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American History Bee

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Native and Pre-Colonial America

Freedman, Russell. Indian Chiefs. New York: Holiday House, 1992.
The author profiles six 19th century, western Native leaders all caught at a turning point in history. The text is illustrated with documentary photographs, and sensitively portrays the differences between the tribes and their shared dilemma.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: The First Americans, Prehistory to 1600. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Hakim’s background in teaching and journalism are evident in her effort to make history fresh and immediate. Her writing style is informal and conversational and she makes frequent use of sidebars and boxes to break up the text. This volume is the first in a series of ten volumes covering the history of the United States, or read differently, us. It begins with early hunter-gatherers and ends with the founding of the first English settlement on Roanoke Island. An eleventh volume contains reprints of American documents.

Josephy, Alvin, M. Jr. 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American History. New York: Gramercy (an imprint of Random House,) 2002.
This comprehensive title, written in conjunction with a 1995 PBS series, provides information about all North American Indian tribes from pre-Columbian times to the present.

Lauber, Patricia. Who Came First?: New Clues to Prehistoric Americans. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2003.
Drawing on recent archeological discoveries, the author pieces together available evidence to demonstrate that Native Americans are not descendents of a single group of people who crossed a land bridge from Siberia to North America. Her brief account is easily read.

Malinowski, Sharon, ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. Detroit: UXL, 1998.
This three volume reference set, contains extensive essays on approximately four hundred Native American tribes and organizes the information by the regions in which the tribes lived.

Marrin, Albert. Saving the Buffalo. New York: Scholastic Nonfiction, 2006.
This fascinating look at how the North American Plains Indians depended for their survival on the buffalo also traces the near extinction of their culture and the herds of bison that populated the grasslands of the American West. Photographs, maps, and historical paintings illustrate the absorbing text.

Philip, Neil. The Great Circle: A History of the First Nations. New York: Clarion, 2006.
Extensive research fuels two purposes in this title: to provide an overview of all North American tribal groups and to zero in on the epic confrontation between Native Americans and European settlers.

Colonial America

Aronson, Marc. John Winthrop, Oliver Cromwell, and the Land of Promise. New York: Clarion Books, 2004.
Aronson looks for the seeds of religious freedom and democratic ideas in 17th century British political and religious turmoil. A clash between King Charles and religious zealots lead Cromwell to challenge the monarchy in England and John Winthrop to lead a large group of Puritans to the new world to found the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: Making Thirteen Colonies, 1600-1740. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
This second volume in Hakim’s series covers the settling of the thirteen colonies from the founding of Jamestown to the exodus of settlers to lands on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains.

Cooper, Michael. Jamestown, 1607. New York: Holiday House, 2007.
This history of Jamestown covers the years 1606-1609 and heavily draws on accounts written by several inhabitants, in particular the journals of John Smith. The uncomplicated text is illustrated with reproductions of artwork by John White, who was a governor of the colony, and documented life on the island in extraordinary drawings and watercolors. Cooper does not include information on the most recent archeological discoveries.

Jarrow, Gail. Printer’s Trial: The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2006.
Jarrow’s narrative describes how Andrew Hamilton successfully took on the case of a young immigrant printer brought to trial in 1735 for publishing commentary critical of the British Governor of New York. Hamilton argued convincingly that the press has a right to criticize the government. Primary source materials enliven the analytical text and tie the narrative to supporting documents.

Lange, Karen E. 1607: A New Look at Jamestown. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2007.
1607 is an over-sized picture book, but the text is for an older audience than the format suggests. Color photographs of actors in period dress reenacting the life of the settlement illustrate the text. The narrative draws on new scholarship and recent archeological findings.

Marrin, Albert. Empires Lost and Won: The Spanish Heritage in the Southwest. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Beginning his story with 17th century explorers and ending with the U.S-Mexican War in the 19th century, the author tells a thrilling tale of those who fought to control the American southwest in the hope of personal gain.

Schmidt, Gary D. William Bradford: Plymouth’s Faithful Pilgrim. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991.
The inviting prose of this biography of Bradford also covers the Separatists’ cause, their move to the Netherlands, their efforts to find passage to the new world, and the founding of the Plymouth Colony.

Smith, Carter, editor. Arts and Sciences: A Sourcebook on Colonial America
Washington, DC: Library of Congress, dist. by Brook Field, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.
Smith, Carter, editor. Battles in a New Land: A Sourcebook on Colonial America
Washington, DC: Library of Congress, dist. by Brook Field, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.
Smith, Carter, editor. Daily Life: A Sourcebook on Colonial America Washington, DC: Library of Congress, dist. by Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.
Smith, Carter, editor. The Explorers and Settlers: A Sourcebook on Colonial America Washington, DC: Library of Congress, dist. by Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991.
Smith, Carter, editor. Governing and Teaching: A Sourcebook on Colonial America
Washington, DC: Library of Congress, dist. by Brook Field, CT: Millbrook Press, 1991
The five titles in this series use documents from America’s past, timelines, and brief narrative accounts to summarize broad topics in colonial North American history.

West, Delano and Jean M. West. Braving the North Atlantic: The Vikings, the Cabots, and Jacques Cartier. New York: Atheneum, 1996.
Organized chronologically, this very helpful overview of the explorers who found North America in their search for a new world includes the 10th and 11th century Scandinavians, Cabot and other European explorers of the 15th century, and explorers sailing for France in the 16th century.

Revolutionary War Period

Adler, David A. B. Franklin, Printer. New York: Holiday House, 2001.
Despite the title, which is taken from an epitaph Franklin wrote for himself, this appealing biography warmly embraces every fascinating aspect of its many faceted subject. The design and organization is similar to Adler’s George Washington: An Illustrated Biography and the two appear to be companion works.

Adler, David A. George Washington: An Illustrated Biography. New York: Holiday House, 2004.
Lengthy, but highly readable, this engaging biography, a companion volume to B. Franklin, Printer, includes primary source material and is equally a history of colonial times.

Allen, Thomas B. George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2004.
Based on his research into Washington’s early career in the Virginia Militia during the French and Indian War, the author of this intriguing title is convinced that Washington learned the importance of intelligence gathering on a mission to the Virginia frontier. This book describes how the experience caused Washington to put together a spy network during the Revolutionary War, how the network functioned, and how spying tipped the balance of the war in favor of the colonists.

Aronson, Marc. The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence. New York: Clarion Books, 2005.
Placing the American Revolution in the context of global events, Aronson looks beyond the immediate events such as Great Britian’s taxation missteps. He identifies larger political, social, and economic issues at work in fostering a sweeping philosophical shift that helped propel the colonies toward independence.

Bigelow, Barbara C. American Revolution: Almanac. Detroit: UXL, 2000.
This reference work is part of a four volume set entitled The American Revolution Reference Library that also includes two volumes of biographies and a volume of primary source materials listed under a second editor named Linda Schmittroth. Almanac presents an overview of colonial life, the events leading up to the war, and the conduct of the war.

Bober, Natalie S. Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution. New York: Atheneum for Young Readers Books, 1995.
In a time of founding fathers, the author writes convincingly about a founding mother. Adam’s forceful personality and unique role is sensitively sketched against a backdrop of revolutionary events and clearly defined expectations for women of that time.

Bober, Natalie S. Countdown to Independence: A Revolution of Ideas in England and Her American Colonies: 1760-1776. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001. This in-depth look at the pre-war period is filled with interesting anecdotes, colorful personalities, and the lively political debate behind the dry facts. The time period covered begins with the crowning of George III in 1760 and ends with the announcement by John Adams that the colonies had voted to pursue independence.

Bober, Natalie S. Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2007. Building on her earlier biography, Thomas Jefferson: Man on a Mountain, the author explores the influences that molded Jefferson in greater depth, but retains her engaging look at Jefferson’s family, friends, and private life. This is a more sophisticated work than the first biography of Jefferson, but is still accessible to middle school students.

Bobrick, Benson. Fight for Freedom: The American Revolutionary War. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000. In this handsome over-sized volume brief essays cover important events and people. The very readable text is matched page for page with reproductions of relevant paintings, maps, or engravings. Boxes in the margins review quick facts. This title and others in the series are notable for their clarity, brevity, and attractiveness.

Cooper, Michael L. Hero of the High Seas: John Paul Jones and the American Revolution. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2006. This appropriately swashbuckling biography of the Scotsman now remembered as the father of the U.S. Navy is filled with military history, battles, and lore.

Dash, Joan. A Dangerous Engine: Benjamin Franklin, From Scientist to Diplomat. New York: Frances Foster Books, 2006.
The author looks at two sides of Ben Franklin who was admired abroad as a scientist years before he set foot in France as a diplomat. Fascinated above all else by electricity, Franklin was first an amateur investigator of the natural world. Later he became a shrewd political operator, human lightning rod, and dangerous engine. Witty drawings work well with this sophisticated interpretation of Franklin’s career.

Fleming, Candace. Ben Franklin’s Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman’s Life. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003.
Written in the style of an almanac, with short articles on various subjects, this atypical biography captures Franklin’s complex life by making clever use of primary source materials.

Fleming, Thomas. Liberty! The American Revolution. New York: Viking, 1997.
This through, but easily read work is a companion volume to the PBS television series with the same name. Fleming, who is interested in the diversity of people involved in the struggle for independence, includes information about everyday life and the contributions of little known participants.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. The Founders: The 39 Stories Behind the U.S. Constitution. New York: Walker & Company, 2005.
The introduction of this straightforward, compact title discusses the issues and controversies involved in writing and approving the Constitution. Subsequent chapters devoted to each of the thirteen original states feature brief biographies of the signers. The text of the Constitution is appended and the book is illustrated with black and white drawings.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. The Signers: The Fifty-Six Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence. New York: Walker, 2002.
Similar in format to The Founders, this earlier title profiles each of the thirteen colonies and provides short biographical sketches of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. A copy of the Declaration is included and black and white drawings of the signers illustrate the text.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. Samuel Adams: The Father of American Independence. New York: Walker, 2002.
The main focus of this biography is Adams’s single-minded effort to further the cause of independence and his central role as a revolutionary and advocate of freedom. Solidly researched, the narrative reflects the heady excitement of the times and it is illustrated with cartoons, paintings, engravings, letters, and other period materials.

Freedman, Russell. Give Me Liberty!: The Story of the Declaration of Independence. New York: Holiday House, 2000.
With clarity and a storyteller’s dramatic flair, the author rekindles the events that lead to the writing of a historic and revolutionary document. He begins with the colonies’ troubled relationship with Britain, covers important events beginning with the Boston Tea Party and ending with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, discusses the document’s author and concludes with an analysis of the document itself.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: From Colonies to Country, 1735-1791. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The third volume in Hakim’s series highlights Britain’s problems in the new world by first discussing the Peter Zenger Case, Oglethorpe’s march into Florida during the War of Jenkin’s Ear, and the French and Indian War. Her narrative ends with the Constitutional Convention.

Irvin, Benjamin H. Samuel Adams: Son of Liberty, Father of Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
This well-written biography is recommended for advanced readers. The author provides an impressive amount of information about a pivotal personality in the American Revolution, characterizing Adams as someone who was very protective of his privacy and speculating on his failure to capture the popular imagination.

Lefkowitz, Arthur S. Bushnell’s Submarine. New York: Scholastic Nonfiction, 2006.
The first American submarine, built by David Bushnell, was launched in 1776 to attack a British ship during the Revolutionary War. From this little known fact, a sidebar to history, the author weaves an engaging account of ingenuity, courage, and the nation’s early embrace of technology.

Marrin, Albert. George Washington and the Founding of a Nation. New York: Dutton, 2001.
Crammed with information, this lengthy biography is at its best when describing Washington’s military career. The author covers every aspect of Washington’s life including the forces that shaped his character and his participation in the fight for independence.

Murphy, Jim. A Young Patriot: The American Revolution as Experienced by One Boy. New York: Clarion Books, 1996.
Joseph Plumb Martin served in the revolutionary army for seven years, from 1776 when he was fifteen, until the war ended in 1783. His memoir, an eyewitness account of the American Revolution, forms the basis for this biography.

Nash, Gary B. Landmarks of the American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Using a very different perspective than most historians of the American Revolution, Nash organizes his discussion around the places where important events occurred. A chapter is devoted to each site, all of them listed in the National Historic Register. The narrative is illustrated with maps, documents, paintings, and contemporary photographs.

Severance, John B. Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Democracy. New York: Clarion, 1988.
Concentrating primarily on Jefferson as a public figure, the author discusses Jefferson’s ideas and accomplishments, in particular his actions during the American Revolutionary War period and his founding of the University of Virginia.

Schmittroth, Linda and Mary Kay Rosteck. American Revolution: Biographies. Detroit: UXL, 2000.
This reference work, part of a four volume set, called The American Revolution Reference Library, includes profiles of sixty people, British and American, who played key roles in the American Revolutionary War.

Schmittroth, Linda. American Revolution: Primary Resources. Detroit: UXL, 2000.
The fourth volume of The American Reference Library contains excerpts from Revolutionary War documents, including The Declaration of Independence, The Stamp Act, and The Intolerable Acts, and commentaries on them.

St. George, Judith. John & Abigail Adams: An American Love Story. New York: Holiday House, 2001.
Often apart, John and Abigail Adams depended on letters to help sustain their long and remarkable marriage. The author draws on these letters to shed light on their personalities, devoted relationship, and political partnership.

New Nation

Ambrose, Stephen E. Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1998.
Known for an earlier work on the Lewis and Clark expedition entitled Undaunted Courage, Ambrose, a best-selling author, here writes a shorter history of the journey and its discoveries. This over-sized volume, illustrated with stunning photography as well as archival materials, includes images from the film Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West and was reprinted for the Bicentennial.

Blumberg, Rhoda. What’s the Deal?: Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1998.
Fittingly, Blumberg prefaces her suitably dramatic retelling of the history of the Louisiana territory with a cast of characters who were involved in its purchase. The colorful narrative ably sorts through all the twists and turns in the complicated events that eventually lead to Jefferson’s successful maneuver to oust rival nations from their foothold at America’s back door.

Fritz, Jean. The Great Little Madison. New York: Putnam, 1989.
The shy, frail, and diminutive president, and his very social, popular, flamboyant wife, Dolley, leap to life from the pages of this very appealing biography. The author covers the War of 1812 and paints an interesting picture of life in the nation’s new capital city.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: The New Nation, 1789-1850. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The fourth volume in Hakim’s series begins with Washington’s inauguration and ends with the Lewis and Clark expedition and the growth of abolitionist dissent.

Jurmain, Suzanne. The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and her Students. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
A forgotten incident in American history offers the author a chance to delve into the beginnings of the abolitionist movement in the United States. This compelling story also documents the legal and social problems faced by a woman whose moral conscience expanded her vision of a schoolteacher’s role.

Marrin, Albert. 1812: The War Nobody Won. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1985.
This early work by Marrin is one of the few histories of the War of 1812 for middle school students. It demonstrates his talents for pursuing every detail and assembling a rich account of an often overlooked event.

Marrin, Albert. Old Hickory: Andrew Jackson and the American People. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2004.
Every aspect of Jackson’s life, and the times in which he lived, is covered in this comprehensive biography by an author known for his frank appraisals and enthusiastic embrace of human complexity. Here Jackson is shown to be a forceful personality, full of contradictions, and yet also a man of great heart with equally great failings.

McKissack, Patricia and Frederick. Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
This interesting work demonstrates how whaling offered profitable work to free blacks and those fleeing enslavement. It also traces the close connection between whaling and the abolitionist movement.

Murphy, Jim. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion Books, 2003.
In 1793, when Philadelphia was still the capital and largest American city, a severe outbreak of yellow fever struck. The author tells this story in all its gory detail, providing insights into the fragility of the government, describing the heroic deeds of the black community, and painting a vivid picture of a city in distress.

Murphy, Jim. Inside the Alamo. New York: Delacorte Press, 2003.
Making good use of his impressive storytelling abilities, the author covers the two week period when the Alamo was under siege during the U.S.-Mexican War. Thorough research supports Murphy’s effort to separate legend and rumor from reality in this reliable and insightful account of the battle.

Myers, Walter Dean. USS Constellation: Pride of the American Navy. New York: Holiday House, 2004.
The long, eventful life of this one ship is an engaging way for the author to discuss shipbuilding and take a look at the history of the American Navy. The USS Constellation was one of the first ships built by United States in 1794 at a time when Congress was rightfully concerned about piracy. It secured the Navy’s first victory, participating in efforts to shut down the illegal slave trade, saw service in the Civil War, and is now a historic attraction.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. The Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. New York: Putnam, 2002.
Taken from the adult work In the Heart of the Sea, this is a shorter version of the dramatic sinking of a Nantucket whaling ship. The cliff hanging narrative describes the sudden angry attack of the sperm whale and the desperate, but often wrong-headed efforts of the crew to save themselves.

Schmidt, Thomas and Jeremy Schmidt. The Saga of Lewis and Clark: Into the Uncharted West. DK Publishing, 1999.
Written by a historian and a naturalist, this beautiful, over-sized, extensively illustrated work recreates the expedition. Contemporary photographs of still wild places, documentary materials, primary source accounts, and the enthusiasm of the authors bring the explorers and their discoveries to life.

Civil War

Armstrong, Jennifer. Photo by Brady. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Using photography as metaphor and focal point, the author provides an excellent and very readable overview of the Civil War as she writes about Matthew Brady’s photographic documentation of the war.

Bolden, Tonya. Maritcha: A Remarkable Nineteenth-Century Girl. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004.
During the Civil War, the Lyons family, who were free middle class blacks, lived in New York City where they ran a rooming house. The author tells the moving story of the loss of their livelihood during the draft riots, their move to Rhode Island, and the efforts of Maritcha Lyons to obtain an education. This short study has a picture book format.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell. Bound for the North Star. New York: Clarion, 2000.
In this collective biography twelve chapters recount the riveting and horrifying stories of individuals and couples who were enslaved and successfully escaped to freedom. The accounts of William and Ellen Craft, Harriet Tubman, Mary Prince, and Eliza Harris and others cover the Underground Railroad, the Fugitive Slave Law, and other pertinent historical information. The author draws on primary sources and the text is illustrated with archival materials.

Freedman, Russell. A Photobiography of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Clarion, 1989.
Although Lincoln’s presidency sits at the heart of this biography, the author also covers Lincoln’s personal life including his childhood and a discussion of the inner man. This is thought to be the best biography of the sixteenth president written for young people and a model of clear, well-organized, thoughtful writing. Archival photographs extend the text.

Giblin, James Cross. Good Brother, Bad Brother: The Story of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth. New York, Clarion Books, 2005.
In the course of following the intertwined fortunes of two famous brothers, Giblin demonstrates the devastating effect politics and national events at the time of the Civil War had on one family. His narrative describes the popular culture of that period, in particular the theatre, and the lives of ordinary citizens.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: Liberty for All?, 1820-1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The fifth volume in Hakim’s series covers the pre Civil War years including westward expansion, the Alamo, the Gold Rush, immigration, whaling, industrialization, and slavery.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: War, the Terrible War, 1855-1865. New York: Oxford
University Press, 2003.
The sixth volume in Hakim’s series opens with a discussion of the divisions between the northern and southern states and the firing of southern guns on U.S. troops at Fort Sumter.

Marrin, Albert. Commander in Chief: Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997.
As he does in his other biographies, the author paints a very detailed portrait of his subject, the times in which he lived, and the people around him. Marrin seems to relish complication in a way that enriches the narratives he writes. It is all the little and not so little stories he finds to tell that make Lincoln less legend and more flesh and blood.

Marrin, Albert. Unconditional Surrender: U.S. Grant and the Civil War. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1994.
It is the apparent contradictions in Grant’s personality and character that captures the author’s interest and informs his narrative. The amount of information always conveyed in the most direct and vivid way has the effect of putting the reader inside the person and the events.

Marrin, Albert. Virginia’s General: Robert E. Lee and the Civil War. New York: Atheneum, 1994.
In what can be considered as a companion work to his biography of Grant, Marrin paints a portrait of Lee as Grant’s polar opposite. The principled consistency of Lee’s life makes him a more difficult subject for Marrin, but offers an opportunity to look at the war through the experience of the southern states and its most respected military leader.

McPherson, James M. Fields of Fury: The American Civil War. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.
This impressive overview of the Civil War is organized around the major battles of the war and is illustrated with period black and white photographs. Clear, concise, short chapters provide enough well chosen detail and personal stories to etch out the full dimensions of the conflict.

Murphy, Jim. The Boy’s War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the War. New York: Clarion, 1993.
One of the many wrenching aspects of the Civil War was the employment of boys, sixteen and younger, not only in the drum and bugle corps or as telegraph messengers, but as soldiers. The author weaves his compelling narrative from diaries and letters covering battle experiences, war-weariness, imprisonment, and camp life.

O’Brien, Patrick. Duel of the Ironclads: The Monitor vs. the Virginia. New York: Walker, 2003.
This simple picture book about the Civil War battle between two innovative technologically advanced warships also recounts the history of each ironclad ship.

Reef, Catherine. Walt Whitman. New York: Clarion Books, 1995.
As this attractive biography makes clear, Whitman so immersed himself and his writing in the events of his day that he is thought to be the quintessential American poet. Both the man and his poetry are thoughtfully discussed and brought to life.

Robertson, James L., Jr. Robert E. Lee: Virginia Soldier, American Citizen. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005.
Extensively researched and beautifully packaged, this comprehensive, carefully written, respectful portrait of Robert E. Lee describes the forces that shaped him. In addition to covering his military career, the author looks at Lee’s family, education, character, and friendships.

Sullivan, George. The Civil War at Sea. Brookfield, CT: Twenty First Century Books, 2001.
The focus of this book is on the navies of the North and South during the Civil War. The author covers battles, ships, commanders, and the lives of the enlisted seamen. It is illustrated with black white archival photographs and engravings.

Walker, Sally. Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books, 2005.
This account of a Civil War submarine that successfully sank an enemy ship, but never returned from its mission, is part history and part archeology.

Reconstruction, Immigration, Westward Expansion, and the Gilded Age

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Kids on Strike! Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Beginning with the experiences of a ten-year-old bobbin girl in 1831, Bartoletti tells the story of child labor in the United States and the child activists who participated in organized protests. Period photographs, many taken by Lewis Hine, illustrate the text which concludes with the work of the National Child Labor Committee to abolish child labor.

Calabro, Marion. The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party. New York: Clarion, 1999.
The difficulties and horrific conditions faced by wagon trains as they crossed the United States are recounted in the story of the ill-fated Donner Party. The author’s decision to build her narration around the experiences of thirteen-year-old Virginia Reed, gives the text a gripping immediacy. Copies of Reed’s two letters from the trail west and other documentation are appended at the conclusion.

Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Judith Bloom Fradin. Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy. New York: Clarion, 2006.
The beginnings of the Progressive Movement can be seen in the life of Jane Addams, founder of Hull House, which offered services to the immigrant community in Chicago.
The first ten chapters cover Addam’s efforts to address social problems at the end of the 19th century.

Freedman, Russell. Children of the Wild West. New York: Clarion, 1990.
The author presents an overview of life on the American frontier from 1840 to 1900. His account is enhanced by many documentary photos and by its frequent references to the experiences of real children.

Freedman, Russell and Amos Bad Heart Bull. The Life and Death of Crazy Horse. New York: Holiday House, 1996.
Through this biography of the legendary Oglala Sioux warrior, Crazy Horse, Freedman tells the story of attempts by Native Americans to preserve their way of life and resist U.S. Government efforts to displace them. The text is illustrated with drawings by Amos Bad Heart Bull, a tribal historian related to Crazy Horse.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: Reconstructing America,1865-1890. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
The seventh volume in Hakim’s series begins by reviewing basic American rights as they relate to the end of slavery and discussing the challenge of rebuilding the nation after years of war. Her coverage ends with discussions about racial injustice and pioneering black leaders who worked for justice and equality.

Hakim, Joy. A History of US: An Age of Extremes, 1870-1917. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
After setting up a contrast between the richest and poorest in the United States, the eighth volume in Hakim’s series covers the rise of wealthy industrialists and the growth of the progressive movement.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880 to 1924. New York: Orchard Books, 2003.
Organized by topics such as “Settling In,” “On the Streets,” and “A New Language, A New Life,” this discussion of immigrant life in New York City is told through the voices of five immigrants, two of them entering the United States at the end of the nineteenth century.

Marrin, Albert. The Spanish-American War. New York: Clarion, 1991.
This history of the little war that ended American isolationism immerses readers in all the drama, detail, heroics, and ironies that lie beneath the surface. As with his other books, the slightly over-sized, spacious format, frequent illustrations, and vivid prose convey a wealth of information and insight.

Marrin, Albert. Sitting Bull and His World. New York: Dutton, 2000.
The calamitous history of the Plains Indians unfolds in this heart-rending biography of a visionary leader. Sitting Bull’s life spanned the years from 1831 until 1890 when control of western lands shifted. In his signature style, the author’s extensive research, breath-taking description, and penetrating analysis of events combine to paint an exhaustive picture of a decisive encounter between two ways of life.

McPherson, James. Into the West. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006.
Like his companion book, Fields of Fury: The American Civil War, full-page reproductions of historical photographs and paintings alternate with pages of text. Brief thematic chapters, which contain personal accounts of ordinary citizens, summarize the last quarter of the nineteenth century by covering pertinent political social topics.

Morrison, Taylor. The Coast Mappers. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
This brief, picture book style book relates how the U.S. Coast Survey, under the leadership of George Davidson,completed the hazardous task of mapping the Pacific coastline of the United States during the mid nineteenth century.

Murphy, Jim. Across America on an Emigrant Train. New York: Clarion Books, 1993.
Again the author successfully uses the technique of personalizing history by basing his story on the account of a participant in a major historical event. In this case it is the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Kidnapped and Treasure Island, traveling across the county by train in 1879, who animates the story of westward expansion.

Murphy, Jim. Blizzard! The Storm that Changed America. New York: Scholastic Press, 2000.
As he has done with other epic events, the author blends his impressive skills as a storyteller and historian to tell an unforgettable story. In 1888 the lack of long-range weather forecasting proved catastrophic when two storms converged on the Northeastern United States bringing three days of heavy snow driven by hurricane force winds.

Murphy, Jim Gone A-Whaling: The Lure of the Sea and the Hunt for the Great Whale New York: Clarion Books, 1998.
Working from letters and diaries, the author tells the story of whaling from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries from the perspective of the youngest sailors.

Murphy, Jim. The Great Fire. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Knowing a good story and how to retell it, is a hallmark of Murphy’s micro-histories. His impeccable scholarship never compromises the impact of his story, as he carefully reconstructs the events that caused the city of Chicago to burn to the ground in a single night. A sure sense of the times, an eye for the experiences of real people, and an understanding of the wide ranging after effects of the cetnral event elevate the narrative.

Reef, Catherine. Alone in the World: Orphans and Orphanages in America. New York: Scholastic, 2002.
In this solid, detailed account, the author looks at the rising need for orphanages in the United States, the experiences of orphans in institutional care, and society’s changing view of impoverished, homeless, neglected, parentless, and abused children. The narrative covers the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

Sonnenborn, Liz. The American West: An Illustrated History. New York: Scholastic, 2002.
As the title indicates, this history of the western United States is documented with an abundance of photographs that invite readers to browse. Beginning with the first archeological evidence of human habitation, the narrative covers the diversity of people who left their imprint on the west and concludes with the protests of the United Farm Workers in the 1960s.

Wadsworth, Ginger. Words West: Voices of Young Pioneers. New York: Holiday House, 2003.
Unlike Sonnenborn’s overview of the western United States, this title looks at the west through the experiences of pioneer children who traveled west with their families from 1840 to 1870. Drawing on primary resources such as letters and diaries, the narrative describes everyday life on wagon trails.

Waldman, Neil. Wounded Knee. New York: Atheneum, 2001.
Beginning with a description of the massacre that ended the Indian Wars, Waldman then examines in detail the events and cultural misunderstandings that lead to this final confrontation.

Walker, Paul Robert. Remember Little Bighorn: Indians, Soldiers, and Scouts Tell their Story. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2006.
This brief history is profusely illustrated with archival photographs, drawings, paintings, and artifacts. Basing his narration in the ongoing conflict between the Native Americans and the United States Government, Walker quickly moves from the skirmishes to an in-depth discussion of the battle that is also known as Custer’s last stand. The narrative is set apart by an effective use of quoted recollection from participants.

General Works

Bausum, Ann. Our Country’s Presidents. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2001.
This very readable reference work covers every American presidency including the present administration. The chronological presentation, which groups presidents under broad themes, features a pictorial time line and brief introduction. Four to five page illustrated narratives profile the president and each includes a summary paragraph of important facts. Two page spreads about special topics, such as the building of the White House, first ladies, and children who lived in the White House, occur throughout.

Cole, Sheila. To Be Young in America: Growing Up With the Country, 1776-1940. New York: Little Brown, 2005.
This thematically presented social history uses short chapters on specific topics such as “In Trouble,” “In an Orphanage,” “At Work,” and “In Sickness and in Health” to showcase the lives of real children during the past two centuries. The use of primary resources and archival photographs enriches the narrative and points to the extensive research underlying the text.

Davis, Kenneth C. Don’t Know Much About American History. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
One of many Don’t know Much About…titles, this romp through American history is informative and amusing. It uses a question and answer format and is written in an engaging conversational style, but lacks thematic threads to tie the whole together and point to larger insights.

Freedman, Russell. In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America’s Bill of Rights. New York: Holiday House, 2003.
This companion book to Give Me Liberty! is a history of the Bill of Rights. It treats the Bill of Rights as a living document. Chapters devoted to each of the ten amendments include discussions of the original conception of the right and the ongoing application of these laws to protect the civil liberties of U.S. citizens.

Haynes, Charles C. First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
This textbook like reference work uses historical documents to tell the story of how America’s five first amendment rights, which include religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free assembly and the right to petition the government, came about and have shaped the nation ever since.

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. Vanity Rules: A History of American Fashion and Beauty. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1999.
Looking at history through the lens of the importance of appearance, the authors examine how fashion, beauty, fitness, and grooming have occupied a place in American life since colonial times.

Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. We Are Americans: Voices of the Immigrant Experience. New York: Scholastic Nonfiction, 2003.
The first eight of twelve chapters in this comprehensive survey cover immigration from prehistory to 1900. The narrative is personalized by insets featuring the experiences of both famous and obscure immigrants and generously illustrated with period photographs.

Hoose, Phillip. We Were There Too!: Young People in U.S. History. New York: Farrar Straus, & Giroux, 2001.
Looking at history through the experiences of culturally diverse young people, this interesting book presents over sixty essays about well and little known participants in the major events from 1492 to the 1990s. It includes children who were planters, captives, revolutionaries, spies, soldiers, cowpunchers, pioneers, whalers, factory workers, and labor union activists.

Jones, Charlotte Foltz. Westward Ho! Eleven Explorers of the West New York: Holiday House, 2005.
The eleven explorers profiled in this book explored North America before and after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The information is arranged chronologically in sections that group the explorers by the purpose of undertakings that range from Alexander MacKenzie’s search for a Northwest passage to the mapping expeditions of John Wesley Powell.

Johnston, Robert D. The Making of America: The History of the United States From 1492 to the Present. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.
This companion volume to Bausum’s Our Country’s Presidents also uses a chronological approach, divides history into broad themes, introduces each time period with a pictorial time line and brief introduction and intersperses essays on special topics. The text interweaves discussion of important historic events with information about popular culture. Coverage spans 1492 to 2000.

Mayo, Edith P., ed. The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies: Their Lives, Times, and Issues. New York: Holt, 1996.
Presented chronologically by presidential administration, four to ten page profiles of forty-three first ladies cover their lives as they relate to the role of first lady. It also places them within the context of the times in which they lived and the effect this had on their contributions to their husbands’ presidencies. Essays on related topics, such as women’s suffrage and the difficulties women once faced in obtaining an education, appear throughout the volume.

Miller, Brandon Marie. Dressed for the Occasion: What Americans Wore 1620-1970. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1999.
This lively narrative, filled with information and entertaining details is more than a catalog of changes in the appearance of American clothing. It also discusses the social changes and technological advances that lead to new styles of dress.

Sandler, Martin W. America Through the Lens: Photographers Who Changed the Nation. New York: Holt, 2005.
Sandler discusses eleven important photographers whose work shaped public opinion, including seven who documented American life and major events in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Voices from Colonial America:

Auden, Scott. New Hampshire, 1603-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Burgan, Michael. Connecticut, 1614-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Burgan, Michael. New York, 1609-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006.
Burgan, Michael. Massachusetts, 1620-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 20005.
Cannavale, Matthew C, North Carolina, 1524-1776.Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Doak, Robin. California, 1542-1850. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006.
Doak, Robin. Georgia, 1521-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006.
Doak, Robin. Maryland, 1634-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Doak, Robin. South Carolina, 1540-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
Cannavale, Matthew C. Florida, 1513-1821. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006
Hossell, Karen. Delaware, 1638-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006.
McDermott, Jesse Rhode Island, 1636-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2006.
Teitlebaum, Michael. Texas, 1527-1836. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005.
Trumbauer, Lisa. Pennsylvania, 1641-1776. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005.
Worth, Richard. Louisiana, 1682-1803. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005.

These short, attractive, easily read volumes, part of a series of eighteen titles when complete, recount the early history of the thirteen colonies, selected additional states, and the area once known as New France. The succinct text is illustrated with period maps and artwork. The information unfolds chronologically and is interrupted by boxed insets containing the experiences and words of those who lived in the colonies.


Anderson, Laurie Halse. Fever, 1793. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000.
Sixteen-year-old Matilda works in the coffeehouse owned and managed by her mother and located in Philadelphia when it was the capital of the United States. Her hopes to improve the family business are overtaken by an epidemic that threatens her family, their livelihood, and the city. Further information about this event can be found in Jim Murphy’s An American Plague.

Blackwood, Gary. Year of the Hangman. New York: Dutton, 2002.
Set in the year 1777, this work of historical fiction imagines what might have happened if the British had trounced the Continental Army. A spoiled young Englishman named Creighton, whose father was killed in the American Revolution, is shipped off, against his will, to the colonies by his new stepfather. It is hoped that his uncle, a military officer, can correct the flaws in the boy’s character. When Creighton’s ship is attacked he ends up with Ben Franklin and other renegades still fighting a rearguard action against the British after the capture and execution of George Washington.

Blos, Joan. A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979.
Catherine Hall begins to record her thoughts and feelings about daily life on a small New Hampshire farm at a time when her mother’s death has left her with many new responsibilities. As time goes on she copes with her father’s remarriage, the death of a friend, and the appearance of a runaway slave in need of help. Her diary entries capture her emotional growth in the face of these challenges.

Carbone, Elisa. Blood on the River, Jamestown, 1607. New York: Viking, 2006.
Arrested while attempting to take back his mother’s locket from a pawnbroker, a quick-fisted, hotheaded orphan named Samuel Collier is given a chance to redeem himself. He joins the expedition found a new colony in North America as servant to John Smith. His adventures also tell the story of the expedition’s many difficulties.

Cooney, Caroline. The Ransom of Mercy Carter. New York: Delacorte, 2001.
After an attack on her village in Deerfield, Massachusetts, during the French and Indian War, Mercy Carter is forced by their French and native captors to march through the snow with other English survivors to Canada. She is singled out by one of the Mohawk warriors who takes her to live with his family along the St. Lawrence River. Throughout she struggles with the choice of adapting to their life or living only for the day she might be ransomed.

DeFelice, Cynthia. The Apprenticeship of Lucas Whitaker. New York: Farrar, Straus & Girousx, 1996.
After Lucas Whitaker loses his entire family to consumption, he becomes an apprentice to a medical doctor. His effort to learn more effective treatments for disesase and his battle against the superstitions of the day paint an accurate picture of medicine during the mid 19th century.

Fast, Howard. April Morning. New York: Bantam, 1983.
The American Revolution leaps to life in this unforgettable account of the Battle of Lexington. It is also the story of a father and son who are at odds. The father’s unreasonably high expectations, and quickness to criticize, undermine the confidence of a sixteen-year-old anxious to please, and in a hurry to grow up. Maturity comes unexpectedly when the father is one of the first to fall in battle.

Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943.
Johnny Tremain’s promising future as a silversmith is cut short by an injury to his hand. He then gains a front row seat at the American Revolutions by becoming a messenger for the Sons of Liberty. His adventures have long been a classic of historical fiction.

Hahn, Mary Downing. Hear the Wind Blow.
In the closing years of the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Haswell has become the head of his northern Virginia family. By taking pity on a Confederate soldier he draws the wrath of a band of Union soldiers and sets off an unforgettable and catastrophic chain of events.

Hobbs, Will. Jason’s Gold. New York: Morrow, 1999.
A young New York newspaper boy is one of the first to learn that gold has been discovered in the Klondike. Determined to make his fortune in the Yukon, he travels back to his home in Seattle to retrieve his inheritance from the safekeeping of his brothers and use it to bankroll his dream. When he discovers that his brothers have already left for Canada he relies on his ingenuity to follow them. His story is both a tale of survival in the wilderness and a history of gold rush days.

Keith, Harold. Rifles for Watie. New York: HarperTeen, 1987.
Unlike Paulsen’s Soldier’s Heart, this story of a Civil War soldier is not based on the real events of one individual’s life. Working from many primary resources Keith’s longer, more complex work describes the western campaign in Kansas and Oklahoma. When the main character, sixteen-year-old Jeff Bussey, joins the Union volunteers, he has already seen the effects of war in the raids Confederate soldier Stand Watie and his Cherokee warriors have conducted behind Union lines. Assigned to live among Confederate troops as a Union spy, the young soldier becomes conflicted by loyalties to both sides.

Krishner, Trudy. Uncommon Faith. New York: Holiday House, 2003.
Each brief chapter is in the voice of one of a handful of people living in the town of Millbrook, Massachusetts in the 1830s. All tell the story of 13 year-old Faith Common who turns the town upside down with her forceful personality and the clever tricks she uses to drive home her passionately held principles. All the voices tell of their hopes and dreams and perfectly capture the provincialism of mid Victorian small town life.

Myers, Walter Dean. The Glory Field. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
This ambitious, sweeping saga spans 250 years of African-American history and six generations of and African-American family. The story begins in 1752 when Muhammad Bilal who is forcibly brought from Sierra Leone to the Amercan colonies to work on the Lewis plantation in South Carolina.

Napoli, Donna Jo. The King of Mulberry Street. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2005.
The author fashions her novel of a young Jewish Italianstowaway from family stories. Acquiring the name of Dom Napoli as he enters the United States through Ellis Island in 1892, her hero eventually makes his way from homeless orphan to young entrepreneur in this realistic portrayal of immigrant life.

O’Dell, Scott. Streams to the River, River to the Sea: A Novel of Scagawea. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Working from the little that is known about the Shoshone Indian women who acted as a guide and interpreter for the Lewis and Clark Expedition O’Dell paints a vivid portrait of her experiences. His fictional account of Sacagawea, her fur trapper husband, their infant, son, and William Clark is told from her point of view and the narrative contains descriptions of Native American life.

Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie. New York: Lodestar Books, 1991.
Lyddie Worthen and her younger brother are sent into apprenticeships arranged by their desperate mother when she can no longer keep the impoverished family together. After a year of servitude in a tavern, Lyddie runs away to find a mill job in Lowell Massachusetts. She never loses the hope of reuniting her family and making a future for herself. This well-written story portrays the perilous circumstances of young female factory workers in the 19th century.

Paulsen, Gary. Soldier’s Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers. New York: Delacorte Press, 1998.
Charley Goddard manages to enlist in the Union Army although at fifteen years he is underage. His eagerness to serve is extinguished by an overwhelming sense of disillusionment as he experiences the horrors of war during several major battles including Gettysburg. Paulsen’s brief, searing account is largely factual and based on the life of the real Charley Goddard.

Peck, Richard. Fair Weather: A Novel. New York: Dial, 2001.
With deadpan humor, Peck tells the story of the Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition, through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett, an Illinois farm girl. As the author makes clear, the day the Beckett children and their grandfather traveled to Chicago was the last day of the life they had previously known.

Taylor, Mildred D. The Land. New York; Phyllis Fogelman, 2001.
Most of the events in this powerful historical novel occur just after the American Civil War in Georgia and Mississippi and are based on family stories told by the author’s grandparents. The main character, Paul Logan, is the son of a woman born into slavery whose ancestry is half African and half Native American. His father is the white owner of the land on which they live. A broken promise prompts Logan to run away so he can pursue his dream of becoming his own person and achieving success against formidable odds.

Yep, Laurence. Dragon’s Gate. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.
Otter, the son of rural Chinese land owners, leaves suddenly for America after accidentally killing a Manchu soldier. He had always hoped to join his father and uncle in California, but he is unprepared for the harsh realities he must face working with them as they dig a tunnel through snow covered mountains for the transcontinental railroad. Drawing strength from family and friendship, Otter learns all he can to fulfill a dream taking shape in his mind.

Copyright by Christine Parker, July, 2007

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