Modern History: A Living Book List

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“Children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times – a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the children do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climate his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose.”

~Charlotte Mason~

When I was young, I loved historical fiction. The dry textbooks in history class failed to capture my imagination, but I loved books that spirited me away from the familiar—books that brought me to far off times and places.

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My oldest daughter would agree. She’s an avid reader. It’s hard to keep up with her appetite for books.

She’s my kindred spirit.

In light of that, I’ve decided to give her the history class I’ve always dreamed of. A history class rooted in rich literature and deep discussion—”living books and narration”, if you’re of the Charlotte Mason tradition.

We’ll be using The Story of the World, Volume 4: The Modern Age as our main text. And, every week, my daughter will read a historical novel. I’ve incorporated selections from Beautiful Feet Books, Sonlight, and my own research. The picture books and shorter chapter books in this list will be read aloud with my younger girls during Morning Time.

There are over 50 books in this list, arranged by time period. Reading level is based on the publisher’s recommendation, online reviews and internet searches. (Please note: On a tablet or phone, you will need to scroll right to view the column containing the year in which the book takes place and the reading level information.) My hope is that this list will benefit others looking for living books for their modern history studies.

Title Author Country Year Reading Level
Amos Fortune: Free Man Elizabeth Yates Africa (likely Nigeria)/United States 1710-1801 (to set background for slavery and Civil War) Grades 6-8
Imprisoned in the Golden City Dave and Neta Jackson Burma 1823-1826 Grades 4-6
Red Sails to Capri Ann Weil Italy 1826 (rediscovery of the Blue Grotto) Grade 2
David Livingstone Geoff and Janet Benge Africa 1840s Grades 4-6
Under the Hawthorn Tree Marita Conlon-McKenna Ireland 1840s (Irish Famine) Grades 4-6
By the Great Horn Spoon Sid Fleischman United States Early 1850s (California Gold Rush) Grades 4-8
Carolina’s Courage Elizabeth Yates United States 1850s Grade 2
Listen for the Whippoorwill Dave and Neta Jackson United States 1853 (Harriet Tubman) Grades 3-5
Underground to Canada Barbara Smucker United States/Canada 1850s (Underground Railroad) Grade 6
Freedom’s Wings: Corey’s Underground Railroad Diary Sharon Dennis Wyeth United States 1857 (Underground Railroad) Grades 1-3
The Drinking Gourd F.N. Monjo United States 1850s (Underground Railroad) Grades 1-3
Follow the Drinking Gourd Jeanette Winter United States 1850s (Underground Railroad) Grades K-1 (picture book)
The Patchwork Path Bettye Stroud United States 1850s Grades K-1 (picture book)
Florence Nightingale  Lucy Lethbridge Britain 1850s (Crimean War) Grades 1-4
Florence Nightingale Demi Britain 1850s (Crimean War) Grades K-3 (picture book)
Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express Eleanor Coerr United States 1860 Grades 1-3
Across Five Aprils Irene Hunt United States 1860s (Civil War) Grades 5-8
Dear Canada: A Trail of Broken Dreams Sarah Ellis Canada 1862 (Cariboo Gold Rush) Grades 4-7
The Perilous Road William O. Steele United States 1863 (Civil War) Grades 6-8
The Trouble with Gold Priscilla Galloway Canada 1863 (Cariboo Gold Rush) Grades 3-5
Goldtown Adventures (Series) Susan K. Marlow United States 1864 (just after California Gold Rush) Grades 4-6
Turn Homeward, Hannalee Patricia Beatty United States 1865 (final days of Civil War) Grades 6-8
Shades of Gray Carolyn Reeder United States 1866 (immediately following Civil War) Grades 5-8
Old Yeller Fred Gipson United States Late 1860s Grades 5-8
Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer Amy Ehrlich United States 1874-1938 Grades 2-5
The Railway Children E. Nesbit England Written in 1906 but gives a sense of Victorian Era Grades 4-6
The Gate in the Wall Ellen Howard England Late 1800s (Victorian Era) Grades 3-5
Lumber Camp Library Natalie Kinsey-Warnock United States Early 1900s Grades K-2
Little Pear Eleanor Frances Lattimore China Early 1900s Grades 1-2
Strawberry Girl Lois Lenski United States Early 1900s Grades 4-8
Dear Canada: That Fatal Night Sarah Ellis Canada 1912 (Titanic) Grades 4-7
Go Home Bay Susan Vande Griek Canada 1914 (Tom Thompson) Grades K-1 (picture book)
The Singing Tree Kate Seredy Hungary 1914-1918 (WWI) Grades 5-8
Angel on the Square Gloria Whelan Russia 1914 Grades 2-5
Terror in the Harbour Sharon E. McKay Canada 1917 (Halifax explosion) Grades 3-5
Rascal Sterling North United States 1918 Grades 6-8
Young Fu of Upper Yangtze Elizabeth Foreman Lewis China 1920s Grades 6-8
Dear Canada: A Prairie as Wide as the Sea Sarah Ellis Canada 1926 Grades 4-7
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry Mildred D. Taylor United States 1930s (Great Depression) Grades 6-8
The House of Sixty Fathers Meindert DeJong China 1939-1945 Grades 5-8
The Little Riders Margaretha Shemin Holland 1940s (WWII) Grades K-3
Journey Through the Night Anne De Vries Holland 1940s (WWII) Grades 6-8
The Endless Steppe Esther Hautzig Poland/Russia 1941-1945 (WWII) Grades 4-7
Number the Stars Lois Lowry Denmark 1943 (WWII) Grades 4-7
When I was Eight Margaret Pokiak-Fenton Canada 1944 (residential schools) Grades 2-4 (picture book)
The Winged Watchman Hilda van Stockum Holland 1944-1945 Grades 4-6
Twenty and Ten Claire Huchet Bishop France 1944-1945 Grades 3-4
Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s Chocolate Pilot Michael O. Tunnell Germany 1945 Grades 4-7
The Year of Impossible Good-byes Sook Nyul Choi North Korea 1945 Grades 5-9
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson Bette Bao Lord United States 1947 Grades 3-5
I am David Anne Holm Eastern Europs (possibly Bulgaria) Late 1940s (Cold War) Grades 5-8
Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime Janet and Geoff Benge China Mid 1900s Grades 4-6
Ruby Bridges Goes to School Ruby Bridges United States 1960 Grades K-1
The Wall Eve Bunting United States Modern day but discusses Vietnam War (1965-1975) Grade K (picture book)
Water Buffalo Days: Growing Up in Vietnam Quang Nhuong Huynh Vietnam 1965-1975 (Vietnam War) Grades 3-6

We’ll also be supplementing these books with snippets from The Kids Book of Canadian History (a textbook) and Simply Charlotte Mason’s Stories of America.

I can’t wait to discuss these books with my daughter as we discover modern history together!

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that, should you click on a link and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at absolutely no cost to you.



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