When I was a kid, I was pretty certain history was the most boring subject ever. All those names and dates to memorize. Who cared. I’m pretty sure today’s historical picture books could have changed my mind and made history interesting.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant–We just loved this book. I had never thought there might be a story behind the creation of the Thesaurus, but Bryant tells it in a lovely way. But the best part is Melissa Sweet’s illustrations and the constant lists of words, just like Roget loved to make.
Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff–This book mesmerized my kids (and me!). Learn how Ben Franklin acted as an emissary to France, proved hypnosis was all in your mind and conceived the placebo effect all in this fascinating, true story.
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan–Queen Victoria longed to swim in the ocean, but it would be absolutely improper for the public to see their queen in bathing clothes. Prince Albert devises a solution: a room on wheels to take her to and from the shore. The author’s note contains additional historical information as well as a photo of the Queen’s “bathing machine.”
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet is a favorite of ours. What kid wouldn’t want to read about the puppeteer who invented those amazing inflatable balloons that made the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade famous. Not to mention, Melissa Sweet’s artwork is just brilliant.
Locomotive by Brian Floca is a masterfully written, Caldecott winning, description of a cross-country train voyage in the early days of locomotive travel. The careful word choices and rhythms of this book lend themselves to the actual sounds and sensations of a steam engine. This is a little bit longer of a read, but it had the kids and I mesmerized.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the amazing historical picture books available, but I hope these will give you a taste of what’s out there and help your family fall in love with history!
What’s your favorite historical picture book?