Historical fiction children’s picture books range in genre and time period. They all share a love of art and history, however. They teach children about their own time and about the distant past. In both cases, children learn about themselves.
Read on to learn about 5 essential historical fiction children’s picture books. Whether you’re a teacher seeking out educational material for your shelves or a parent hoping to encourage your child’s imagination, these 5 books should do the trick.
Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
Allen Say made a name for himself recounting his grandfather’s life. He traveled between two homes in Japan and the U.S., searching for love. Grandfather’s Journey also represents a destination: the homeland we all miss and the family we make to recreate it.
This tale of longing and family may be best for older kids, but anyone will appreciate the heart that Say puts into his life story.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
Slavery and the American Civil War may be difficult subjects to discuss with young kids. A picture book like Hopkinson’s can help you bridge the gap and teach children understanding and also empathy for other periods.
Clara lives on a plantation in old America, a slave and seamstress working secretly to help her family escape. She explores her master’s home and sews a secret map in the form of a colorful quilt to help them reach freedom in the North. The content lends itself well to beautiful illustrations.
One Small Blue Bead by Byrd Baylor
Going back centuries from the Civil War, One Small Blue Bead chronicles in poetry the life of a caveboy. In his tribe, they stick to themselves. However, one day he wonders if other tribes exist, leading to a journey of spiritual discovery.
The rustic illustrations support the incredible poetic imagery, as well as the timely message. Children should learn to think outside of society’s box and trust their imagination. Therefore, a picture book like Baylor’s can provide more than entertainment.
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence
The history of “indigenous” people in the Americas includes strife, pain, and loss. This is another subject difficult to discuss with children that a book like Stolen Words can help communicate. Florence tells the story of a girl and her grandfather. As she spends time with him, she learns how much was taken from him and his people. She tries to help him reclaim his language.
The illustrations thus communicate both the loss of history and the warm hope of the future for people who lost everything. Stolen Words can help children come to terms with the troubles in their own history.
The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida
If there’s one thing these books have in common it’s learning about historical struggle to come to terms with the present. In The Bracelet, Uchida tells a tale of painful empathy about Japanese Americans interred in camps during WWII. The main character, a young girl named Emi, doesn’t understand why they have to go.
The story is packed with emotion, offering yet another way to help children learn about troubling subjects in history to see the people in the heart of all issues.
Historical fiction children’s picture books help you discuss subjects with students and children. They offer beautiful, insightful alternatives to blunt history lessons. Thus, kids can see that normal people live at the center of all historical events. That connection is one of the best things you can teach them.