Around the USA Study

Around the USA Elementary Homeschool Unit Study - uses living literature to highlight events, people and facts

After our 1st grade trip Around the World last year, 2nd grade finds us touring our great country of the United States of America.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Around the USA Study

Our brief stops in each state will begin with living literature “tour guide(s)” who will introduce us to important historical and geographical highlights.  When appropriate, we’ll add some of the interesting people and events we learn about to our ongoing timeline.  And before leaving each state, we’ll fill out a passport, adding the appropriate state flag to the back of the passport page.

Living Literature “Tour Guides”

You can find a bazillion non-fiction books describing each state on the shelves of your local library.  While we will read some of those, my intention is to enjoy living biographies or historical fiction appropriate for middle elementary as well.  Those are a tad harder to find since they often aren’t cataloged by the state they represent which is why I’ve pulled them together in a handy list.  You’ll even notice some of them are easy readers that my little guy might even be able to read himself this year.

Around the USA Study using living literature to highlight important events, people and facts


Helen Keller: Courage in the Dark by Johanna Hurwitz

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki


Balto and the Great Race by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel


Alejandro’s Gift by Richard Albert

Big Moon Tortilla by Joy Cowley

Cactus Cafe: A Story of the Sonoran Desert by Kathleen Zoehfeld

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault


Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac


Boom Town by Sonia Levitin

Picking Cotton by Sherley Ann Williams

Pop’s Bridge by Eve Bunting

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi


Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

High as a Hawk by T.A. Barron


26 Fairmont Avenue by Tomie dePaola

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes


When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney

District of Columbia

By the Dawn’s Early Light by Steven Kroll

Clara Barton: Spirit of the American Red Cross by Patricia Lakin

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America by Kathi Appelt

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock

The Wall by Eve Bunting


Hurricanes by Gail Gibbons

Moonwalk: The First Trip to the Moon by Judy Donnelly

Sam the Sea Cow by Francine Jacobs

Sunken Treasure by Gail Gibbons


I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree Mitchell


Maka, the Magic Music Maker by Shannon Scott


The Boy Who Invented the TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull

Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell

Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression by Kate Lied


Abe Lincoln’s Hat by Martha Brenner

Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson

Saving Strawberry Farm by Deborah Hopkinson


The Floating House by Scott Russell Sanders


Cora Frear by Susan Goodman

Kate Shelley and The Midnight Express by Margaret Wetterer

McBroom Tells the Truth by Sid Fleischman


The Bravest of Us All by Marsha Arnold

Climbing Kansas Mountains by George Shannon

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner


Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys by Patsi Trollinger

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

That Book Woman by Heather Henson


Petite Rouge by Mike Artell

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles


Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey


Aunt Flossie’s Hats and Crab Cakes Later by Elizabeth Howard

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman by Monica Kulling


Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin

The Hatmaker’s Sign by Candace Fleming

A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry

Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sam the Minuteman by Nathaniel Benchley

The Wild Horses of Sweetbriar by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock


An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

Eat My Dust! Henry Ford’s First Race by Monica Culling

The Log Cabin Quilt by Ellen Howard


The Biggest Bear by Lynn Ward

Marven of the Great North Woods by Kathryn Lasky


Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

River Town by Bonnie Geisert

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson


How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Schanzer

Ragtime Tumpie by Alan Schroeder


Cowboy Charlie by Jeanette Winter

Mountain Town by Bonnie Geisert

Prairie Town by Bonnie Geisert


Dandelions by Eve Bunting

Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen

Nora’s Chicks by Patricia Maclachlan


Desert Town by Bonnie Geisert

The Hoover Dam by Jeffery Zuehlke

The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell

New Hampshire

The Bear that Heard Crying by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock

The Farm Summer 1942 by Donald Hall

New Jersey

The Ballot Box Battle by Emily Arnold McCully

Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Sasha

Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives by Gene Barretta

New Mexico

Carlos and the Squash Plant by Jan Stevens

Coyotes All Around by Stuart Murphy

Georgia O’Keeffe by Mike Venezia

New York

The Babe and I by David Adler

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Stone

The Flower Hunter: William Bartram America’s First Naturalist by Deborah Kogan Ray

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift

The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers by Mordecai Gerstein

The Snow Walker by Margaret Wetterer

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest

North Carolina

First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers by George Shea

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Weatherford

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan

North Dakota

A Prairie Boy’s Summer by William Kurelek

A Prairie Boy’s Winter by William Kurelek

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting


Lentil by Robert McCloskey

Rudy Rides the Rails: A Depression Era Story by Dandi Mackall

Warm as Wool by Scott Russell Sanders


Angels in the Dust by Margot Raven

Dust for Dinner by Ann Turner

Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac


Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Only Opal by Jane Whiteley


The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Homespun Sarah by Verla Kay

Now and Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta

Raising Yoder’s Barn by Jane Yolen

Rhode Island

Katie’s Trunk by Ann Turner

William’s House by Ginger Howard

The New Americans: Colonial Times 1620-1689 by Betty Maestro

South Carolina

Arabella by Wendy Orr

Knockin’ On Wood: Starring Peg Leg Bates by Lynne Barasch

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue

This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson

South Dakota

Dakota Dugout by Ann Turner

So, You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George


Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston

Buddy: The First Seeing Eye Dog by Eva Moore

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack


Armadillo Rodeo by Jan Brett

Buffalo Music by Tracey Fern

Pecos Bill by Steven Kellogg


Iron Horses by Verla Kay

Ten Mile Day: And the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad by Mary Ann Fraser

The Wheat Doll by Alison Randall


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Sugaring by Jesse Haas


George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy

Hornbooks and Inkwells by Verla Kay

James Towne: Struggle for Survival by Marcia Sewall


Davy’s Dream: A Young Boy’s Adventure with Wild Orca Whales by Owen Lewis

Seaman’s Journal by Patricia Eubank

The Sun, the Wind and the Rain by Lisa Westburg Peters

West Virginia

Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story by Anna Egan Smucker

In Coal Country by Judith Hendershot

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant


Going West by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Harry Houdini: Escape Artist by Patricia Lakin

Pioneer Girl: The Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder by William Anderson


Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express by Eleanor Coerr

I Could Do That: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda White

Jackson Pollock by Mike Venezia

Leah’s Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich

If you know of wonderful picture books that go-along with particular states, I’d love for you to share in the comments!

If you enjoy using living literature in your homeschool, I’ve compiled several fabulous lists for you.

A list of all Cindy West's living literature posts

Memory Fun

Throughout the year-long study, lots of fun practice will take place to help Eli remember all this wonderful history and geography.  We’re using puzzles, online games, card games and more:

Puzzle Map

Online Quizzes

Technology Rocks links several games

Board & Card Games

Printable Games

State Bingo

State Symbol Matching


Mapping Practice

Map Munching

Landmark Mapping

Songs & Videos

50 States Video

Wakko’s America Song

Marilyn’s 50 States Song


Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is important in our homeschool because it works so well to internalize concepts.  Below are the projects Eli will complete throughout our study.  I’ll be sure to add photos to this post as he completes the projects.

Where in the USA Interview Project

USA Salt Dough Map

US Landmarks Postcards

Any State Brochure

Cindy West's Around the USA Unit Study Pinterest Board

We are SO excited to begin our travels across the country this year!




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