Read Through History II: Early Explorers and Colonial Times

This booklist includes books about early explorers, the first English settlements (Jamestown and Plimouth), early interactions — both friendly and hostile — between Native Americans and colonists, and early colonial life. I have arranged the books below roughly in chronological order.


The Discovery of the Americas

The Discovery of the Americas by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro. This book reads like a textbook but has lavish illustrations to help engage kids. In The Discovery of the Americas, the Maestros describe the early explorers beginning with the very first people to set foot in North America somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 years ago. The Maestros cover the Vikings, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinan Magellan among others. This book is excellent for putting the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America in context. Ages 7+

Follow the DreamFollow the Dream by Peter Sis. Featuring beautiful illustrations and succinct, accessible text, Follow the Dream introduces readers to Christopher Columbus. This is an excellent book to pair with Encounter by Jane Yolen, which describes Christopher Columbus’s arrival in North America from the point of view of the Taino people who inhabited the island where Christopher Columbus first landed. Ages 6+

EncounterEncounter by Jane Yolen and David Shannon. Encounter describes Christopher Columbus’s arrival on the island of San Salvador from the point of view of a young Taino boy. When Columbus first arrived 300,000 native Taino people inhabited North America. Just over fifty years later, less than 500 native Taino people remained. Encounter describes the death of a people in terms that are tame enough to share with young children. Ages 7+

A New Look at Jamestown1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange and Ira Block. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America. A New Look at Jamestown explains why English settlers journeyed to North America, how the Powhatan Indians who had long inhabited the region lived, and why two-thirds of the colonists who first landed in Jamestown died during the year following their arrival. A New Look at Jamestown features wonderful photographs of the Jamestown Settlement living history museum that help bring the history of Jamestown to life. Ages 8+

Mayflower 1620 A New Look at a Pilgrim VoyageMayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage by Plimouth Plantation, National Geographic. The story of the Mayflower’s voyage is both a central story in U.S. history and a gripping adventure story. My children were fascinated to learn about how the Mayflower’s passengers survived their harrowing voyage. 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac is a fascinating book that picks up where this book leaves off, describing the Wampanoag people and events that inspired a national holiday. For younger children, see On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice and a Passenger Girl by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall. Ages 8+

Pilgrim CatPilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock and Doris Ettlinger. An engaging, fictional story about a girl Faith and a cat Pounce who travel aboard the Mayflower. Pilgrim Cat is based on research at Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Of the books on this list, Pilgrim Cat is the book kids will most likely read purely for fun. It is a good starting place for getting kids interested in learning more about the Mayflower’s voyage, the Wampanoag and life at Plimouth Plantation. Ages 5+

Tapenum's DayTapenum’s Day: A Wapanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall. This and the following two books describe the lives of ordinary children and are excellent for helping bring history alive for young readers. In Tapenum’s Day, a young Wapanoag boy named Tapenum spends his day working on his hunting skills and running in hopes that he will some day be chosen to become a pniesePniesog were both warriers and advisors to the chief, known for their courage, wisdom, courteousness, humanity and strength. Ages 6+

Sarah Morton's DaySarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall. Sarah Morton’s Day describes a day in the life of 9-year-old Sarah Morton who lived in Plimouth Plantation in 1927. Sarah spends her day helping her mother cook, care for animals, pound spices and polish brass. This is a great book to pair with Tapenum’s Day and Samuel Eaton’s Day. Ages 6+

Samuel Eaton's DaySamuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters and Russ Kendall. Samuel Eaton’s Day describes a day in the life of Samuel Eaton who lived in Plimouth Plantation in 1927. Samuel is only 7-years-old but ready to help his father harvest rye for the first time. Ages 6+

Squanto's JourneySquanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac and Greg Shed. A meandering but true story of Squanto’s life featuring lush illustrations by Greg Shed. Squanto’s Journey is told from Squanto’s point of view, which draws readers into the story. Squanto’s voice is measured and thoughtful. Ages 8+

Hasty PuddingHasty Pudding: Cooking in Colonial America by Loretta Frances Ichord and Jan Davey Ellis. I really enjoy books about the history of food, including this one: Hasty Pudding. Hasty Pudding covers a 150 year timespan, from the time when the first settlers arrived in America in 1607 through the Revolutionary War in the mid-1700s. Hasty Pudding includes recipes that readers can cook as well as information about how food was grown, preserved and prepared. It highlights regional differences in the types of foods colonists prepared. Ages 7+

Chapter books:

The Courage of Sarah NobleThe Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh. This novel is based on a true story of a girl Sarah Noble who accompanied her father John Noble when he went to build a house on their new land in Connecticut in 1707. After John Noble finished building a house, he left Sarah Noble with an Indian family that they had befriended and returned to Massachusetts to fetch the rest of the Noble family. Ages 7+

Meet KayaMeet Kaya by Janet Shaw and Bill Farnsworth. A fictional series of stories about a 9-year-old Nez Perce Indian girl named Kaya in 1764. In 1764, the Nez Perce’s territory covered 27,000 miles of modern day Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Each book includes a few pages at the end with historical information related to story in the book. Ages 7+

Read Through History II - Early Explorers and Colonial Times

This week the kids recommend Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne and 1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange. Other favorites on this list are Pilgrim Cat by Carol Antoinette Peacock, the three “A Day in the Life…” books by Kate Waters and Squanto’s Journey by Joseph Bruchac.

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This entry was posted in Ages 5+, Ages 6+, Ages 7+, Ages 8+ and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Read Through History II: Early Explorers and Colonial Times

  1. Anonymous says:

    Blood on the River is a chapter book about the Jamestown settlement that my fifth grade students really loved!

  2. Sarah says:

    I was wanting to do this with my kids this year! This couldn’t be better timed. Thank you for your time and effort and for sharing!

  3. Anna says:

    I’m loving your historical book lists! Have you read “If You Lived in Colonial Times” by Ann McGovern? That’s a huge favorite of my daughter. They have lots of series about Native Americans too. Pinning!

  4. Wonderful list! Pinning and tweeting!

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