Children's books: Historical
October 12, 2019 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Seeking recommendations for kids books (from picture books to middle grade) that are set in a historical period/help teach history. Primary criteria: Fun and Accuracy

while thinking about the shortcomings of my own history education and the likely shortcomings of my children's upcoming history education, I decided I'd like to at least attempt to fill in some of the gaps with good books.

I just need the books to be accurate, not teaching stuff that then needs to be unlearned (I'm aware history is complicated and some events have multiple perspectives/interpretations or mysteries about what really happened, but I mean stuff like "Romans would binge eat and then vomit in a vomitarium", which I once read in a book and which is... not true.)

And enjoyable to read! Realistically I'll be doing a lot of the reading at bedtime, I want to be enjoying myself, too...
posted by Cozybee to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
here's a thread on a similar question I asked a while ago.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2019

David Macaulay’s pen-and-ink drawings of historical construction - Cathedral and Castle and City and Pyramid and... I still love reading these decades into adulthood.
posted by clew at 11:15 AM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

The American Girl series of books was pretty accurate & fun as I remember.
posted by bleep at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2019

The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne are a strange animal, but they might be what you're looking for. They are chapter books, about 3-4th grade reading level, but much younger kids can listen and understand fine. The premise is that Jack and Annie find a magic tree house which transports them to various times and places. There are over 40 books in the series. All of them involve magic in some way, but the history is solid. The author even publishes "non-fiction companions" to some of the titles.
I read these out loud to my kids when they were little and eventually they started devouring them on their own. I used them as a jumping off point for homeschooling. And now as a Librarian I recommend them to kids all the time.
posted by Biblio at 1:32 PM on October 12, 2019

For the middle grades Anne Franks Diary of a Young Girl would be interesting, though you would have to be willing to discuss it with them, maybe read it too.
posted by EatMyHat at 1:33 PM on October 12, 2019

Gillian Bradshaw’s history books are mostly for adults, but I think they would work well for reading aloud. The main characters are likeable and there’s not a lot of explicit anything, in most of them. Try The Sand Reckoner, for instance. London in Chains is great but there might be too much history to explain.
posted by clew at 2:05 PM on October 12, 2019

If you are looking for fiction, please look at the lists of book awards for children’s literature like the Caldecott and Newbury awards. There is a Coretta Scott King award, and other specialty lists that will include books that librarians and others consider excellent in different age ranges and formats, like picture books, graphic novels, and prose books.
posted by drossdragon at 2:19 PM on October 12, 2019

Johnny Tremain taught me most of what I know about the American Revolution! I still think fondly of it. And if YA romance is of interest, the Sunfire series is dozens of books with good history and age-appropriate (if totally heternormative) mild romance (eg, which of two guys will the girl kiss and decide to date by the end of the novel after they're survived fleeing famine in Ireland, or the sinking of the Titantic, or the 1906 earthquake, or the Triangle fire, or WWI...)
posted by TwoStride at 2:55 PM on October 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories books are pretty accurate, and are very funny. And the BBC television show based on them is brilliant. Especially the songs.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 3:10 PM on October 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

The Little House on the Prairie series, especially Farmer Boy, have tons of fascinating detail about chores and food in that time period. The Ingalls family knowingly and explicitly stole land from Native American families, and the Ingalls family also says and thinks racist things about Native Americans, so those storylines need to be critically deconstructed with your students. But there are many excerpts that explain things like making shingles or butter or candles which are fascinating.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:41 PM on October 12, 2019

Our Canadian Girl, if you're Canadian.
Talk to your local. Children's Librarian for good suggestions. Also, many libraries post lists. Public library sites don't usually need a membership to access these lists, and no doubt the Library of Congress has a reference lists.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:42 PM on October 12, 2019

Brinton Turkle's Obadiah books (Thy Friend, Obadiah) are picture books about a Quaker boy in colonial Nantucket.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:30 PM on October 12, 2019

Response by poster: I see I forgot this in the original post, but I'm particularly interested in non-American history.
posted by Cozybee at 10:26 PM on October 12, 2019

Cloud and Wallfish, by Anne Nesbet, is set in East Berlin around the time the Berlin Wall fell. The characters are great, it's a real page-turner, and the author is careful to highlight the real history behind the fiction.

Also, I know you said you're particularly interested in non-American history, but if you do have room for any American-set books, I highly recommend The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming, about a girl traveling across post-Civil War America. The narrator is Anne-of-Green-Gables level charming and I recommend this book to everybody.
posted by yankeefog at 4:39 AM on October 13, 2019

On mobile, so no links, sorry!

For the Indian freedom struggle: Victory Song by Chitra Divkaruni Bannerjee and Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar.

Amar Chitra Katha is both a publisher and a brand name and publishes stories from all eras of Indian history in comic book form.
posted by Tamanna at 9:33 AM on October 13, 2019

The Betsy-Tacy books!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:47 AM on October 13, 2019

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