History books for 1st graders
by: Becky White, illustrated by: Megan Lloyd - (Holiday House, 2011) 32 pages.
“Betsy ripped. Rip, rip. / Seven rich, crimson strips.” Delightful rhymes, rhythms, and repetition describe the creation of the first American flag by Betsy Ross and her friend, George Washington. Cleverly conceived, with illustrations that resemble stitching and appliqué, this book even offers a DIY craft at the end: a fold-and-cut star.
Perfect for: Flag Day, little tailors, and American history buffs.
Find Betsy Ross at your local library.
All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
by: Dan Yaccarino - (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011) 40 pages.
The author’s Italian great-grandfather immigrated to New York City with a tomato sauce recipe, a small shovel, and scraps of parental advice, “work hard … never forget your family.” That shovel is used for four generations, all working hard in business tasks as the families rise from poverty to prosperity. Warm, inspiring writing couples with charming drawings infused with Italy’s flag colors: red, white, and green.
Perfect for: Italian-Americans and children curious about their ancestry.
Find All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel at your local library.
My Dream of Martin Luther King
by: Faith Ringgold - (Dragonfly Books, 1998) 32 pages.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life — from dealing with segregation in childhood to the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, his epic “I Have a Dream” speech, and his tragic assassination — is described through the author’s personal dream and illustrated with folk-modern illustrations. The book ends with pictures of everyone in the world fulfilling King’s dream: trading in prejudice, fear, and hate for hope, peace, and love.
Perfect for: Introducing kids to African-American history and societal goals like justice, freedom, and equality.
Find My Dream of Martin Luther King at your local library.
A Boy Called Dickens
by: Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by: John Hendrix - (Schwartz & Wade, 2012) 40 pages.
Hungry, grimy Charles Dickens, 12 years old, lives alone in a cold, decrepit attic because his family is in debtor’s prison. He labors 10-hour days for a pittance in a rat-infested factory. Amid the bleakness, he dreams vivid, wondrous tales. Perfect for compassionate children intrigued by suffering orphans like David Copperfield.
Perfect for: Kids who like to read about real people.
Find A Boy Called Dickens at your local library.
The First Thanksgiving
by: Linda Hayward, illustrated by: James Watling - (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1990) 48 pages.
Fascinating facts and full-page illustrations bring pilgrim history to life. This highly informative and inspirational story includes religious reasons for fleeing England in 1620, the nine-week Atlantic crossing on the Mayflower, the cold first winter in New Plymouth that killed half of the settlers, and the life-saving friendship with Indians, which they celebrated at the first Thanksgiving: a joyful three-day feast with children’s games and contests.
Perfect for: Helping kids understand and appreciate Thanksgiving.
Find The First Thanksgiving at your local library.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North
by: Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by: Jan Spivey Gilchrist - (Amsted, 2010) 32 pages.
A creative, compassionate account of the Great Migration of 1915 to 1929, when thousands of African-Americans escaped the bigotry and poverty of the South by moving north. Five free-verse poems express different travelers’ thoughts along their journey in search of “… a good life / for my family / for myself.” The little-known history of these brave travelers is explored artfully with mixed-media collage, blending old sepia photos, maps, news clippings, and drawings Bibliography included.
Perfect for: Artists, adventurers, and any child who’s complained, “Are we there yet?”
Find The Great Migration: Journey to the North at your local library.
I Have Heard of a Land
by: Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by: Floyd Cooper - (HarperCollins, 2000) 32 pages.
In 1899, land in the Oklahoma Territory was offered free to all Americans, regardless of race or gender. Poetic text and beautiful illustrations tell the inspiring story of an African-American woman who realizes her lifelong dream by staking a claim on the new frontier, “where the cottonwood trees are innocent.” Authentic details about the harsh living conditions the settlers endured bring to life the perils of pioneer living.
Perfect for: Pioneer descendants and courageous little girls.
Find I Have Heard of a Land at your local library.