Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Top 10 Historical Picture Books.

I must say first that this is one of my favorite genres and I could have easily made it a top 50 list. Away we go...

1) Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine: A beautifully illustrated book about the true story of a slave who mailed himself in a box crate to freedom. Ever since reading this I have wanted to build a replica of the box and see what it must have been like for him and his 27 hour journey. Weird I know...

2) Mighty Jackie: The Strikeout Queen by Marissa Moss: This is a true story of a 17 year-old girl who played for Chattanooga Lookouts. One day in 1931, she striked out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. After reading this I was struck with the injustice of not ever hearing who she before reading this book.

3) Buffalo Storm by Katherine Applegate: This book is so beautifully written I had to tell everyone who teaches the Oregon Trail or Westward Expansion to include it in their lessons. It is a story of a young girl who needs to leave her grandma behind as her family goes west. On her journey she sees buffalo running and the majestic experience helps her not be so afraid.

4) Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds: This is about a young boy who is riding the bus with his mama the day Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. I particularly love the voice and language used as the story is told through the young boys eyes.
5)The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills: This is one of my favorites about an Appalachian girl who can't go to school because she doesn't have a coat. Every adult in town chips in to make a coat out of scraps they had lying around. The children are ruthless and make fun of her ugly coat until they realise that the coat is made up of scraps from their past. Great tale to discuss bullying. I also love to do the text-to-text connection with Joseph's Little Overcoat by Simms Taback.

6) The Royal Bee by Frances Park: I love this story of a poor Korean boy 100 years ago who is desperate to go to school so he can better provide for his mother. His determination gets him into the school (normally for wealthy families) and later to represent his school at the royal bee.

7) Encounter by Jane Yolen: This is a story of a young Taino boy (native people of San Salvador) as his people meet Christopher Columbus. This definitely tells the side of the people who already inhabited the lands discovered, and brings up some deep questions and discussions.

8) Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming: This is an inspiring tale of a girl in Indiana who becomes a pen-pal with a girl in Holland, during post WWII. When the American girl discovers what the dutch girl is living with out due to war she starts to send care packages.

9) Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting: Bunting is a historical fiction book genius who is not afraid to discuss heart wrenching subjects. If you teach Workshop her books are on all the reading list because they so easily lead to great discussions. This book is about the orphan trains post WWI and a girl orphan who is the last to find a home.

10) Pink and Say by Patricia Pollaco: This is actually part of Pollaco's oral history because Say is her great-great grandfather. It is a story of two boys: one white (Say) and one black (Pink) during the Civil War. Both fought for the Union Army in different units. When Say is injured Pink brings him to his mother to care for him. As their friendship blooms the hardship and horror of war continues. In the book there is violence and death. All though there is a sad ending Pollaco also leaves the reader with a sense of hope. It has been argued that this book shouldn't be taught in schools. However, war is more than the hero stories we are presented with and I feel we should try to teach the whole picture. This story is one of deep love. I love how both Pollaco and Bunting trust children to handle difficult topics. What a great showing of respect!


  1. Hi, I found your blog via 5-a-Day.
    This is a list after my own heart! Need to look up some of these.
    "Follow the drinking gourd" would fit in well with "Henry's freedom box".

  2. Oooh I love Follow The Drinking Gourd too, I seriously could have made this my top 50 or 100. I love this genre so much!!! Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for all the lovely books you linked up to Book Sharing Monday. Hope to see you again this