30 History Books for Kids That Bring the Past to Life


High-quality history books for kids can have a huge impact on your curriculum. Whether you’re looking to satisfy the curiosity of kids who absolutely love history, inspire those who think it’s boring, or simply build kids’ background knowledge beyond your required textbooks, these titles are some of our recent favorites for transporting kids back in time. From fascinating picture books (which we think are read-aloud-worthy for all ages) to exciting graphic novels and gripping historical chapter books, there’s something here for every student.

History Books for Kids: Picture Books

1. When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger and Susan Katz

Book cover for When the Shadbush Blooms
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A Lenape girl imagines what her ancestors would have done in the places she visits across the seasons to fish, collect berries, enjoy family time, and more. Add this to your history books for kids to help them imagine what daily life was like long ago.

Buy it: When the Shadbush Blooms on Amazon

2. Encounter by Brittany Luby

Encounter
Amazon

This story tells of an imagined friendly “encounter” between a European explorer and an indigenous fisher. Journal entries from explorer Jacques Cartier’s expedition to what is now the coast of Quebec inspired the author to write this tale. Sharing it provides a great chance to talk about how we can use primary sources to imagine moments from history.

Buy it: Encounter on Amazon

3. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

Book cover for The Girl Who Thought in Pictures
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Share this rhyming book to introduce kids to Dr. Temple Grandin, successful scientist, educator, and advocate representing the experiences of those on the autism spectrum. Add this to your history books for kids that show how history includes all kinds of minds and voices.

Buy it: The Girl Who Thought in Pictures on Amazon

4. If You’re a Kid Like Gavin: The True Story of a Young Trans Activist by Gavin Grimm and Kyle Lukoff

Book cover for If You're a Kid Like Gavin
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Students need to know how history constantly happens in real time—and can be impacted by kids like them. This title shares the story of transgender activist Gavin Grimm. When his high school principal wouldn’t let him use the boys’ bathroom, he became instrumental in the transgender rights movement and took his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Buy it: If You’re a Kid Like Gavin on Amazon

5. All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans With Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel

All the Way to the Top book cover
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Introduce students to Jennifer Keelan, who made headlines when she climbed the steps of the Capitol without her wheelchair to show the importance of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This memorable title will build kids’ background knowledge about the disability rights movement and inspire them to learn more.

Buy it: All the Way to the Top on Amazon

6. Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders

Book cover for Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag
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This book tells about Harvey Milk’s work as a San Francisco gay rights activist and one of the first openly gay elected politicians. Milk’s idea led to the creation of the first rainbow flag in 1978.

Buy it: Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag on Amazon

7. Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Book cover for Phenomenal AOC: The Roots and Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

Introduce kids to the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. Learn about AOC’s childhood in the Bronx, her college years, and her journey into activism—and how hard she had to work to earn others’ respect along the way. This is an important story for kids to hear.

Buy it: Phenomenal AOC on Amazon

8. What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me: Deb Haaland’s Historic Inauguration by Alexis Bunten

Book cover for What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me
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This informational story imagines the perspective of a group of Indigenous children viewing the inauguration of Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary. Memorably, she wore a traditional ribbon skirt to honor her heritage. Add this to your history books for kids that showcase the history and work of indigenous individuals.

Buy it: What Your Ribbon Skirt Means to Me on Amazon

9. Carter Reads the Newspaper: The Story of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Founder of Black History Month by Deborah Hopkinson

Book cover for Carter Reads the Newspaper as an example of history books for kids
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Get kids thinking about how we learn—and celebrate—history with this biography. Carter Woodson was a curious, lifelong learner. He believed deeply that the world should learn about and applaud the history of Black people. This led him to establish Negro History Week in 1926, which grew into the Black History Month we observe today.

Buy it: Carter Reads the Newspaper on Amazon

10. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson

Book cover for The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
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This is one of our must-read history books for kids. It shares the perspective of African people ripped from their homes and sold as slaves in such an eloquent and humanizing way.

Buy it: The 1619 Project on Amazon

11. The Whale Who Swam Through Time: A 200-Year Journey in the Arctic by Alex Boersma and Nick Pyenson

Book cover for The Whale Who Swam Through Time as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

Take a journey through history with kids in a unique context: the life span of a whale! It’s absolutely fascinating to notice how the whale’s Arctic habitat changes over the course of two centuries. This is one of our favorite history books for kids to support conversations about humans’ impact on the environment.

Buy it: The Whale Who Swam Through Time on Amazon

12. Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape From East Germany by Kristen Fulton

Book cover for Flight for Freedom
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Peter Wetzel and his family worked late at night in their attic sewing a hot-air balloon to help them escape over the border from East Germany to West Germany in 1979. This engaging true story helps kids imagine the lengths some people must go to escape an oppressive government.

Buy it: Flight for Freedom on Amazon

13. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Separate Is Never Equal
Amazon

Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for her and her brothers to attend their local white school in 1940s California ultimately ended school segregation in California years ahead of Brown v. Board of Education. Share this as important additional context when learning about the Civil Rights Movement.

Buy it: Separate Is Never Equal on Amazon

14. Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Book cover for Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky
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This fascinating picture book weaves together so many times and places in history for kids by examining how the color blue went from the rarest, most sought-after color dye to being as common and classic as a pair of jeans. Share it to broaden kids’ thinking about how history isn’t just about one place or group in isolation.

Buy it: Blue on Amazon

15. Dogs: A History of Our Best Friends by Lita Judge

Book cover for Dogs: A History of Our Best Friends
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You’re sure to have some dog lovers in your class, so put history in a context they’ll appreciate! This interesting title looks at how the evolution of dogs as pets and service animals goes hand-in-hand with human history.

Buy it: Dogs: A History of Our Best Friends on Amazon

16. Pizza! A Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli

Book cover for Pizza: A Slice of History
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Get kids thinking about how their favorite foods came to be. We like history books for kids like this one that present multiple perspectives. Some say pizza originated in Greece, while others say it was the Persians’ idea. Many credit a famous chef in Naples, Italy, as pizza’s creator. No matter its origin, most kids will agree that pizza is delicious!

Buy it: Pizza! A Slice of History on Amazon

17. Tomfoolery! Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel

Book cover for Tomfoolery: Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children's Books
Amazon

You’ve probably shared Caldecott Award–winning titles with kids, but have you ever wondered how the award came to be? This story of the artist who transformed children’s book illustrations forever will help kids appreciate the history and meaning behind those gold and silver stickers!

Buy it: Tomfoolery! on Amazon

18. The Walk (A Stroll to the Poll) by Winsom Bingham

Book cover for (The Walk A Stroll to the Poll) as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

While this is a fictional story, it’s the perfect springboard for learning about how various groups fought for the right to vote. A child and her granny take a walk to the polls. Along the way, others from their community join them.

Buy it: The Walk (A Stroll to the Poll) on Amazon

19. The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement by Barry Wittenstein

Book cover for The Day the River Caught Fire
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The massive amount of pollution in the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, actually caused the river to ignite more than 20 times between 1880 and 1969. The 1969 fire received media attention that connected it to national environmental protection efforts. This story introduces kids to the Environmental Protection Act, signed in 1970, and the first Earth Day celebration.

Buy it: The Day the River Caught Fire on Amazon

20. Until Someone Listens: A Story About Borders, Family, and One Girl’s Mission by Estela Juarez and Lissette Norman

Book cover for Until Someone LIstens as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

Recent history is just as important for kids to learn. Estela Juarez shares the story of her Mexican mother’s deportation during the Trump administration. This story concretizes for kids the impact of immigration laws on families and how families can be impacted by political shifts in power. It will definitely inspire many kids to learn more and do more to fight for what they believe is fair.

Buy it: Until Someone Listens on Amazon

21. Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter by Aida Salazar

Book cover for Jovita Wore Pants
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This story highlights Mexican revolutionary Jovita Valdovinos. After learning about military strategy from her father and brother, their deaths in 1930 prompted Jovita to dress as a man and change her name so she could fight for her country. This book’s artwork is amazing, and the extensive back matter will help answer questions for kids who want to know more.

Buy it: Jovita Wore Pants on Amazon

22. The Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series by Traci Sorell

The Contenders
Amazon

Add this to your history books for kids who love sports. While there are many awesome choices for sports history books, we love the focus on two (very different) indigenous athletes in this fascinating tale.

Buy it : The Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series on Amazon

History Books for Kids: Graphic Novels and Chapter Books

23. The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers by various authors

Book cover for The Story of Malala Yousafzai as an example of history books for kids
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We love history books for kids that are both interesting and accessible to developing readers. This early chapter book series tells stories from the lives of so many influential and important figures. They work well for reading aloud, reading with small groups, or independent reading.

Buy it: The Story Of: A Biography Series for New Readers on Amazon

24. I Survived Graphic Novel series by Lauren Tarshis

Book cover for I Survived Hurricane Katrina Graphic Novel
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These are technically historical fiction books, but they’re so compulsively readable that they make the perfect gateway history books for older kids. These excellent graphic novel adaptations of the popular chapter book series each star a kid who must navigate a historical event or disaster.

Buy it:I Survived Graphix on Amazon

25. The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity by Nicholas Day

Book cover for The Mona Lisa Vanishes as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

Travel back in time to when the not-yet-famous Mona Lisa was stolen in broad daylight—and no one could figure out who did it. Funny and factual, this middle grade nonfiction chapter book reads like a great story. It’s perfect for hooking kids on narrative nonfiction.

Buy it: The Mona Lisa Vanishes on Amazon

26. Stealing Home by J. Torres

Book cover for Stealing Home as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

This historical fiction graphic novel has tons of well-researched, factual context about the experiences of those sent to Japanese internment camps during World War II. The protagonist’s love of baseball helps kids digest and relate to the story, and the detailed back matter gives additional historical information.

Buy it: Stealing Home on Amazon

27. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series by Nathan Hale

Book cover for Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Blades of Freedom
Amazon

This graphic novel series teaches older kids about historical events (with a heavy emphasis on action-packed battles) using humor, excitement, and historical details specially curated to pique kids’ interest. Hand these to your history buffs who love digesting lots of information on each page.

Buy it: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series on Amazon

28. History Smashers series by Kate Messner

Book cover for History Smashers: Christopher Columbus and the Taino People as an example of history books for kids
Amazon

This illustrated chapter book series sets up common historical myths and then, of course, masterfully “smashes” them. Add these to your social studies units to make kids feel like they’ve got all the insider info.

Buy it: History Smashers series on Amazon

29. Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown by Steve Sheinkin

Book cover for Fallout
Amazon

If you teach middle school history, you’ll want to stock your shelves with every one of Steve Sheinkin’s titles. He’s a master at making history exciting and engaging for older kids. This intense recap of the Cold War will enthrall history-loving students.

Buy it: Fallout: Spies, Superbombs, and the Ultimate Cold War Showdown on Amazon

30. Bomb (Graphic Novel): The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Book cover for Bomb (Graphic Novel)
Amazon

This graphic novel adaptation takes another one of Steve Sheinkin’s popular nonfiction titles to a new level. This story introduces kids to the key players and circumstances that led to the creation of the atomic bomb.

Buy it: Bomb (Graphic Novel) on Amazon

There are so many fantastic history books for kids that we couldn’t possibly list them all! Tell us about your favorite history titles for kids in our We Are Teachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

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