How do you feel about history? Boring? Interesting? Something you study for school and then forget?
I actually love history. In college I majored in Elementary Education, but “social studies” was my concentrate. Unlike most of my peers, I enjoyed the ancient history lectures by our 75-year-old professor.
But my love of history didn’t begin until high school, when an enthusiastic teacher brought American history to life. In grade school, history was a boring social studies textbook with way too many paragraphs about the importance of the railroad.
If only someone had introduced me to fun books about history!
(Disclosure: I was given a copy of Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine! )
Fun books about history
Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones, by Ted Enik
This newly published book was a Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards. And no wonder! It’s the hilarious, rhyming tale of two paleontologists, Edward Drinker Cope and O. Charles Marsh. The two bone hunters brought men and materials out West, each determined to uncover more bones than his rival. While the men made tremendous contributions to paleontology, their feud spun out of control. They resorted to bribery, theft, and even destruction of bones.
The book is based on fact, with a little color thrown in.
When “real” discoveries
The Gentlemen started
unearthing Pure Fluff.
If Marsh hit the news
with a “Watchamacaurus,”
then Cope answered back
with his “Thingamasaurus.”
When Cope, after breakfast,
unveiled an “Invention,”
a tick before dinner
Marsh found a “Pretendon.”
“Incredible-docus,” a “NeverWas Rex,”
a “LetsSeeHow LongICanFoolYou-ter-x.”
A “Fake-us,” a “Fraud-us,” a “Phonybalone-us,”
The Seussian style verses and eye-catching illustrations by G. F. Newland are a winning combination. When my five-year-old saw the book by my computer, he begged for me to read it. Newland’s humorous, kid-friendly drawings drew him in. If you love to ham it up when reading aloud, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Sticks ‘n Stones ‘n Dinosaur Bones!
Young preschoolers may have a hard time sitting for this one, but kids as young as five will enjoy it when a parent takes time to explain the history first. I stopped a few times to explain some passages and new words to my Five. Not only did the book open him up to some history, but it also taught him some great vocabulary.
Bonus: the book appeals to an older audience, too. I can totally picture my energetic high school history teacher starting a lesson with this fun book. Recommended!
I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat, by Carlyn Beccia
This book is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS. My Five and Seven read this book together countless times, and we laughed aloud when reading it together. Each section begins with a quiz. For example:
History’s Strangest Cures for Wounds
Which six of these worked?
a. moldy bread
d. puppy kisses
e. spider webs
f. mummy powder
h. a bull’s mouth
i. a dead man’s skull
The following pages give the answer. We couldn’t believe all the crazy cures throughout history. Did you know that in medieval Europe a doctor would put earthworms on a string and tie them around a person’s neck to cure a sore throat? In case you were wondering, no, this cure was not successful. But “most people probably forgot about the sore throat when they had worms wriggling down their shirt.”
Worst of Friends, by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain.
This funny book, told in a conversational style, brings the founding of America to life. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were as different as could be, yet the best of friends… until they disagreed about how to run the new country. For many years the two men were bitter enemies. I love this quote:
“They even called John ‘His Rotundity,’ which was a fancy way of saying His Royal High Fattiness.”
Years later the two men reignited their friendship. Here’s some trivia for you: Did you know that they both died on July 4, 1826 — fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence?
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum, by Meghan McCarthy
The preschooler in your life will probably enjoy this one more than the rest of the books in this list. It’s a simple story about the history of gum and the invention of bubble gum in the 1920’s. I love how this book makes history accessible to young children.
Sit-In, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
This book’s poetic style and vibrant illustrations bring to life the sit-ins at lunch counters across America’s south in 1960. My Five and Seven were fascinated as they learned about these brave civil rights pioneers who remained calm and determined despite cruelty and violence. While it’s not a funny book, it’s one that will keep your kids’ attention and teach an important lesson.
The World in Your Lunch Box, by Claire Emer
From the northern explorer who boiled and roasted his sealskin boots to the accidental discovery of cheese, this book is both fun and fascinating… not to mention wacky and weird.
Noah Webster and His Words, by Jeri Chase Ferris
Truth: your child won’t laugh out loud when listening to this book, but he will learn some fascinating history about the English language and its spelling. Did you know that Webster’s dictionary came about because teacher Noah Webster wanted American books for his students, not just a few old English ones? And it was pretty necessary, too, when you consider that Americans were spelling words however they wanted (mosquito, moskito, miscitoe, misqutor, mukseetor…). If you’re a word nerd like me, this book is a must.
So You Want to Be President, by Judith St. George
So you want to be president? It would be helpful if your name is James. Six presidents were named James. Were you born in a log cabin? Too bad. People are crazy about log cabin presidents. They elected eight. And on it goes.
This is a hugely funny book that preschoolers will enjoy listening to. Older children will laugh out loud as they read it themselves. The book shares trivia and funny stories about U.S. presidents through the year 2000. The caricature-style pictures are hilarious and won the book a Caldecott medal. A favorite!
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36 Reading Comprehension Passages about Famous People
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