Great Children's Books for Young History Buffs
Laurel Snyder is the author of six novels for children including Bigger than a Bread Box, Penny Dreadful, and Orphan Island. She's also written many picture books, including Charlie and Mouse and Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Snyder is also an occasional commentator for NPR's All Things Considered.
When I was a kid, I didn't like history. History was boring. History meant textbooks. So I was surprised when my kids first began reading on their own, and immediately gravitated to history.
That was when I discovered how much "history" has changed. Historical books today are written with kids in mind, incorporating innovative forms, dramatic content, humor, and a much more kid-friendly tone. A reader obsessed with, say, Legos, can learn about their creation. Likewise superheroes, chocolate, or ballerinas.
Maybe the best illustration of this is the current craze for the founding fathers, spurred by the hit smash musical Hamilton. Kids determined not to throw away their shots are reaching for library books about the American revolution, and Martha Brockenbrough's Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary is about to be their new favorite.
At my own house, where WWI is a regular dinner conversation topic (I'm still not sure exactly how that happened), Nathan Hale's graphic novel Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood was a huge discovery, and it opened the door to other chapters in American history, as my kids worked their way through Hale's Alamo All Stars and Donner Dinner Party, among others. And of course, because we happen to live in Atlanta, (we're proud to be residents of John Lewis' congressional district), all of the incredible March books are worn from countless rereadings.
I volunteer at our school library, and can't help but notice that kids also seem to adore books that view history through a quirky or surprising lens. Great examples of this are Sarah Albee's Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up, Bugged: How Insects Changed History, and Why'd They Wear That?
Even for fiction lovers, history is front and center. Kate Messner's popular Ranger in Time series follows a time-traveling golden retriever back to a vast array of historical moments, from ancient Rome to the Oregon Trail.
And for younger readers, picture books now approach a crazy array of topics kids can't help but love, from Chris Barton and Don Tate's Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions to The Secret Subway by Shana Corey and Red Nose Studio, or The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller and Vincent X. Kirsch.
Of course, kids will always love the imaginary world—full of wizarding schools and demigods. But it's been wonderful for me to see how kids today can relate to historical books, which is—it seems—no less surprising or dramatic or funny than fiction.
Check out more of our back-to-school coverage:
Rick Riordan's Books to Hook Middle School Readers
How to Encourage Kids to Read (Plus Some Modern Children's Classics)
As Diverse Kids' Books Increase, A Chance for More Muslim Stories
Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)
date newest »
back to top