Wether you’re putting together a Civil War unit study, or just looking for a few engaging Civil War history books for kids to add to your history curriculum, read on! This list has everything from Civil War picture books to chapter books and comic books. There’s something in here for all ages K-12, though less for the upper years.
I’m always searching for living books, ones that draw us in with a story and make us feel what it’s like to live in that era or relate to the characters…rather than just read dry facts about the time period. My 2nd and 3rd graders really enjoyed some of these books this year, and others we shelved for when they are older.
Some of these book selections will be based on a true story, or even diary entries from kids and adults during the Civil War. Others are fictional, but written to convey what life was like at that time.
While most of these I consider “living books”, some will be more reference style such as the DK eyewitness books at the end. If you have any we should add to this list, please leave the book title in the comments!
Feel free to watch my YouTube video of books we found, but since then I’ve added A LOT of living books to this list so I’d consider this post more relevant!
See a flip through of these books on YouTube
Civil War Picture Books
The Silent Witness by Robin Friedman:
32 pages. We loved this true story of Lula McCleans family! You see how the war effected her life. Soldiers take their home in Manassas, Virginia at the beginning of the civil war, and they are forced to move south to a home called Appomattox Court House.
Robert E Lee eventually surrenders here in their new home, and the Civil War ends. Her doll was taken by a soldier, and eventually donated to be on display at the historical home you can still see today.
A Picture Book Of Robert E Lee by David A. Adler:
32 pages. Written in story form, you’ll get a look at his life growing up and his career.
Pink And Say by Patricia Polacco
48 pages. This is a heart wrenching story of two Union boys becoming friends to the end after one rescued the other in a field in Georgia. Pinkus brings his new friend to his mother’s home to nurse him back to health. Both boys must decide if they will rejoin the troops and fight. However, they are found by Confederate soldiers too soon… Say survives and
Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
This is a Reading Rainbow selection (which is how my kids first listened to it and I highly recommend that episode)! Kids will learn how slaves used the underground railroad to travel to freedom through this coded song about following the drinking gourd (The Big Dipper). It’s a great read for all ages!
Brick By Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr.
32 pages, ages 4-8. A moving story showing how our nation’s White House was built in part by slaves, brick by brick. It demonstrates the grueling work they endured only to have their masters be paid.
Minty: A Story Of Young Harriot Tubman by Alan Schroeder
40 pages, 4-8 years old. This is the story of her youth, and how she escaped from slavery and went on to help many more escape.
Who Owns The Sun by by Kay Moore
32 pages, ages 5-6
This short picture book is a 5 In A Row selection and a gentle introduction to slavery without any gory details. It was written by a 14 year old, which is also a neat way to show kids that even young writers can make a big impact!
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
40 pages, ages 5-9.
This is a moving story about a boy who mails himself to freedom in a box. It shares the sadness of his life, being torn from family as a child and again with his own family as a father. However, he is able to make his way to freedom and start a new life.
The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale by Trinka Hakes Noble
48 pages, ages 6-9 years
This is a story of 2 boys (one just age 11) at the Battle Of Gettysburg. Both are buglers for their army. It’s a tale of history, friendship, and compassion from a boy who’s lost two brothers to the war. Kids can easily put themselves in these boys’ shoes and imagine how hard this would be.
64 pages. A picture book with questions and answers on each page, kids can see what life was like for the North and the South.
Kids will read answers to questions like: Did you continue to go to school in the North and the South? Was it hard to get food in the North and South? How did you get news from the front lines? Did your home life change? How did the war start?
These books are 100% for my kids! The animated pictures are fun, and the short descriptions are readable and short. I read this to my 2nd grader this year in about 2 sittings and she was so into it!
Same type of book as the above…so engaging! See life through the eyes of a civil war soldier. These books don’t hold back on some gory details though so beware.
Yankee Blue Or Rebel Gray: A Family Divided By The Civil War by Kate Connell
40 pages. 8-12 years
This historial fiction picture book portrays how hard it was for some families with people on both sides of the war through the character of young Sam. Kids will read the names of significant battles and key figures during the Civil War.
48 pages, 9-12 years
In this well illustrated book, find out how the Civil War ended, the effects of a starving army, and why General Lee surrendered at the Appotomax Court House.
Civil War Comic Books
Learn about the American Civil War Ships covered in iron, the role they played, meet President Lincoln, and generals from the war.
224 pages. This book is NOT just comics. But it does include several pages of comics throughout the chapters in the book. If you like the Nathan Hale series and I Survived series…you’ll enjoy this! This is broken up with lots of black and white photos, text, and facts that are presented in an easy to read way.
The Battle Of The Wilderness: Deadly Inferno by Dan Abnett
48 pages Ages 10-13
In 1864 in the Virginia Wilderness, armies found themselves fighting in dense trees set ablaze by gunfire. This comic style book walks kids through the harsh reality of fighting in this area at this time.
Civil War Chapter Books For Younger Readers
128 pages. Historical Fiction.
A ten year old southern boy, Tommy, is intrigued by soldiers coming through his Georgia town. He eventually meets a Yankee soldier and has to decide if he will help him escape to freedom.
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
224 pages, ages 12-13 (An Ambleside Online book selection)
It’s 1861 in Southern Illinois, and 9 year old Jethro’s family is pulled into the conflict between North and South. He’s a farm boy, and when his family is forced to go to war and his father becomes sick, he must take over the farm at an early age.
Make Way For Sam Houston by Jean Fritz
112 pages, ages 8-12 (a Simply Charlotte Mason selection)
This biography is set with the scene of Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico. Sam Houston became president of the new Texas Republic on September 5, 1836, as well as governor of Texas in 1859, and he led the army that defeated Mexican General Santa Anna at San Jacinto.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
576 pages, ages 8-12 years ( both an Ambleside Online & Simply Charlotte Mason recommendation)
First published in 1868, this well loved classic is a coming of age story following sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. during the time of the Civil War era.
Civil War Chapter Books For Older Readers
Rifles For Watie by Harold Keith
352 pages. A fictional story (based on many first hand accounts) of a 16 year old boy from Kansas who joins the Union as a soldier. He soon experiences the hardships of war and battle
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
536 pages, scheduled in year 10 of Ambleside Online
Published in 1851, this pre-Civil War book shows the horrible treatment of a slave, Tom as he’s sold to different masters and eventually killed. You’ll see themes of brutality, greed, misfortune, as well as love and forgiveness. You’ll also see how he held steadfast to his beliefs as a Christian. This is a great example of literature that had power to influence Northerners as well as threaten Southeners way of life.
115 pages, historical fiction
First published in 1895, this book is considered an American classic and read have this as required reading in middle or high school. It’s known for its realism, about fictional young private Henry Flemming of the Union Army, who initially flees from battle. It focuses on the phycological side of the main character rather than just what’s going on around him.
Author Steven Crane wrote this without any battle experience (as he was born after the war), yet he was an experienced reporter and writer and his writings are thought to be written from interviews with soldiers.
Civil War Informational/Reference Books
DK Eyewitness Civil War Book
Welcome To Addy’s World 1864: Growing Up During The Civil War: Nonfiction. 58 pages of real pictures, drawings, and descriptions. Describes conditions for African Americans in the North And South.
160 pages. A famous photographers account of the war. He hired field photographers to go along with troops and
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I hope you’ve found a goodie or two here, and that history will come alive for your kids. If you enjoy this style of learning, (living books), then be sure to check out Charlotte Mason’s homeschool method. There’s also Beautiful Feet Books, Sonlight, Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, and a few others to look into if you want living books as your spine instead of a textbook.