As you can probably tell by now, I love history. And I love when history comes alive in books and stories. So when I find good picture books that focus on history, I just have to talk about them! Here are some that have come out in the last year that I think you’ll love just as much as I do.
In the winter of 1941 aboard the HMS Duke of York, Winston Churchill braved the threat of Nazi submarines to travel to America in order to meet with President Roosevelt. America just entered the war days before, and the two world leaders agreed to meet and formulate a strategy against their enemies. When asked how long it would take to end the war, Churchill responded, “If we manage it well, it will only take half as long as if we manage it badly.” Even though they planned day and night, Churchill and Roosevelt still took time to joke together and celebrate the holidays. Children will enjoy reading about the relationship between these two pivotal historical figures. I loved this one so much, I included it on my Top Ten of 2011.
Experience Lewis and Clark’s journey as never before through the eyes of Jean Baptiste, Sacagawea’s baby boy. Napoli gets in Jean’s head as she describes the sights, sounds and smells of his journey. He’s fascinated by the grizzly bears, cougars, elk and other animals and hears an assortment of different languages. Madsen’s crackled oil illustration give off a dream-like quality and denotes the passage of time through changing seasons and the boy’s own growth. Children will experience this historic and famous journey as never before.
All the gold in the world is no good if it falls right out of a miner’s worn out pockets! It’s Levi Strauss to the rescue in this taller than tall-tale. Arriving too late to get gold, Levi noticed how worn the miner’s pants were. Armed with a needle, thread, and the durable fabric of the miner’s tents, Levi set out to make a name for himself. Kids will love the humorous illustrations painted on actual Levi jeans, and colorful prose while storytellers won’t be able to resists performing the book with an old-timey Western accent.
Jonah Winter writes this story as though he’s talking to his father and reminiscing over stories his father told him about living in the Great Depression. The fact that the author is speaking of his own father makes the story feel personal and real. The Great Depression taught people to overcome hardship, to find joy in the little things, and that family is the most important thing. And because this story is written in second person, it will be a great resource to teach students the difference between first, second and third person narratives.
Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants by Tony Johnston. Illustrated by Stacy Innerst. January, 2011.
Crossing: Lewis & Clark’s Historic Journey Seen Through a Brand-New Pair of Eyes by Donna Jo Napoli. Illustrated by Jim Madsen. June, 2011.
Born and Bred in the Great Depression by Jonah Winter. Illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root. October, 2011.
Franklin and Winston: A Christmas that Changed the World by Douglas Wood. Illustrated by Barry Moser. September, 2011.