How many of you feel like you’re watching history being made? Or have told a child that they’re living through historic times? While this concept may be large and abstract for many children, thumbing through historical fiction can be a door to exploring open ended dialogue with your children–empowering you to revisit the past while bringing new relevance to our modern day. Here are our top picks for this month, inspired by Presidents Day and Black History Month.
By Barack Obama. Illustrated by Loren Long (Alfred A. Knopf $17.99) Age 5-10
Published in the second year of Barack Obama’s presidency, when his daughters Malia and Sasha were just 11 and 8 years old, this short but sweet picture book profiles thirteen influential Americans (five of them women) who embody the noble ideals Obama sees sprouting in his children.
From Georgia O’Keefe (creativity) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (compassion), to Jackie Robinson (courage) and Helen Keller (strength), each brief tribute is written in measured prose and accompanied by warmly painted and gently humorous depictions of each icon as a child.
Each of these figures makes a worthy role model for daughters and sons of any age, and Obama’s tender love for his own daughters wafts from these pages. Reading this to and with your children is a great way to introduce some new heroes, and to show them our highest elected official is sometimes just a parent.
By Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books $12.99 each) Age 4-8
The lives and accomplishments of our first and sixteenth presidents are complex and nuanced, but Brad Meltzer has a gift for humanizing each with a focus on personality traits common to children as well as adults.
George and Abe are portrayed as “Peanuts”-style children, telling their stories in the first-person present tense. In these pages, history is playful, relatable, and even adults will find interesting nuggets they may not have known about the American Revolution, the Civil War, and that famous cherry tree!
NOTE: For a “teachable moment” about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Meltzer also wrote an excellent volume on the civil rights hero, which introduces themes of race and equality in the same kid-friendly way.