My crew and I enjoy reading together a lot! I’ve made a book list to reference that coordinates with our upcoming Classical Conversations cycle, cycle 3. We certainly won’t be reading each of these books, but I like knowing what’s available and what comes recommended from some of my favorite sources. Getting to the library with four littles (it’ll be five before we start school again!) can be challenging enough that I don’t like to add the extra work of trying to unearth the really good biography of Abraham Lincoln from ten different versions while there. It’s like going to the grocery store without a list and hoping some really good dinners happen as a result! So, this will be my go-to source for picking books during library trips, used book sales, or for special Amazon purchases.
In case you’re wondering, here’s how I made my list:
1. I consulted reliable sources, such as Veritas Press, Sonlight, and The Well Trained Mind. When there were multiple choices for one subject area, I tried to limit my choices to the one or two which were recommended across numerous sources or offered different perspectives.
2. I included books that applied to the topic, time period, and/or locale. For example, Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie is a book about a lighthouse operator’s young daughter who must keep the lighthouse operating alone during a storm in 1856 on an island off the coast of Maine. It isn’t specifically about Maine or history, but could reveal a lot to us about living in Maine during the mid 1800s (American history).
3. When possible, I placed a preference on primary source and living books. The Journals of Lewis and Clark is an example of a primary source book, since it includes journal entries written by Lewis and Clark during their expeditions. Living books are as much defined by what they are – typically written by one author with a passion for the subject matter as by what they are not – lifeless textbooks written by editors in a direct, factual manner.
4. In addition to readers and read-alouds, I sought out solid reference books, as those are often the books my littles independently look at and/or read regularly.
Without further ado, here’s my list: (It’s long, but stick with it! Some of the best are the Fine Arts suggestions at the end. If you’d like to save or print this list, you can get the PDF here.)
Multiplying Menace, Calvert: Peter must figure out what Rumplestiltskin, mischief, and a multiplying stick are doing quickly to save the kingdom!
A Place for Zero, LoPresti: Lonely Zero is searching for his place in Addemup.
Sir Circumference and the First Round Table, Neuschwander: This is one book in a series of fun math book involving Sir Circumference and his knights. We read this one first and my guys loved it.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Truss: This book uses funny drawings and stories to demonstrate the importance of punctuation. Cycle 3 doesn’t focus on punctuation, but I thought it would be a fun way to talk English grammar with my guys.
Nouns and Verbs Have A Field Day, Pulver: Nouns and verbs create their own games while the students have a field day.
I and You and Don’t Forget Who: What is a Pronoun?, Cleary: This book has a 100% 5-star rating on Amazon. That rarely occurs! Here’s part of their description: this “fun-filled guide uses playful puns and humorous illustrations to creatively clarify the concept of pronouns. Key pronouns appear in color for easy identification to show, not tell, readers what pronouns are all about.” This is a series of books, so be sure to check out the other titles if you like this one. I know our local library has them.
Columbus, D’Aulaire: We’ve already thoroughly enjoyed the D’Aulaire books on George Washington, Buffalo Bill, and Benjamin Franklin. With colorful pictures and interesting storytelling, they offer plenty of detailed history for the grammar age student. We’re excited to read Abraham Lincoln by the same authors.
Ox-Cart Man, Hall: Recommended by multiple sources, the 1980 Caldecott winner is “a lyrical journey through the seasons and passing years of one New Englander’s family evoking the feeling of historical America.” (Amazon)
Explorers Who Got Lost, Dreher: Covering many 15th century explorers and showing drawings, maps, and routes, this book teaches much about the times and shows how despite errors these adventurous explorers made important, exciting discoveries.
Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie, Roop: I shared a bit about this historical fiction above in point 2. It’s for grades 1-3, so I think my two oldest could take turns reading this either separately or as a read-aloud to the whole family.
First Voyage to America, Columbus: Here’s another example of a primary source book. It includes journal entries from Columbus himself (translated into English), along with rare drawings. For older students to read independently (age 8-14) or read to younger students.
Johnny Appleseed, Moses: My guys are fascinated by Johnny Appleseed. We’ve only read one book about him before, but one of my guys will still sporadically pretend to be him. I’m sure they’ll love this book sharing even more about this quirky character from American history.
Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, Bulla: This biography of Squanto has mixed reviews, but seems to generally make the lists as a good starting place for learning about this brave man. Can be used as a reader (8 years or older) or read-aloud.
Pilgrim Stories, Pumphrey: Written in the early 1900s, this book offers a view of the pilgrim’s voyages from the perspective of a child.
The Pilgrims of Plimouth, Sewall: Written in the voice of a pilgrim, the author employs language from the time to share an inside look at the pilgrims’ journey.
Meet Abraham Lincoln, Cary: My littles have memorized the list of presidents, but know very little about them. I’m excited to introduce them to Lincoln with this engaging story of his life. If they like this, there’s also a Meet George Washington, Heilbroner.
The Winter at Valley Forge, Knight: This book offers a view into George Washington as a General fighting alongside with and leading his soldiers during the American Revolution. If this book is a hit, there are more from the series by James Knight.
he Horseless Carriage, 1801, Foster: Providing a look into the changing times at the beginning of the 19th century, this book brings many historical characters into the story and exposes the conflict between advancement and progress.
The Courage of Sarah Noble, Dalgliesh: This true story of a young girl during the 1700s is a Newbery Honor winner. I’m sure my little miss will enjoy a story about a girl versus our normal knights and vikings fair! But, I have no doubt my boys will appreciate it as well.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Lathem: Math? Boats? Hero? This book has all those things plus a Newbery Medal and is on the book list for CC Challenge A. Its presence on the Challenge book list clearly indicates it’s for an older reader, but I think it would make a great read-aloud too.
The Matchlock Gun, Edmonds: This historical fiction and Newbery winner for readers age 8 and up tells of a young boy’s bravery in protecting his family while his father is away. Be aware – I have not read it yet, but it appears to have some graphic parts involving tomahawks and a gun.
The Sign of the Beaver, Spears: Another book found on a challenge book list (as well as from other sources), it tells the story of another young boy facing challenges and settling with his family among native Americans. We might save this book for when we enter the challenge years, but I like having it on our radar now anyway. If you’re looking for advanced readers, you can check out the challenge lists for more great suggestions.
Minn of the Mississippi, Holling: We thoroughly enjoyed Paddle-to-the-Sea this past year, so I’m super excited to check out these three other titles by Holling. Seabird and Tree in the Trail
The Very First Americans, Ashrose: Accurate book with detailed images about the lifestyle of various Native American people groups.
Cobblestone: American History magazine: Looking for something different? How about this American History magazine intended for ages 9-14. I briefly checked out the sampler and was really impressed. I might be adding this to someone’s Christmas wish list.
Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Heath: This is the first published account of the pilgrims coming to settle Plymouth Plantation in the “new world.” (1622)
Guns of the Lion, Faith and Freedom Series, Bond: This series is way overreaching for my guys, but looks like it’d be great for some slightly older boys. If you read this or have read them, let me know what you think!
A Child’s Story of America, Michael/McHugh: This came recommended from a friend and a resource, but the reviews on Amazon seem to make it sound controversial. For sure, check this reference guide out for yourself before investing!
Misty of Chincoteague, Henry: I would love to finish a reading of this classic book with a trip to Assateague Island with my littles. I grew up in Maryland & have been before. We’re not in Maryland, but we’re close, so I think it’s possible!
Boston Tea Party, Edwards: We’ve been to Boston and the harbor, so I’m hoping a reading of this book will refresh my littles’ memory of our time there. Maybe pulling up some pics from our trip will help to that end. If not, I wouldn’t mind a return trip to Boston, that’s for sure!
Johnny Tremain, Forbes: Another great reader for the older set on the events leading up to the Boston Tea Party. I love that it’s written from the perspective of a young man.
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twain: It took a bit of looking to find this classic in it’s original form, but I found an unabridged copy and I’d recommend the same to you.
The Story of the Declaration of Independence, Cornerstone of Freedom Series, Richards: Going beyond the writing of the Declaration of Independence, this book shares the events leading up to the writing to offer context surrounding the founding of our country.
The 4th of July Story, Dagliesh: This book of America’s birth showed up time and again on recommended reading lists for American history. Looks like a sure pick for us!
Dual in the Wilderness, Farley: Shares the story of George Washington’s role in the precarious balance between the French, Indian, and British.
George Washington, Harness: Looks like another great biography for kids with perhaps more to offer on his military involvement than the D’Aulaire book.
George Washington’s World, Foster: An exciting read that doesn’t show George Washington in isolation, but rather of his time and among other leaders and major players of his time. I’m excited to see how this book can provide us a larger world view of the 1700s. If we find this one to be a success, there are others for Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, and Captain John Smith.
Louisiana Purchase, Roop: Maybe it’s just me, but I had trouble finding children’s books on the Louisiana Purchase. But here’s one!
War of 1812, Perspective in History Series, Robinson: A primary source book full of personal accounts from soldiers.
Bud & Me: True Adventure, Abernathy: Chronicles the daring adventures of two boys, ages 5 and 9, as they travel across America. Sounds like a book my boys will wish they lived themselves by the end.
The Boy in the Alamo, Cousins: The attack of the Alamo told from the perspective of a 12 year old boy. Originally published in 1958
How We Crossed the West, Schanzer: An account of Lewis and Clark’s adventures with pictures, including selected portions from their own journals.
The Journals of Lewis & Clark, Bakeless: This book contains the unfiltered, daily accounting of their travels.
Paul Bunyan, Kellogg: A little friend shared the tall tale of Paul Bunyan during one of her presentations this year and my guy was fascinated. I can see them liking the silly story of this guy.
Bound for Oregon, Leeuwen: A realistic portrayal of a family’s travels on the Oregon trail from the perspective of a 10 year old girl.
If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War, Moore: This is one of a series of books entitled “If You…,” which I can usually find at our public library. If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island is one we’ve read and enjoyed.
Iron Scouts of the Confederacy, McGiffin: The story of two teenage Missouri boys who served with the Confederate army.
Lincoln: A Photobiography, Freedman: Since pictures tell stories in ways words alone cannot, I thought this would be a great option for teaching my littles more about Lincoln.
Amazing, Impossible, Erie Canal, Harness: We have visited portions of the Erie Canal no longer in use and I think this book would help my guys understand its significance in history.
A More Perfect Union: Story of Constitution, Maestro: Reviews find this book to be a simple, accessible portrayal of the facts of the constitution. That description doesn’t excite me, but it could be a good reference book to try from the library.
Heroes of History, Benge: Biographies of important historical characters, by the same authors of Christian Heroes Then and Now, told in exciting ways for the 10 and older crowd. These come recommended from a friend and look like a great set to purchase a little at a time.
In Grandma’s Attic, Richardson: I enjoyed this series of books, where a grandmom recounts her childhood growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan to her granddaughter, as a young girl and I’m excited to share them with my crew.
Little House Series, Wilder: Of course, how could you not include these classic tales of the Wilder family as they settle from place to place in the study of American history? We read the series during our first time through cycle three, but I’m sure my guys would love to read them again. They loved them!
United States Coloring Book, Dover: Not just a coloring book, but full of information too.
Flip Flap Body Book, Smith: Interactive book for learning about digestion, senses, and reproduction for 2 years old and up. This book is published by Usbourne, which provides many other books for older students too on human anatomy, like The Usbourne Complete Book of the Human Body, Understanding Your Body, Genes & DNA, and What’s Inside You? If you like Usbourne books, check out Melody‘s complete list of Usbourne science book match-ups for Cycle 3.
The Boy’s Body Book, Dunham: Oh boy, are you here yet – discussing all the growing up things a 10 year old boy needs? We’re getting close and this book sounds like a good place to start the conversations. Also, a good choice for our time studying human anatomy. Of course, pleas
e use your discretion before giving to your children!
What Are Atoms? Rookie Read About Series, Trumbauer: This series covers a wide range of subjects for the grammar age student, including anatomy and chemistry.
Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia, Walker: A reference guide for the 5-8 year old range, it offers information, photographs, and experiment ideas. Looking for something with more longevity? Check out The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body, Kindersley for ages 8-12 and anywhere above or below.
Human Anatomy Coloring Book, Dover: I have yet to meet a Dover coloring book I don’t like. I’m sure this one would be great to add to our growing collection for free-time learning or notebooking.
The Bones Book and Skeleton, Cumbaa: Looking to add a little interactive fun? Check out this working 12 inch skeleton model and book.
Chemistry, Newmark: DK books make me cringe with all the information on each page, but my littles seem to enjoy them. This could be a library check-out for sure.
Lady Treble and The Seven Notes, Biklock: Introduction to musical notes in story form.
Meet the Orchestra, Hayes: This delightful book suggests the sounds of instruments about to be played by an animal orchestra for a concert.
Story of the Orchestra: Listen While You Learn, Levine: 96 pages of original artwork and text on instruments, composers, and musical styles with a 70-minute CD offering sounds to accompany the learning.
Can You Hear It? Lach: Art accompanies music as children listen to the accompanying CD and learn to listen closely.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, Moss: We own this Caldecott Honor winner and my boys often request to read it. In it, you see the musicians join together to form a duet through an orchestra. It’s a great way to learn the names of musical ensembles and instruments.
Start Exploring Masterpieces Coloring Book, Martin: Coloring pages of artwork from 60 great artists.
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists, Venezia: A series of little books offering biographical information on the world’s greatest artists.
Child Size Masterpieces, Parent Child Press: The first in a series of books offering full color postcard sized reproductions of masterpieces, which are to be punched out and used for fun, learning activities.
First Discovery – Debussy, Babin: Hardcover book and CD provides music and biographical information on famous composers, including stories of their childhood. One in a series of books.
Classical Kids – Volume II: 3 discs with stories about and music of classical composers. There are more volumes too.
A small word of caution as I offer this book list to you. Please don’t over think the idea of matching up specifically applicable books to each subject at the grammar stage. During this foundational time, the focus should be on memory work and reading – simply reading. Without any specific direction from you, your littles will surprise you by making connections between their memory work and what they’re learning…through books, conversations, cultural experiences, etc. I simply created this list for myself and for you, if you’d like, as a means of having a reliable resource for those times when you do want to find a topic specific book.
If you have a book or author you love, I’d love to hear about it! Please leave your recommendation in the comments! I can certainly grow this list throughout the cycle.
Note: I’ve listed all of these books with affiliate Amazon links for convenience. You can read longer descriptions, see pictures, and read reviews there. While I think Amazon often has a good or the best price, consider shopping around at Rainbow Resource Center, Schoolhouse Publishing, Veritas Press and Classical Conversations.
For more ideas on what to read with your littles, check out:
My Favorite Sources for Really Good Books