students.  Students are able to get homework help, play games, do research, and other fun things.

Borders Books
Great website to look and review literature for your classroom. 

Animation Library
Endless amount of animated graphics covering every topic imaginable.

Website Designed
By: Gina Di Figlio
Fall 2003
Elmhurst College Preservice Teacher
Stressed Out Student