by Maria Salvadore and Reneé Critcher Lyons

Following is a select list of fiction and nonfiction books, as well as online resources, for children and young adults about the early years of the White House and American presidency. Click a category to jump ahead or just scroll down to review the titles in each one.

Nonfiction Books About the Early Days
Fiction Books About the Early Days
Books and Websites About the Era of Thomas Jefferson
Books and Websites About the Era of James Madison
Books and Websites About the Era of James Monroe
Books and Websites About the Era of Andrew Jackson
Website About the Era of William Henry Harrison

Nonfiction Books About the Early Days

1776 by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 2005)
High school/adult

Explore the events that created the United States with this noted historian and scholar. In 1776, readers are introduced to the Georges: George Washington and England’s George III. Younger readers (grades 4-6) can explore the same men in a playful, but thoughtful, book by Rosalyn Schanzer entitled George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides (National Geographic, 2004).

Becoming Ben Franklin: How A Candlemaker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty by Russell Freedman (Holiday House, 2013)
Ages 11-14, Grades 5 and up

Discover how a homeless, hungry, seventeen-year-old Benjamin Franklin developed into a respected statesman who steered the course of the American Revolution and our Constitutional beginnings.

Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? By Jean Fritz*, illustrated by Tomie de Paola (Putnam, 1977)
Ages 8-11, grades 4-6

Primary sources combined with text and illustration to provide a light look at the life of King George III.

* Jean Fritz has a series of short, highly illustrated books that take a lighthearted look at some of the early figures that figured prominently in the formation of the United States. Books by historian David McCullough provide an in-depth examination of some of the same people, contextualizing them for high school to adult readers.

The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the Revolution by Jim Murphy (Scholastic, 2010)
Ages 8-12, Grades 3-7

Defeated in New York and New Jersey, Washington fights back with iron steel as he takes the helm of leadership and steers his troops to victory at Trenton and Princeton.

Gingerbread for Liberty! How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution Mara Rockliff (HMH Books, 2015)
Ages 6-9, Grades 1-4

This baker is not just any baker…he bakes loafs for Washington’s troops.  And, then, Washington sends him on a mission to convince the Hessians to abandon the English army!

Hasty Pudding, Johnnycakes, and other Good Stuff: Cooking in Colonial America by Loretta Frances Ichord, illustrated by Jan Davey Ellis (Millbrook, 1998)
Ages 8-11, grades 3-6

How and what foods were prepared in Colonial times—long before refrigerators or microwaves were conceived—is the subject of this fascinating book. A look at regional recipes spices up the mix, adding a multicultural dimension.

If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern, illustrated by June Otani (Scholastic, 1992 edition)
Ages 8-11, grades 3-6

A question followed by an answer about everyday life in the Colonial period brings history to life as modern children relate to familiar experiences and activities.

King George: What Was His Problem, Everything Your History Books Didn’t Tell You About the American Revolution by Steve Sheinken (Square Fish, 2015)
Ages 9-12, Grades 3-6

A Bank Street Best Children’s Book, Sheinken’s anecdotes about the American Revolution are a blast, revealing to the reader what the most famous traitor in history, hundreds of naked soldiers, and a salmon lunch all have in common!

Lafayette in the American Revolution by Russell Freedman (Holiday House, 2010)
Ages 10-13, Grades 5-8

Another Freedman work, par excellence, features the exploits and adventures of the Marquis de Lafayette, the famed Frenchman who put his life on the line for America’s cause.

Let It Begin Here: Lexington and Concord, First Battles of the American Revolution by Dennis Fradincx (Bloomsbury, 2009)
Ages 7-10, Grades 2-5

This account, stamped by date and time, considers not just the heroics of these battles, but also the actuality and reality of war, even when the war is necessary to the preservation of liberty.

Now Is Your Time: The African-American Struggle for Freedom by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins, 1991)
Ages 11-14, grades 6-9

History combines with the individual biographies to bring light to African Americans who contributed to the formation of the United States. Primary sources are used in this well-researched book which continues through the 20th century Civil Rights Era.

Rebel With A Cause: The Daring Adventures of Dicey Langston, Girl Spy of the American Revolution by Kathleen Kudlinski  (Capstone, 2015)
Ages 9-12, Grades 3-6

Discover the story of one girl who risked her own life, in the style of Paul Revere, to save the lives of others during the American Revolution.

Revolutionary Friends: George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette by Selene Castrovilla, (Calkins Creek, 2013)
Ages 8 and up, Grades 3 and up

Working together to fight and fend off the British during the American Revolution, a lifetime bond grew between these two men of integrity, born oceans apart.

Slumps, Grunts, and Snickerdoodles: What Colonial America Ate and Why by Lila Perl (Clarion, 1979)
Ages 9-12, grades 4-7

Ever wondered what might have been for dinner back when the United States was new? Find out in this playful but informative examination of what, why, and how early residents of the continent ate.

Washington at Valley Forge by Russell Freedman (Holiday House, 2008)
Ages 9-12, Grades 4-7

Award-winning author Russell Freedman, also an Our White House contributor, delineates Washington’s leadership qualities and decision-making processes during the long, bitter winter of 1778:  Valley Forge, PA.

Fiction Books About The Early Days

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum, 2010)
Ages 10-14, Grades 5-9

Ruth and Isabel, slaves in a Loyalist household, decide to spy for the Patriot cause at the bidding of their friend, Curzon.

Sophia’s War by Avi (Beach Lane, 2013)
Ages 8-12, Grades 3-7

After Sophia watches Nathan Hale’s hanging, and her own brother is tortured at the hand of the British, she is determined to uncover Britain’s most coveted spy.

Books and Websites About the Era of Thomas Jefferson

How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer (National Geographic Children’s Books, 1997)
Ages 8-12, grades 4-6

Fusing and simplifying information and events from the Lewis and Clark journals, the expedition is presented in a highly-illustrated, well sourced, and dramatic volume for younger readers.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, edited by Bernard DeVoto (Mariner Books, 1997 edition with an introduction by Stephen Ambrose)
High school to adult

Contemporary spelling, highly-readable typeface, and editorial notes makes the Lewis and Clark chronicle of the westward expedition accessible to modern readers.

Off the Map: The Journals of Lewis and Clark edited by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Tim Tanner (Walker, 1988)
Ages 11-13, grades 5-8

Judicious editing and careful formatting synthesizes the many volumes of Lewis and Clark journals, providing a sense of the primary source material while allowing younger readers entrée into the time and place.

Sacajawea by Joseph Bruchac (HMH Books, 2008)
Ages 12-14, grades 7-9

In a well-imagined and thoroughly researched novel, the Lewis and Clark expedition—and its people—come to life. Alternating narrations between Sacajawea, the Shoshone interpreter, and of William Clark, add suspense. Includes a map of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark by Patricia Eubank (Ideals, 2010)
Ages 5-8, Grades K-3

An account of the journey of Lewis and Clark from the viewpoint of Lewis’ dog, Seaman, this book is based on Clark’s journals describing Seaman’s actual exploits.

Thomas Jefferson, Draftsman of a Nation by George Roland Willis (University of Virginia Press, 2008)
Ages 11 and up, Grades 7 and up

The energy and time Jefferson devoted to writing declarations, pamphlets, and legislation thatcreated the nation we enjoy today is brought to life in this exemplary non-fiction title.

Thomas Jefferson Grows A Nation by Peggy Thomas (Calkins Creek, 2015)
Ages 9-12, Grades 3-7

Author Peggy Thomas juxtaposes Jefferson’s statesmanship alongside his gardening recommendations to Parisians, fellow statesman, and neighborly farmers.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University Website

Thomas Jefferson was the president of the United States when Lewis and Clark headed west. He was also very interested in fossils and mastodon bones! Read about the Thomas Jefferson Fossil Collection (housed at the Academy of Natural Sciences—the Natural Science Museum—in Philadelphia, PA) and paleontology here.

Books and Websites About the Era of James Madison

Flames in the City: A Tale of the War of 1812 (Time Spies series) by Candice Ransom (Mirrorstone, 2008)
Ages 8-11, grades 4-6

Travel back in time with the Time Spies as they witness the War of 1812 and help Dolley Madison in this time-travel fantasy.

A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation by Catherine Allgor (Holt, 2006) High school/adult

A sophisticated, lively look at the wife of the fourth president; the times in which she lived; and her impact on the period and an emerging country.

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll (Norton, 2006)
High school/adult

The development of the Navy in the 18th and 19th centuries sheds light on the political climate and history of the United States, and dramatically clarifies the War of 1812.

The Story of the Star Spangled Banner by Patricia Pingry (Candy Cane Books, 2014)
Ages 2-4, Grades Primary to Pre-K

This board book introduces little hands to the words of the “Star Spangled Banner” and what they meant to Francis Scott Key, who wrote during an actual War of 1812 battle.

The White House Is Burning: August 24, 1814 by Jane Sutcliffe, (Charlesbridge, 2014)
Ages 9-12, Grades 4-7

Using eye-witness accounts, Sutcliffe recounts the events of the day, during the War of 1812, the British attempted to burn down the White House.

EDSITEment! Website

Begin an exploration of Madison and his time with the EDSITEment! website, which is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This thorough introduction to James Madison and the War of 1812 includes lesson plans and has extensive links to related, authoritative websites.

Books and Websites About the Era of James Monroe

A Comprehensive Catalogue of the Correspondence and Papers of James Monroe by Daniel Preston (Greenwood, 2000).

Monroe’s voluminous papers are housed in libraries and colleges in the U.S. and in Britain, but have been indexed here together under one cover.

The Papers of James Monroe: A Documentary History of the Presidential Tours of James Monroe, 1817, 1818, 1819 Volume 1 (Greenwood, 2003) and The Papers of James Monroe: Selected Correspondence and Papers 1776-1794 Volume 2 (Greenwood, 2006) both by Daniel Preston and Marlena Delong

Many of Monroe’s papers and correspondences appear in these two volumes.

To Preserve the Union: Causes and Effects of the Missouri Compromise,by KaaVonia Hinton (Capstone, 2013)
Ages 8-10, Grades 3-4

President Monroe addresses the issue of slavery within the newest state in the Union.  Will Missouri change the course of America’s history?

James Monroe’s Highland Website
A visit to James Monroe’s Virginia home may be done virtually or in person via the website

Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia Website

The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of Monroe’s life, times, and the major issues with which he dealt.

Books and Websites About the Era of Andrew Jackson

Davy Crockett Saves the World by Rosalyn Schanzer (HarperCollins, 2001)
Ages 8-12, grades 4-6

Davy Crockett was a larger-than-life figure, especially in these rollicking tall tales based on Crockett’s almanacs. In real life, he frequently bumped heads with President Andrew Jackson, especially about Indian removal.

Inside the Alamo by Jim Murphy (Delacorte, 2003)
Ages 11-14, grades 6-9

An authoritative account of the fierce fight for a small piece of land in Texas. Davy Crockett was among the well known people who fought there.

Jean Laffite, The Pirate who Saved America by Susan Goldman Rubin (Abrams, 2012)
Ages 6-9, Grades 1-4

Jean Laffite, though a pirate most of his life, finally settled down and helped Andrew Jackson win the War of 1812.

Voices from the Trail of Tears edited by Vicki Rozema (John F. Blair, 2003)
High school to adult

Primary sources, voices of the Cherokee people who had developed a written language, are used to illuminate this sad saga in American history.

“Indian Removal” Article on PBS Website

Under President Andrew Jackson, Indians were removed from their homes. Read about it, including the text of the letter of protest from Cherokee Chief John Ross to the U.S. government, on the website.

Website About the Era of William Henry Harrison

William H. Harrison, 9th President of the US by Heidi Elston (Abdo, 2009)
Ages 7-9, Grades 2-4

Learn about the United States’ 9th president by means of primary documents, images, and a timeline.

Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia Website
William Henry Harrison served as president for only thirty-two days. Read about his short tenure on this website of the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.