You can find all my posts on the living books we’ve been using for history (and other subjects!) here.
Our spine series is, as it has been this year Our Century. You can look at those earlier posts to find out more about it and why we are using it.
The big topic for the 1960s is the Vietnam War. But there are a few other topics as well so let’s start with those:
I couldn’t find a lot of living books on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I chose the one in the middle — Cuban Missile Crisis: In the Shadow of Nuclear War by R. Conrad Stein — above for my 6th grader to read. Stein is an author I have used before (but only from other series, I think). He does pretty well with making history interesting, not too dry.
Living through the Cuban Missile Crisis is actually a series of essays and first-hand resources. I didn’t end up using it but it could be good if you’d like your child to use original sources.
I checked out Thirteen Days Ninety Miles by Norman H. Finkelstein but it seemed to dry to me; my eyes began to glaze over on the first page. Did you ever notice how living books let the facts come at you slowly? I think this would be a hard book to read if you don’t already have some background knowledge of the people and events of the time.
I like the series Cornerstones of Freedom for brief intros to various topics we don’t have more time for. Be sure to look for the ones that begin “The Story of . . .” They are older and better-written. There are probably more on this time period but these are the two my library system had. FYI these are really elementary level books.
Turning then to the big topic, Vietnam, I was able to find quite a lot on both the war and the society or culture.
My 10th grader is reading Albert Marrin’s America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger. Marrin’s book are mostly high school level (though some are simpler). He does a good job of incorporating a lot of elements and strands in a cohesive narrative of his topic. We use his books a lot.
(My 11th grader, btw, is still working on a book on the Cold War, a more comprehensive account that will take him longer.)
My 7th grader is reading Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story by Sam Johnson. This is an autobiographical account. It would not be for the squeamish but seems quite well-done.
I looked at but did not use A Place Called Heartbreak by Walter Dean Myers and The Wall by Eve Bunting. The latter is (you may have guessed) about the Memorial Wall. Bunting is an author I like but this is really a not too hard picture book and my kids are too old for it. Myers’ book is a chapter book for grades 3-5 or so. Again, I thought my kids were beyond it. I am not sure how good the writing is but it looks like a story at least, not just facts.
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland is another picture book which we skipped; this one is about a family escaping civil war in Vietnam.
My 6th grader read A Boat to Nowhere by Maureen Crane Wartski. It tells the tale of a family of boat people fleeing the Communists.
For a read aloud for my younger two I debated between The Land I Lost and Water Buffalo Days both by Quang Nhuong Hyunh. They both looked so good. I chose The Land I Lost. It tells about life for a boy in Vietnam before the war and is humorous and entertaining. I can’t speak for Water Buffalo Days but I suspect all books by this author will please.