Living History Books: Washington and Adams

Dear Reader,

As we slowly work our way through American history, I have been sharing what books we have used. You can find all the links to previous posts here. We have just finished 3 weeks on the presidencies of Washington and Adams. I found relatively little to use on this period. I am, of course, limited to what our library system has so you may find different titles. There are lots of biographies, especially on Washington, available, but my goal this time was to look more at each man’s time in office than at the man himself. I will recommend The Bulletproof George Washington, a book which we have used in the past.

Here is the rest of the list:

For spines (books which I read aloud to all the kids to give us an overview and make sure there are no huge gaps) we continue to go through H.E. Marshall’s This Country of Ours and Helene Guerber’s  Story of the Great Republic. I find each of these volumes fairly simple on this time period. They explain the events well, especially for my younger kids, but they feel a little light. My solution has been to use both of them in the hopes that one will cover events the other might miss.

Biographies by Mike Venezia — In addition to our spines, I read aloud to the kids the relevant biographies by Venezia. If you have younger kids and don’t know this author, check him out. He has biographies on all the presidents as well as many artists and composers. Each one had cartoon-style pictures as well as other pictures and presents the information in  a fun way. I suspect that these are not good living books and that CM herself would not approve of them. But my kids look forward to them. They are funny and they are fun and they can be read in one sitting so not much is lost.

Venezia on Washington

Venezia on Washington

With a little extra time to fill, I also read aloud John Jay by Stuart A. Kallen. This was not a stellar living book but it was okay. I’ll say again: There was little I could find on specific events in this time period.washington6

I had my 4th and 5th graders read two of the same books. The first is George Washington by Ingrid and Edgar D’Aulaire. The D’Aulaires have wonderful volumes on a number of historic figures. They are beautifully illustrated and at the level of long picture books. I broke this one up into four sections for each of them which was quite doable. I would call these books upper elementary age though one could read them aloud to a first or second grader as well.


The other book my younger two read was George Washington and the First Balloon Flight by Edmund  Lindop. It was a nice tale of the first balloon trip and it includes a dog on the story, always a plus. The level is again long picture book or beginning chapter book and each read it in four sittings without being strained.



My 4th grader also read Abigail Adams: Dear Partner by Helen Stone Peterson. It was a nice little biography, an easy chapter book which she read in 8 sittings. She seemed to enjoy it and was able to connect it to other events we had studied. We laughed when she read that Abigail Adams went to Europe and was pleasantly surprised to find the ocean waters there swimmable — we brave the New England beaches every summer!


For a little more hearty educational meat, I had my 5th grader read The Whiskey Rebellion by Katy Schiel. This is not really a living book, but I was hard-pressed to find anything from our library system about Washington’s time in office (as opposed to the person himself). It seemed like an okay book– not just a list of facts– and he understood it well.

washington3My 8th grader read George and Martha Washington at Home in New York  by Beatrice Siegel. I had thought it a bit dry when I skimmed through it but she did okay with it and didn’t seem bored by it so I guess it was a decent book for her. It is not hard. I would call it middle school level but a 5th grader could probably tackle it too.

washington4I had both my 8th and 9th graders read The Whiskey Rebellion by David C. Knight. This was a pretty good book. It explained the events well and kept their attention. It is one of the choices from this section that I am most pleased with.

washington7My 9th grader also read selections from George Washington and the Founding of a Nation by Albert Marrin. Marrin is a favorite author of mine and he has books on tons of topics — not just history but science too; his book on oil was the first we read and it was excellent. My son had read Marrin on the Revolution and our time on this topic was limited but if one were spending longer on the time, it would be worth reading the whole book.


Path of the Pale Horse by Paul Fleischman. From his narartions this was  a bit of a weird story though he is not the clearest narrator. It is the st ory of the yellow fever epidemic that swept Philadelphia in 1793. But there is a but of a mystery to it as well. It seemed like it was an intriguing book for kids.

And that’s what we read this time. Next up: some books on Native Americans!

Happy Reading


4 responses to this post.

  1. Haven’t read that particular book by Marrin but have used a few of his others. They’ve been excellent. Factual but with a good narrative.


  2. […] she is sharing her list of books and lessons on the history of the presidencies of Washington and Adams. If you are looking for a reading list to supplement your studies or to just bring more life to the […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s