Read Through History III: The Revolutionary War & Founding of a Nation

Just in time for July 4th, here are our favorite books about the founding of the United States. July 4th marks the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed. Two fantastic books for teaching kids about the Declaration of Independence are Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley and George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. July 4th is also a great time to celebrate the U.S. Constitution and the principles of our democracy. For this purpose, I recommend reading We the Kids by David Catrow, A More Perfect Union by Betsy Maestro or We the People by Lynne Cheney.

Read Through History III

I have arranged the books below in roughly chronological order, beginning with books about colonial life, moving onto books about the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War and concluding with books about the founding of the United States.

Colonial Life Just Before the Revolutionary War

Ox-Cart ManOx-Cart Man by Donald Hall and Barbara Cooney. This slowly-paced book describes a man loading up his ox-cart with items his family has made by hand, carting them ten miles to town and then selling them for things his family needs. Barbara Cooney’s illustrations of early colonial America are lovely. This is a rare book that describes the life of an ordinary family during the colonial period. Ages 4+

Meet FelicityThe Felicity series by Valerie Tripp. This series of fictional short chapter books give kids a sense of what life was like in Williamsburg just before the Revolutionary War began. Each book ends with six pages of informational endnotes about the time period. The first story in this series — Meet Felicity — is a story about Felicity befriending and rescuing a horse that is being mistreated by its owner. The final three books in the series — Happy Birthday, Felicity!, Felicity Saves the Day and Changes for Felicity — include more information about the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Readers will become familiar with the terms Loyalist and Patriot and learn about the tension that began brewing between those who supported King George III and those who wanted the colonies to become independent. I have been enjoying reading these aloud to my six-year-old daughter. Ages 6+

Hasty PuddingHasty Pudding: Cooking in Colonial America by Loretta Frances Ichord and Jan Davey Ellis. Hasty Pudding includes recipes as well as information about how food was grown, preserved and prepared. It highlights regional differences in the types of foods colonists prepared. 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. Ages 7+

The Boston Tea PartyThe Boston Tea Party by Russell Freedman and Peter Malone. A suspenseful, detailed account of the Boston Tea Party that incorporates quotes from people who witnessed the event. Peter Malone’s detailed illustrations bring the event to life. The illustrations are muted, effectively increasing the suspense of the tale. Ages 7+

George vs. GeorgeGeorge vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen From Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. George vs. George provides a thorough (for kids) description of the events that led to the Revolutionary War. It does a good job of explaining the conflict between the colonists and Britain from both perspectives. Ages 8+

Independence and the Revolutionary War

Those Rebels John & TomThose Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham. Kerley paints memorable portraits of Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock and explains how they worked together effectively to draft and convince others to sign the Declaration of Independence. For an in-depth and engaging biography of John Hancock, see Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? by Jean Fritz. Ages 7+

Can't You Make Them Behave King GeorgeCan’t You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz and Tomie dePaola. Jean Fritz offers a lively portrait of King George III’s life. This biography both clearly explains major historical events and includes entertaining facts. For example, at King George’s coronation banquet, organizers attempted unsuccessfully to light 2,000 candles simultaneously when the new king entered the room. Ages 7+

Let It Begin HereLet It Begin Here! by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Larry Day. Describes the first Revolutionary War battles that took place in Lexington and Concord. Introductory material introduces readers to the cast of characters involved (Samuel Adams, John Hancock, General Gage etc.) and succinctly but effectively explains the events that led to the war. Let It Begin Here! is clearly written and features wonderful illustrations by Larry Day. Ages 7+

Sam the MinutemanSam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley and Arnold Lobel. Sam the Minuteman describes a young boy who must go off to fight in the Revolutionary War. In contrast to Let It Begin Here!, Sam the Minuteman offers a human perspective on the war. Pair with George the Drummer Boy, also by Nathaniel Benchley, for a story told from the perspective of a drummer boy in the British army. Ages 6+

The Boston Coffee PartyThe Boston Coffee Party by Doreen Rappaport and Emily Arnold McCully. The Boston Coffee Party is a true story about a group of women who, angry with a merchant who was taking advantage of the war to charge high prices for coffee, confiscated the merchant’s coffee. This story conveys in simple terms the hardships endured by those who lived through the Revolutionary War. Ages 6+

Revolutionary War on WednesdayRevolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne. In Revolutionary War on Wednesday, Jack and Annie travel back in time to meet George Washington just as he’s getting ready to fight an important battle that becomes the turning point in the Revolutionary War. Jack and Annie urge George Washington to fight the battle despite the worsening weather conditions. While Revolutionary War on Wednesday offers a simplistic description of the war, this book has undeniable kid-appeal and is effective for introducing kids to the subject. Ages 6+

The Winter of the Red SnowThe Winter of the Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory. The Revolutionary War lasted eight long years and took place right where the colonists lived. The Winter of the Red Snow offers readers a glimpse of the immense toll this war took on colonists. Ages 8+

The Founding of the United States

We the Kids by David Catrow. A solid choice for introducing kids to the U.S. Constitution. The text of We the Kids is simply the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. David Catrow’s illustrations are humorous and useful for initiating a discussion about what the words in the preamble to the Constitution mean. If I were using this book to teach kids about the preamble to the Constitution, I might begin by reading Catrow’s engaging introduction and then read through the book twice — the first time straight through and the second time pausing on each page to discuss the meaning of the words and illustrations. Ages 5+

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution by Lynne Cheney and Greg Harlin. We the People features beautiful illustrations and tells the tale of how the U.S. Constitution was written. Lynn Cheney explains why delegates gathered to write a Constitution, provides great character sketches of several of the founding fathers, and discusses the main issues the founding fathers grappled with at the constitutional convention. We the People includes some advanced vocabulary and is thus a better choice for upper elementary school kids or kids who have already been introduced to the topic. Ages 8+

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy Maestro and Giulio Maestro. Here is a second, excellent choice for those looking for a picture book that tells the story of how the U.S. Constitution was written. A More Perfect Union provides a very clear introduction to the constitutional convention and the U.S. Constitution. The endnotes of A More Perfect Union include a summary of the articles of the Constitution, a summary of the first ten Constitutional amendments (i.e. the Bill of Rights), a timeline of important dates and more. Ages 6+

George Did It by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain and Larry Day. In this wonderful and extremely engaging story, Jurmain describes George Washington’s reticence to become the first president of the United States. Ages 6+


Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography by James Cross Giblin. This biography of Thomas Jefferson covers Jefferson’s entire life, only briefly touching on the fact that he wrote the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. There is nothing flashy about this biography, but it is clearly written and accurate: the best biography of Thomas Jefferson available. Ages 8+

Electric BenElectric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd. Avoiding caricature, Robert Byrd paints a fascinating portrait of Ben Franklin. Byrd describes Franklin’s work as a printer, philosopher and inventor. He then explains the important role Franklin played as a representative of the colonists and revered statesman in the lead up to the Revolutionary War. Ages 8+

John Paul George and BenJohn, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith. It’s good to add a touch of humor to your history lesson. This clever book by Lane Smith is best understood by kids after they have learned about John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Ages 7+

Read Through History III: Independence and The Revolutionary War

This week, my daughter recommends Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne, and my son recommends John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith. (“Why the third kid in this picture?” you ask. “Isn’t he a tad young to be reading through history?” My kids dressed in red, white and blue for you and invited their younger brother to be the white.)

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

4 Responses to Read Through History III: The Revolutionary War & Founding of a Nation

  1. PragmaticMom says:

    I’d love to link to my post on books for Boston Freedom Trail. Can you please let me know if that is ok? I’ll link and credit back to you, of course. Thanks! Mia

  2. annageig says:

    Another great list! Thanks for adding to your terrific resources.

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