Using Books to Dive Into History (page 2)

Using Books to Dive Into History

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Updated on May 5, 2010

Civil War

  • Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco. (Philomel:1994)  Polacco's poignant picture book tale of the friendship between two boys (one white, one black) during the Civil War is on the ALA Notable Children's Book list. (Ages 7-11)
  • Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine. (Scholastic:2007) Winner of the 2008 Caldecott Honor, Levine's portrayal of Henry “Box” Brown’s plan to mail himself to freedom is a detailed and well-illustrated book. (Ages 7-11)


  • The Bicycle Man by Allan Say (Houghton Mifflin:1982) A ALA Notable Book and a Booklist Editors' Choice, this is the tale of the amazing tricks two American soldiers perform on a borrowed bicycle in a small village in occupied Japan. (Ages 5-9)
  • The Quilt by Gary Paulsen. (Yearling:2005) A Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies in 2005, Paulsen's semi-autobiographical novel of wartime as seen through the eyes of a 6-year-old is a good classroom read aloud and discussion book. (Ages 9-12)

Civil Rights

  • Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman. (Farrar, Straus, Giroux:2004) On the 2005 Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies list, this novel tells the story of how 11-year-old Alice's life changes when her school integrates in 1964. (Ages 9-12)
  • A Sweet Smell of Roses Angela Johnson. (Simon & Schuster:2004) A powerful tale of two young sisters who join the Civil Rights march, this picture book's  black and white charcoal illustrations are reminiscent of the newsreels of the time. (Ages 5-9)

Dr. Kristo  has one caution –it's important to help students make the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, especially since some historical fiction, like the Dear America series, are designed to look like non-fiction.  "It's like any of us telling a good story--there's a kernel of truth in it, but the rest of it is fiction," she says. But, it's that kernel of truth from which your child's interest in history can grow.

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