A Picture Book of George Washington. * David Adler. Illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. Holiday House, 2018. (K-3)
A simple and clear introduction to “the indispensable man." his youth, commander of American forces in the Revolutionary War and the first President. *Available on Epic!
Remember Valley Forge: Patriots, Tories, and Redcoats tell their Stories.
Thomas B. Allen. National Geographic Children's Books, 2015.(4-6)
For more than two centuries "Valley Forge" has evoked images of privation, suffering, hunger, endurance, and courage. When George Washington and the Continental Army hunkered down in this Pennsylvania camp to survive the brutal winter of 1778, they set an example for their countrymen and forged the character of the revolutionary army. This very readable overview of the winter they endured as they prepared for their next campaign against the British will rivet students. It provides fresh insight into the Revolutionary patriots' resourcefulness and sacrifices for their new nation. Though recommended for fourth grade and up, younger students may also find inspiration in these excerpts.
George Washington: A Picture Book Biography. James Cross Giblin.
Illustrated by Michael Dooling. Scholastic Inc, 1992. (3-6) Lives to Learn From
Rich illustrations in this substantive picture book biography of the nation’s first president. The biography traces Washington from his boyhood earnestness (copying over 100 rules of deportment) through his military and political careers. A volume that truly explains why Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
Washington at Valley Forge. Russell Freedman.
Holiday House, 2008. (4-8)
Loyalty to and love of country is often tested under the direst of circumstances, and George Washington was up to the task. Russell Freedman pens this compelling, amply illustrated account of the brutal winter at Valley Forge (1777). Deprived of food, supplies, and even clothing, the revolutionary army endured enormous privation but was led by the tireless and resourceful George Washington. His efforts to rebuild supply lines, lift morale, maintain discipline and reward his men’s faithfulness to ideals were a lasting and cherished legacy.
The Revolutionary John Adams.
Cheryl Harness. National Geographic, 2006. (3-6) Lives to Learn From, Love of Country
Another lively work from Cheryl Harness, this book is intended for older children, and provides a wealth of information and insight about the man most responsible for the fact that “thirteen clocks chimed as one” at the moment of independence. Harness captures Adams’ fiery spirit, selfless service to his new country, and his inspiring relationship with his “dearest friend,” his wife Abigail. They were a power couple before the term was coined.
Worst of Friends. Suzanne Tripp Jurmain.
Illustrated by Larry Day. Dutton Children’s Books 2011. (1-4)
Love of Country, Friendship, Forgiveness
In 1776, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson became good friends while charting the course of the American Revolution and serving overseas. After the Revolution, when it was time to decide how to run the new government, they had very different ideas. They headed different political parties and felt strongly that one way was right and the other way was wrong. John and Tom both served as president while facing protests from each other’s opposition party. After they retired, it was hard to forget past grievances, but in 1812, John Adams wrote a short letter to Thomas Jefferson, wishing him a Happy New Year. Jefferson wrote back immediately and the two agreed that people with different ideas could still be friends. They wrote each other faithfully for the next fourteen years (until both died on July 4, 1826). Lively illustrations move the timely story along.
A Picture Book of Thomas Jefferson.* David Adler. Illustrated by John and Alexandra Wallner. Holiday House, 2018. (K-3)
A solid picture book biography of Jefferson's life and the challenges he faced as son, husband, father, revolutionary, statesman, and President. The book does not gloss over the dilemma of plantation life and slave-ownership, but does so in ways that are appropriate for young children.*Available on Epic!
Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library. Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by John O'Brien. Caulkins Creek, 2013. (3-6)
A humorous and unique lens from which to view our third President, and benefactor of the Library of Congress. This book emphasizes Jefferson's life-long love of reading, his collection of books, how they served him mightily in writing the Declaration of Independence, through his Presidency and into old age. It describes how he grew vitally interested in supporting our national library. Jefferson quipped that he could not live without books. His passion for books, quest for knowledge, and love of learning all entertain the young reader mightily in this book. (John F. Kennedy once remarked to a White House gathering of Nobel Prize winners of the Western Hemisphere that "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.")
Thomas Jefferson: A Picture Book Biography. James Cross Giblin.
Illustrated by Michael Dooling. Scholastic Inc, 1994. (3-6) Lives to Learn From
Rich illustrations in this substantive picture book biography of the soft-spoken Virginian who penned the Declaration of Independence, served America in France, was witness to revolution there, and then as president doubled the size of this nation with a single stroke of his quill.
Thomas Jefferson. Cheryl Harness. National Geographic Kids, 2007. (3-6) Love of Country, Lives to Learn From.
Cheryl Harness has written six presidential biographies for children in engaging and conversational style, and this fine Jefferson biography (with marvelous illustrations) spotlights the Virginia patriot's early life, immense political contributions, the paradox of slavery in his life, and his many additional interests and talents -- as planter, architect, arm-chair explorer (via Lewis and Clark) and inventor. A great overview for 3-6.
Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln. * Doreen Rappaport.
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Hyperion Books, 2008. (2-4)
A poetic and beautifully illustrated presentation of Lincoln’s life and accomplishments. Rappaport weaves Lincoln’s own words into her text, which follows him from lanky backwoods boy to leader of the nation locked in a deadly civil war to end slavery. Compellingly told, an outstanding introduction to the work of Lincoln, slavery, and the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address closes the book. *Available on Epic!
Abraham Lincoln: A Man for All the People.
Myra C. Livingston Illustrated by Samuel Byrd. Holiday, 1993. (K-2)
A poetic retelling of the life that embodied perseverance, courage, and devotion to the ideals of his country.
Abe Lincoln Remembers. Ann Turner.
Illustrated by Wendell Minor. Harper Collins, 2001. (2-4) Courage, Humility, Kindness
This deceptively simple book yields profound insight into our nation's 16th president. On the night that Lincoln will attend Ford's Theater with his wife, he looks back on his life from log-cabin childhood to the presidency. Emerging from its beautifully illustrated pages is the story of a kind, humble, forgiving man, who loved his country, led it in hard times, and grieved over the deaths of the Civil War, even while he rejoiced in freedoms won. This is not a history text, but a personal portrait of a man who learned from his frontier boyhood, sought his own freedom (from his father as a young man), read voraciously, studied and worked hard, loved his wife ("bright and brave, like a flag crackling in the wind") and children ("though I didn't like it when Tad drove his cart and goats down the White House hall.") and most of all the nation he served. A wonderful way for US to remember Abe Lincoln. Excellent fit with the Core Knowledge Civil War units in second grade.
Meet Abraham Lincoln. Barbara Cary.
Random, 1989. (2-4)
Lives to Learn From
Excellent summary of Lincoln’s life from log cabin childhood to his first encounter with slavery to his life-long striving on behalf of his country.
The Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln.
Illustrated by Michael McCurdy. Houghton Mifflin, 1995. (2)
Haunting black and white drawings illustrate one of the simplest and most direct statements of our nation’s meaning.
Honest Abe. Edith Kunhardt
Illustrated by Malcah Zeldis, Greenwillow, 1998. (1)
The classic story of Lincoln retold in picture book splendor.
Vinnie and Abraham. Dawn Fitzgerald
Illustrated by Catherine Stock. Charlesbridge, 2009. (2-5)
Inspiring picture-book biography of Vinnie Ream, the self-taught artist and accomplished American sculptress, who never gave up. Born (1847) and raised in the Wisconsin territory, she was admiring of, and eager to sculpt, Abraham Lincoln. When she and her family moved to DC during the Civil War, Vinnie managed to convince the President to sit for her. After Lincoln's assassination, she became (at 18) the youngest artist and first woman to receive a federal commission. She sculpted, from marble, the Lincoln statue that now stands in the Capitol (statuary hall). The book is a tribute to her persistence, courage to step outside prescribed bounds, and great love for a great man.
Young Abe Lincoln: The Frontier Days, 1809-1837. Cheryl Harness.
National Geographic Society, 2008. (4-6) Lives to Learn From
Lyrical prose and vivid illustrations bring young Abe to life. Harness provides an engaging retelling of Lincoln’s Midwestern boyhood, the hardships of frontier life, and the pain of much personal loss (mother dying at nine; sister at 18). Born with no social advantages, Lincoln shines for his love of learning, drive to improve himself, and extraordinary perseverance. Could be used in conjunction with the Civil War unit in 5th grade.
Abe Lincoln Goes to Washington, 1837-1865. Cheryl Harness. National Geographic Society, 1997. (4-6) Lives to Learn From
The continuation and conclusion of Lincoln’s story, as he begins to nurse political ambitions, denounces slavery, seeks the presidency, and is determined to save the Union through the Civil War. The reader cannot fail to be impressed by Lincoln’s profound strength and charity throughout this most difficult of times. He leads the country through the deadly war, endures the death of his youngest son, and dares to hope “for a just and lasting peace.” Could be used in conjunction with the Civil War unit in 5th grade.
Teedie. The Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt
Don Brown. HMH Books for You Readers, 2017. (K-3) Perseverance, Zest
One might not suspect the obstacles that exuberant, Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt had to overcome in his life. Teedie (as he was known when he was little) grew up in a happy family, but was frail, weak, and disposed to sickness. He spent a lot of time in bed. Nonetheless, he had a great curiosity about the world, which only intensified when he was fitted with glasses and he saw how beautiful the world was! He worked tirelessly at strengthening his (asthmatic) body, and studying in college. He met many challenges as a father, Police Commissioner, and then President. He claimed he was just average: but the world knew him as a larger-than -life man.
Young Teddy Roosevelt. Cheryl Harness.
National Geographic Society, 1998. (4-6) Lives to Learn From
Curiosity, courage in adversity, determination, and love of country shine in this colorful biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Harness chronicles TR’s life from his youth (early adventures as a naturalist, and struggles with his health) to his manhood (police commissioner, assistant secretary of the Navy) to his inauguration as president. Born into social privilege, Roosevelt nonetheless endured great loss and hardship, with the death of his father, mother and wife. In each case he emerged stronger from his sufferings, learning to ride the range, shoot, and hunt. His many interests and his inclination to still “seize the day” are revealed here.
Fritz, Jean. Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt.
Putnam, 1991. (4-6) Lives to Learn From
An accurate and delightful chapter book portrayal of the energetic and determined man who became our 26th president. He was a crime fighter, a catalyst for change in New York city’s corrupt police department, and our first environmentalist president.
Don’t You Dare Shoot that Bear: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt. Robert Quackenbush.
Simon and Schuster, 1990.
(2-6) Lives to Learn From
Humorous but accurate presentation of the life of a man who gave himself with gusto and conviction to the service of his country. Highlights his sense of fair-play and stewardship of the nation's resources, when he refuses to shoot a bear that had been trapped for him.
The Camping Trip that Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and Our National Parks. Barb Rosenstock. Illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Dial Books, 2012. (1-4) Stewardship, Wonder
An avid outdoorsman and naturalist, Teddy Roosevelt eagerly read the work of his contemporary, budding environmentalist John Muir. Could Muir be right that the nation's wilderness was at risk? The nation's youngest president decides to embark on a camping trip with Mr. Muir to find out for himself. This is a wonderful dramatization of the two men's adventure in the northwest, and explains the origins of America's national parks. Loose and lively illustrations accompany an energetic text. (Also see our recommendations for John Muir.)