Around the USA Study

Our 1st grade trip Around the World was wonderful. Our 2nd grade trip across the United States of America was even more wonderful! Take a peek at our around the USA study and enjoy a trip yourself!

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

Around the USA Study

Our brief stops in each state began with living literature “tour guide(s)” who introduced us to important historical and geographical highlights.  When appropriate, we added some of the interesting people and events we learned about to our ongoing timeline.  And before leaving each state, we completed a quick notebooking page to note some important facts that resulted in a great keepsake of our year-long trip.

50 States Living Books as “Tour Guides”

You can find a bazillion non-fiction books describing each state on the shelves of your local library.  While we read some of those, my intention was 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 for your own Around the USA study.  You’ll even notice some of them are easy readers that my little guy was even able to read himself.

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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

Working 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.


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

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree Mitchell


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

Ox-Cart Man 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 Opal Whiteley and Jane Boulton


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

50 States Notebooking Pages

For a little more information about the notebooking pages we used during our Around the USA study…

The 50 States Notebooking Pages are a fun way to create a memory book of your tour across America. They encourage children to learn a few fun facts about each state, color or label a map, and add state flags and seals for a colorful keepsake of your “trip.” If you choose to write lists of each book you read along the way, you’ll also have a great reading log as part of the keepsake.

Around the USA Study: Games and Memory Fun

Throughout the year-long study, we had lots of fun practicing the wonderful history and geography that we had learned through puzzles, online games, card games, and more!

Geography Board & Card Games

Learn geography easily and have fun! These games to teach geography are the best. #homeschool #geography #games

Online Geography Quizzes

Technology Rocks links several games

Printable Geography Games

State Bingo

State Symbol Matching

Mapping Practice

Map Munching

Landmark Mapping

Geography Songs & Videos

50 States Video

Wakko’s America Song

Marilyn’s 50 States Song

Around the USA Study: Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is important in our homeschool because it works so well to internalize concepts.  Below is a list of the projects Eli completed throughout our study.

US Landmarks Postcards

Any State Brochure

Where in the USA Interview Project

USA Salt Dough Map

Cindy West's Around the USA Unit Study Pinterest Board

We had SO much fun traveling across the country through literature in our Around the USA study this year!

Other posts you might enjoy:

 U.S. Geography Project World Geography Living Literature World Geography Project



  1. Wow! I a very impressed and as a homeschool mom (and retired American and African-American History professor) you did an awesome job compiling this list. I love your ides regarding the creative aspects of using games. For me, my dyslexic son in 6th grade would totally benefit from the literature perspective here. I am going to definitely use this as I am excited!!!!!!Thank you!

  2. Wow, this is going to be so helpful for me this school year since we’re studying the USA as part of our studies too! Thank you so much for sharing this information. πŸ™‚

  3. You’re amazing! I’m going to share this with all of my CC readers, because we are studying the 50 states this year in Cycle 3. Thank you for all of the resources, Cindy — and it was MARVELOUS to get to know you last weekend! πŸ™‚

  4. Lana Wymore says:

    This is amazing! I plan on sharing this with others that love Geography too – thank you so much for all the work and effort to compile this list!

  5. I seriously cannot believe you found living books for all 50 states! That was a massive undertaking! You are amazing. Can I ask what your living book finding secret was? I am new at this (my oldest, also an Eli, is in 2nd grade too!) and am struggling to find living books appropriate to our various history topics. Thank you for sharing all your hard work!!

  6. Yes, Kate, it was a huge undertaking! I enjoy the research, though. πŸ™‚ And that’s the secret…lots of research…which is really no secret at all. Hahaha

  7. Thank you, Mary! I SO enjoyed getting to know you, too. You are absolutely the sweetest! (And our beds are all made. LOL)

  8. Nice. Can’t wait to check it out!

  9. Sharon Kristoff says:

    This is awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing. I am printing this list for our US history/geography studies this year. So excited!

  10. Paola Collazo says:

    Amazing! I was just reading how CM did both World History and English History together. This will make it so easy and interesting for all my babes. Thank you!

  11. Liz Swift says:

    For Vermont, Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Understood Betsy is a classic well worth reading.

  12. I just stumbled upon this on Pinterest, I have states and capital learning(and going broader with each state) on my ideas for this year! This will certainly help me expand it! Thank you!

  13. What an incredible resource! We’ve slowly been memorizing states and capitols but I will definitely look forward to adding books to our geography study. Thank you!

  14. Thanks for putting this together, what a fabulous list! Already pinned it πŸ™‚

  15. Jennifer T. says:

    Thanks for the list. I will put a plug in for “All-of-a-kind Family” which would be for New York (there are actually 5 in that series); “The Moffats” would be for Connecticut (I believe) (again this has more than one in the series…four total); No Children No Pets is set mainly in Florida; Mary on Horseback is for Kentucky. I could keep going but I’ll stop there.

  16. Uncle Jed’s Barbershop should actually be listed under Mississippi. The author, Margaree King Mitchell, is from my hometown of Holly Springs, MS. Another of my favorites by this author is When Grandmama Sings. Her stories gently present the African-American viewpoint of pre-civil rights era. The characters she crafts depict strong, courageous, and peace-loving characters, making them appropriate for introducing difficult topics such as racism to young children. I am a great fan of hers and would like to thank you for including her on your list!

    Another great book depicting a rural southern sharecropping family from Mississippi is Oh Lord, I Wish I Was. Buzzard. I can’t remember the author but it was illustrated by Aliki. This was the first book I was able to read independently as a child and remains a favorite today.

  17. Thank you, Prentis. I actually searched long and hard trying to find the setting of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop. When I was unsuccessful, I just put it with a state that could have worked for the time period. I’m adding it to Mississippi now, though. πŸ™‚ Thanks also for the other suggestions!!

  18. I have a suggested addition for Vermont. We just read “Least of All” by Carol Purdy. It was a wonderful book about how a little girl taught herself to read the Bible while churning butter on a VT farm.

  19. This is just wonderful! Thanks for all your work putting it together!

  20. Very fun! Love the list!
    Here’s a few contributions:
    FLORIDA- Strawberry Girl
    VERMONT- Understood Betsy
    ALASKA- The Year of Miss Agnes

  21. KENTUCKY- Mary on Horseback

  22. Wow! This is a fantastic plan. Thanks for sharing.

  23. I’ve been searching for something like this! Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s such a fantastic help and is greatly appreciated! God bless you!

  24. Is there a link to print the names of the books for each state? thank you

  25. this is awesome! thank you!!!

  26. Exactly what I’ve been looking for thanks!!!

  27. I’m not homeschooling yet, my kid’s too young, but I was curious when this showed up in my Pinterest feed. I love this idea! I was a little bummed that the only entry for my state doesn’t actually take place within the state borders, so I did some googling and found a couple other possibilities for Delaware. Water Rat by Marnie Laird, listed for grades 4-6, and A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin, by Karen Hesse, listed as age 9+. I haven’t read either, but now plan to look into both.

  28. Thank you, Becky! Yes, I had a hard time finding Delaware books, that’s for sure. I’ll keep these in mind when (if) I get around to a chapter book list. πŸ™‚

  29. shaleza rouse says:

    Great list! Thanks for posting it. I’d like to suggest that everyone also check with their Children’s Librarian at their local libraries for more help – this is exactly what they love to do and are usually very good at it! πŸ™‚

  30. How did you break up the unit? We studied world history for the last two years and we’re going to start American history curriculum but we only have maybe 9 weeks left of school so starting a whole new curriculum seemed silly. I was thinking of doing all the states we know people from or are going through to make it more real and was wondering how you break it down.

  31. Andygirl, we simply went state by state through the regions – New England, Southeast, Midwest, etc. For some states, we only spent one day reading and completing a few activities. Other states took us 2-3 days – especially if I had several wonderful books to read aloud. Have fun!

  32. EstherLedies says:

    Kiki and the Cuckoo for NE or other states where Western Meadowlark is common, Nora’s Ark for Vermont, Testing the Ice for NY or Connecticut, Fire Boat for NY

  33. Thank you for the additions, Esther! We’ve read Fire Boat. I think all the others are new-to-me titles!

  34. As a Michigander, I’d like to suggest adding “M is for Mitten” to the Michigan portion. Great information and nice illustrations.

  35. Jennie Chatman says:

    what state does The Hatmaker’s Sign go with?j

  36. I put The Hatmaker’s Sign into our study of Massachusetts, but it would really be fine with any state that has a rich Colonial history. πŸ™‚

  37. This is awesome! This is my focus statement I wrote today about myself – “A homeschool mom developing good character & leadership skills by studying wholesome literature and growing a biblical view of cultural geography.” Then I come here and find literature and geography together. This makes me smile! Thank you so much!

  38. Thank you for this book list. My second grade twins are loving the books on this list. This is our first year homeschooling, and your site has been the most helpful of any homeschooling website I have found. Thank you again.

  39. Amy, thanks so much for taking the time to encourage me! I’m excited to hear your twins are enjoying living literature. It’s the best, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

  40. Oh my goodness! This is wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to put it all together. I am teaching my two boys about the 50 states right now. They are 6 and 4 so we are keeping it VERY general, but I plan to go back over the states when they are older and this is the perfect way to do it!!! Thanks!

  41. You’re welcome, Melissa! We had SO much fun during our study. Some of these books became our most treasured. πŸ™‚

  42. Today is our first day of homeschooling (2nd and 3rd grade) and we are studying the regions of the USA. I was searching and searching for books and found you! Thanks a million times over!!! This is awesome! I signed up to get your emails as well!

  43. I’m so glad this post was helpful for you, Michelle. πŸ™‚ I hope your first day of homeschooling went well and I wish you many, many wonderful days ahead!

  44. We are online schooling family and that is why we enjoy traveling. So these would be an awesome companion for our adventures. Thanks for sharing!

  45. How cool that you might get to actually explore some of the places as you read along!

  46. Oxcart Man by Donald Hall would be a good one for New Hampshire. It’s one of my favorite books, I’m excited we can use it for this unit!

  47. Oh, great idea! I’ll add it. πŸ™‚

  48. I know it’s not a state, but do you know of any living lit for Washington DC? Thanks for this list!! We are studying states this year and you already did all the hard work!! So glad God led me to your site!

  49. I have some suggestions for Washington D.C. listed under District of Columbia near the top of the post. It’s easy to miss. πŸ™‚

  50. Sing Down the Moon by O’Dell for Arizona/New Mexico

  51. Thank you, for this chapter book recommendation, Michele! πŸ™‚

  52. What a great idea and a fabulous resource! I went ahead and ordered the first 4 books on the list to get us started!

  53. Glad it’s helpful, Julie! These books are still favorites in my house. πŸ™‚

  54. Thank you so much for this list! I am planning next year’s U.S. Geography lessons and am so excited about reading some of these books with my kids. Thank you for the great suggestions!

  55. You’re very welcome, Candace! πŸ™‚

  56. I have been using this list and find it SO helpful, thank you.
    I just wanted to mention that I didn’t understand why “Picking Cotton” is under CA. Seems like the wrong place for it. otherwise great list!

  57. nevermind, I read up a bit more and it’s right, sorry!

  58. No worries, Monica! πŸ™‚ I was just getting on here to say that it’s about a migrant worker in the cotton fields of Fresno, CA.

  59. Is there anyway I can download this list? I am trying to copy and paste it and keep having problems.

    This resource is AMAZING. Thank you so much for sharing!

  60. I’m glad you like the list, Marcy! Unfortunately, I don’t have a printable version. Maybe try opening a different internet browser to get copy/paste to work. πŸ™‚

  61. What a great resource! Thank you so much!

  62. Hi Cindy. Im curious about your pacing. Did you do cover over a year or multiple years.

  63. Cheri, you could do either way. In this case, we spent the entire year working through this study. πŸ™‚

  64. This is a great list! My suggestion for Kansas is No Small Potatoes: Junius G. Groves and His Kingdom in Kansas.

  65. Stephanie B says:

    Thank you for all of your efforts!
    Washington crossing the Delaware should be under New Jersey. The Delaware River is the border between PA & NJ, never actually runs through Delaware. But boy is that state tricky! Maybe Hidden History of Lewes, and just the portion about Pirates?
    My favorite as a child (novelβ€”4th grade & up or a good audiobook) was Island of the Blue Dolphinsβ€”California.

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