My poor daughters. Their father teaches United States history and government. Their mother used to teach middle school history and geography. Their little brains just get social studies overload. They've been learning states and Presidents since they could talk, so naturally we have an abundance of books about America. There's a little bit of everything in this list of Books About The United States: history, geography, emblems, tall tales, and more.
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The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller
My kids LOVE this book, and I have to say that I do to. The 50 states get a little bored with their locations and decide that they need to shuffle around. Hilarity ensues. While this book alone probably wouldn't teach your kids to identify the states, it is a nice supplement and a fun way for them to begin to be familiar with the names and (normal) locations of the states. If you read it enough, your kids would definitely start to identify the shapes of the states. This book is also available as a Scholastic Storybook Treasure animated story, and is available on Netflix as well (search for Scholastic).
Scrambled States Talent Show by Laurie Keller
I have to admit that I haven't read this one, the sequel to the Scrambled States of America, but it's probably safe to assume that it is just as charming and delightful as the original. It is also available as a Scholastic Storybook Treasure animated story.
Sweet Land of Liberty by Callista Gingrich
(Yes, THAT Callista Gingrich)
Little Ellis the Elephant goes to the library and reads and learns all about American history. The version of history presented in this book is quite simplified, and glosses over many of the less savory parts of our history. But this is a book for preschoolers, so I think its perfectly reasonable to provide them with a simple version of our history, which will no doubt be fleshed out once their little brains are more capable of sorting through more complex subject matter. Some of the rhymes in this book are a bit clunky and forced; it can be difficult to get the cadence right while reading aloud. The illustrations are simple and cute, and will draw young children in. This book is suitable for older toddlers and preschoolers. There are also 2 sequels, Land of the Pilgrims' Pride and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George
A very thorough but entertaining review of our country's presidents, this book should be a part of everyone's home book collection. It shows the presidents in a clever way, grouping them by their similarities and also showing their diverse backgrounds. The drawings highlight the presidents' recognizable features, which helps kids learn to identify them. This book is LONG, and you may not want to try to read through it in one sitting. It does work well to read in chunks, and is nice to have for your kids to flip through. Because of the wordy content, this book is best suited for older preschoolers or elementary aged children. Like The Scrambled States of America, this book is available as a Scholastc Storybook Treasure animated story, and is also available on Netflix.
Babar Comes to America by Laurent de Brunhoff
There are definitely parts of this book, which was originally published in 1965, that are outdated. However, you can easily skip over them or change them as you read aloud and appreciate this book for the charming relic that it is. The book jacket describes it as "a vintage look at life in America." Babar, king of the elephants, visits America and sees all the highlights. New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and much more are on his travel agenda. Babar spends LOTS of time in California, and a whole 2 pages in the South-- Texas and Louisiana. This book is another long one, but really gives a sense of the huge variety in the American landscape and major landmarks and attractions. Because of its length, I would read this book to older preschoolers or elementary aged children. Because of the great illustrations and charm, younger children would enjoy looking at it as well.
Babar's USA by Laurent de Brunhoff
Babar's USA was published in 2008 and is basically an updated version of Babar Comes to America. Instead of drawings, the cartoon elephant family is overlayed on top of actual photographs of America. Again, the family visits major cities and landmarks, and children get to see the diversity of American life. There is less text in this book than its predecessor, making it more suitable for younger children. It is still above the 'listening' level of most toddlers, though, simply due to its length.
Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies
A list of American books wouldn't be complete without a few about baseball. My girls love this series of 'Bat' books. Bats wait for dark to come, then gather together under a circus tent for a rousing game of baseball. The illustrations are detailed-- I find something new each time I read it. The text is rhyming and clever, weaving baseball and bat lingo together seamlessly. Preschoolers will need some help understanding the baseball references in this book.
Luke Goes to Bat by Rachel Isadora
We got this book from Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Young Luke watches his older brother play stickball in the streets of New York and longs to play with the big boys. When he gets his chance, things don't go so well, and Luke is convinced that he'll never get to play again. He gets to go see the Dodgers and his beloved Jackie Robinson play a game, and the experience inspires him to keep trying. This is a feel good story that actually made me tear up a bit! Older toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged children would enjoy this book.
United States Coloring Book by Dover
Dover makes fantastic coloring books, and this one is no exception. It features each state and some of that state's symbols. This would also be a great book to have and NOT color, but just to use as a reference.
Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano
Beloved Madeline comes to the White House to visit a fictional Caroline Kennedy. After a day of playing in the White House, the girls travel (through dreams or magic) to several Washington D.C. landmarks. This book is a great way to introduce children to our capitol city through a character that they already know and love.
The Story of the Statue of Liberty by Betsy Maestro
This book is on a perfect 'istening' level for your preschooler. It is informative, without getting bogged down in details that your little one might not understand or be interested in. It tells how the Statue of Liberty was conceived, designed, and constructed. The illustrations are light, crisp and clear. While it may be a bit wordy for toddlers, most preschoolers and young elementary aged children should enjoy it.
The Bald Eagle by Norman Pearl
Our national bird is discussed in detail in this cute, informative book by Norman Pearl. My kids learned a lot as we read this book. I learned a little bit, too! It discusses why the bald eagle was selected as an emblem, where children a're likely to see the symbol, and how to protect them in the wild. While I enjoyed the illustrations, my only criticism of this book is that it doesn't show any actual photographs of bald eagles. The text and subject matter of this book makes it suitable for older toddlers through elementary aged children.
American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne
Some of you may recognize Mary Pope Osborne's name, as the author of the well-known Magic Treehouse series. This collection of American Tall Tales is splendid. It includes 13 stories, including well known stories like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, and lesser known tales, like Febold Feboldson. What struck me most about this book were the illustrations. They were done by Michael McCurdy through wood engravings, and they bring a strong and rustic quality to these stories. Some of the illustrations and stories are a little scary, so I wouldn't read these to toddlers or to easily scared preschoolers.
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