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How to Make History Meaningful With Candlewick Press Books

History is a subject easily enjoyed and learned through a good book. Here are some selections from Candlewick press to bring history to life for your entire family.

History seems to be one of those subjects that you either loved or dreaded in school. I’m sad to say I fell into the latter category. It seemed as if the entire purpose was to memorize dates, and I didn’t see that as a very useful or interesting skill.

Luckily, I became a homeschool mom.

Without a doubt, the history I have learned in the past 12 years far exceeds what I learned during my many years in school. Why? What was history lacking?


It sounds so simple, yet it can be so difficult to achieve. A textbook struggles to convey the real-life stories that when woven together create the history of mankind.

In our homeschool, we encounter history through living books. I want books that tell us the personal side of history and show the interconnectedness of it all.

So I’m excited to share some living history books from Candlewick Press you’ll be delighted to add to your homeschool library. Why read from a boring textbook when history can be so exciting?

How to Make History Meaningful with Candlewick Press Books

This is a sponsored post, and I was compensated for my time, all opinions are my own. You can find my disclosure policy here.

Living History Books from Candlewick Press

When it came time for me to choose which Candlewick Press books I would like to review, it was a tough decision.

I’m a homeschool mom, give me all the books!

But I think I made some outstanding selections that will not disappoint. And even though history was my primary focus, there are plenty of science rabbit trails to explore with these books.

Living History Books for Younger Children

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch

This picture book by P.J. Lynch tells of the journey to the new land of America aboard the Mayflower from the perspective of John Howland. A perfect choice for Thanksgiving study, this book is very detailed and descriptive in the hardships of both the journey and the first year the settlers endured.

I particularly enjoyed hearing the story of the pilgrims from the unusual perspective of an indentured servant. Howland was a servant to John Carver, who wrote and was the first to sign the Mayflower Compact.

The boy Who Fell off the Mayflower

So instead of the typical story as told from the eyes of a pilgrim, this is told from the eyes of a servant that had every intention of going home to England once free.  However, Howland didn’t return to England and today has millions of descendants in America.

Learning Ideas:

The Dam by David Almond and illustrated by Levi Pinfold

The Dam is a haunting, yet beautiful story conveying the sense of loss many had when the Kielder Dam was constructed in Northumberland County, England in 1981.

The Dam

The story was told to the author by Mike Tickell and his daughter Kathryn, who are both traditional Northumbrian folk musicians.

Not your average historical picture book telling the tale of a specific event or person, but a glimpse at a small moment in time that illustrates an experience many people around the world have endured.

My own grandmother’s family were forced to relocate due to the construction of the Dale Hollow Dam on the Tennessee/Kentucky border in the 1940’s. However, this is very common in the south where most of our large lakes are man-made.

The Dam is a excellent starting point for many learning ideas about geography, science, and the arts.

Learning Ideas:

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

Nikola Tesla is a figure I have no recollection of hearing about as a child except for the rock band. Learning is everywhere!

However, as an adult, I have become more interested in this fascinating figure of history. We’ve witnessed two different Tesla coils in action, but this was our first introduction to the story of Nikola Tesla and his incredible life.

Electrical Wizard

Electrical Wizard is a biography of Tesla’s incredible life, from his birth in what is today Croatia, his immigration to America, and his rivalry with Thomas Edison. This is a perfect introductory biography to Tesla that even younger children will enjoy.

Learning ideas:

How to Make History Meaningful with Candlewick Press Bookds

Living History Books for Older Kids

Isaac the Alchemist: Secret of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure

When someone mentions Sir Isaac Newton, you can’t help but think of physics. Newton is primarily known as a physicist, but author Mary Losure gives us a peek at his early life in an apothecary and his interest in alchemy.

Today, we view alchemy as the beginnings of chemistry with the ultimate goal of transforming base metals into gold. At the time, however,  this was believed to be a process which could be discovered, and many tried, including Newton.

Newtons apple tree at Woolsthorpe Manor

Isaac the Alchemist gives us a personal look at a man who would become one of the most influential scientists of all time. The perfect union of history and science.

Learning ideas:

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler

What child doesn’t love a pirate story? Swash-buckling adventures and sunken treasure captivate us all.

The story of The Whydah begins in England, where in 1715 it was built and formally named the Whydah Gally. The ship was built for Sir Humphry Morice to be used as a slave ship along the Triangular Trade route from Africa, to the Caribbean, and back to England.

Lawrence Prince was chosen as Captain of the Whydah and was once a pirate himself serving under privateer Captain Henry Morgan. Prince had spent over forty years as a landowner before taking command of the impressive ship.

The Whydah

This time in history was greatly influenced by piracy, and it wasn’t long before Prince and the Whydah were overtaken by infamous pirate Black Sam Bellamy.

As fascinating as this tale is in its own right, author Martin Sandler takes us over 250 years into the future to the Whydah shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusettes.

In 1985, the inscription on the ship’s bell confirmed it was the Whydah. Barry Clifford and his team had indeed recovered the only authenticated pirate shipwreck. Excavation of this shipwreck continues today.

The Whydah provides us with a realistic view of piracy and a fascinating look at marine archaeology.

Learning ideas:

Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home by Sally M. Walker

My mother texted me just a few months ago forwarding me a newspaper article and asking if I had heard of The Sultana.

Considering I grew up just 120 miles from the site of the largest US maritime disaster, it’s surprising I had never heard of it before. But neither had my mother, and she has lived almost 45 years in Arkansas.

Sinking the Sultana

The Sultana is the greatest U.S. maritime disaster claiming 1,192 lives, more than the Titanic. How has such a notable event escaped any notoriety?

It failed to gain momentum in the press due to the recent assassination of President Lincoln and reports of John Wilkes Booth’s death just the day before.

Helena, Arkansas. April 26, 1865. Ill-fated Sultana LCCN2013647457

Fortunately, the story of this disaster is gaining the attention it deserves. Sinking the Sultana is an excellent addition to any study of the Civil War.

From this one event, which few are aware, it would be easy to study the Civil War from the prisoner of war camps at Andersonville, GA, and Cahaba, AL, to the assassination of a President.

Learning ideas:

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington

I was hesitant to choose this book. World War II and concentration camps aren’t usually topics I seek out. However, the setting of this book fascinated me.

The Red Ribbon

Was there really a tailoring studio where Auschwitz prisoners sewed and tailored for their German guards and families?

Yes, as difficult as that is to imagine, there was.

The author Lucy Adlington, a fashion historian and writer, weaves a riveting tale of life and death in a concentration camp. I finished this book in about three days, reading for far to late the last night. It was fantastic.

The most thought-provoking aspect was wondering what character you would be; the guard with a split personality, a preferred prisoner bestowed with oversight of other prisoners, or the survivor determined to live.

The Red Ribbon is an honest, realistic window into this time without being so graphic I was unable to read. An especially sensitive child might not react well to this sober portrayal, but it’s an excellent addition to any study of World War II.

Learning ideas:

Candlewick Press Makes History Meaningful

With so many amazing books to choose from, Candlewick Press makes it easy to bring history to life in your homeschool.

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