10 American History Books Kids Will Love

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I hated history when I was in school. Thanks to homeschooling, some wonderful curriculum, and these 10 American history books for kids – great biographies and living books – history is now my favorite subject to learn alongside my children.

10 great living books for studying American History


I began using Trail Guide to Learning with my younger two kids in January 2012 and we love it! I never thought I would enjoy an all-inclusive curriculum, but after just a few weeks with Trail Guide we realized it was the perfect homeschool curriculum for our family.

One of our favorite aspects of using the curriculum is the fabulous selection of readers. Each unit there is one read-aloud and one student reader. These usually consist of a biography and a historical fiction – our favorites! We’ve progressed through Paths of Settlement and we’re halfway through Paths of Progress. I thought I’d share some of the books that we’ve enjoyed the most so far.

Abigail Adams – This biography about John Adams’ wife was one of our favorites of the biographies we’ve read. She was such a strong woman. I’m not sure what impressed me more – the fact that she didn’t run screaming from the house when the Revolutionary War broke out in sight of her house or the fact that she let her young son travel for France with his father, knowing she wouldn’t see either of them for years.

Justin Morgan Had a Horse – I think this story of Justin Morgan and Lil’ Bub might be Megan’s favorite book ever. The fact that there is lots of history subtly woven into the story was, I think, mostly lost on Megan. She just loved the great story about the little horse. I might have been right there with her.

Guns for General Washington – I love that Trail Guide includes lots of good boy books. Guns? Battles? Treacherous treks through the wilderness? Yeah, this one appealed to my boy…but Megan and I still enjoyed it.

Janie’s Freedom – Janie’s Freedom has probably been my favorite of the books we’ve read so far and it was a close second for Megan. This captivating book tells the story of five children, born into slavery, who make their way North for a better life after gaining freedom at the end of the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt – We have all enjoyed both biographies that we’ve read in the Heroes of History series by Janet and Geoff Benge. They’re the kind of stories that the kids and I want to keep reading longer than called for on the lesson plans. Teddy Roosevelt was a fascinating man and this biography makes the details of his life leap off the page.

As an aside, he looks very much like Robin Williams in my mind. Thanks, Night at the Museum.

Ambush in the Wilderness – This story of a young boy who witnesses his fur-trader father’s death at the hands of a group of Indians is one of the few stories for kids (to my knowledge) about the French and Indian War.

Robert E. Lee – I think I learned more about the Civil War through this biography than I ever learned in high school. I’m so glad that Trail Guide explores history through biographies and great fiction books. My kids get so much more out of them than dry facts and memorized dates.

Samuel F. B. Morse – This biography is one of the more memorable ones to me because we made so many connections between the story of Morse’s life and other people and events that we’d read about before. It’s fun for us when we start realizing which historical figures living during the times of others and how their lives intertwined.

Michael Faraday – I had no idea who Michael Faraday was when we started his biography, but I cried at the end when we experienced his death through the pages of this well-written book. The kids tease me when that happens.

Thomas Edison – We’ll be finishing Thomas Edison today. This is another Heroes of History biography. I love when a book makes us all laugh and this one did. We have determined that Mr. Edison was ADHD before it had a name.

What are some of your favorite American History books?

Disclosure: I am the social media manager for Geography Matters, publishers of Trail Guide to Learning. However, I only recommend products that my family has used and enjoyed. The opinions expressed here are my personal, honest opinions. Your experience may vary. Please read my full disclosure policy for more details.

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday and iHN’s Ten in Ten.


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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. I just scored half of these books for $1 each at a used curriculum sale last night! We’re starting Trail Guide next year thanks to your review. The kids sat for 1/2 an hour drooling over the books I got and they actually looked excited to start! We may just be starting earlier than planned!

  2. Kris, thanks for sharing these books. I love history. Right now I’m reading John Adams by David McCullough.

    I’ve been on a mission to find living history books for my kiddos. My son is interested in Lewis and Clark. I bought a used copy of “The journals of Lewis and Clark” Abridged by Anthony Brandt. We will read it together (my son is 10) I would just like a more young adult version if I can find one. Your links will be a great help.

    1. We read a couple of really great books about Lewis and Clark. The Captain’s Dog, I think was one of them. Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog’s Tale was a good one. We read a really good one about Sacagawea, but I can’t remember the name of it and of course, there are dozens about her. The study of Lewis and Clark is one of the memories that really stands out in my mind from when I was more involved in my oldest child’s studies. Very interesting for everyone involved.

  3. Great great great. We are coming to the end of our first year of homeschooling. Literature and History have gone hand in hand for us and been the highlight of our learning together. Thank you for sharing these resources.

  4. What age level does Trail Guide go up to? Kris, can you give me some pointers for high school? I have a ninth grader. We are in our 5th week.

      1. Thanks! We use Apologia and have since 2nd grade. I made the mistake of using SOS by Alpha Omega for my 8th grader last year, but we are back to Apologia this year. Teaching Textbooks are great, especially since high school math is not an area I am comfortable with (none of it made sense to me!). We, too, are doing Alg I, II, and geometry.
        My 9th grader just started a parttime job at the beginning of this month (9-12 hrs/wk) and so I am thinking of borrowing Generation Change by Dave Ramsey from our church library and starting that with her since she has a steady income now. She and her sister sat through Financial Peace University w/my husband and me so she has the basics, but a little different when you have your own money 🙂
        She has no idea what she might want to do past high school so I want to explore her possible interests. We are an hour-and-a-half from nearest co-op, but she is heavily involved in 4-H.
        So glad our state home school coalition posted your “Do-Over” piece in the weekly eletter!

  5. Any specific books you have used for World Geography? That is our focus this year. My daughter is reading Hudson Taylor and I am reading Eric Liddell as a read-aloud for both girls.

  6. I would disagree that Thomas Edison is a hero. You should have had a book about Nikolai Tesla who was a true hero, not someone like Edison who stole ideas from others and didn’t want free energy.

    I am a science and social studies teacher of 17 years in the city of Chicago. I read many books, and many that are slanted and written a certain way to make some look good and others look bad. History is not about denying the truth, but letting the truth show without shame. Christopher Columbus was a bad man, history showed it but we were lead to believe he was good. Thomas Edison, was not a hero, he stole ideas from people and did mean things to Nikolai Tesla who wanted to give free energy to the world. The Native Americans weren’t an enemy, white settlers destroyed their way of life. American history is not less violent or less humane as those of other countries, and to think so is a delusion. If you are going to support history, then support the finding of truth.

    Also a great read, Man Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwama and Child Soldier by Michel Chikwanine.
    A book about slavery, Freedom to Me.

    Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki.

    Code Talker: A Story of Navajo Marines in World War II.

    I would recommend you personally read the book Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. I think that if you are going to be an advocate for home-schooling of history then there must be a more open minded approach between truth and what is written to make heroes out of people who do not necessarily deserve to be heroes.

  7. I am 68 years old. I just read the ‘Dear America’ series, 41 books, that are fictional diaries children wrote in all times of our history. I loved every one. At the end is the history of that time, very educational. They were wrote in the 1990’s. I read many books growing up, so you listed, and the most favorite was Abigail Adams. I will continue to ‘catch up’ on the children books as they are so wonderful.

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