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 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.
This post contains affiliate links.
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
The Bear that Heard Crying by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
The Farm Summer 1942 by Donald Hall
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
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
Carlos and the Squash Plant by Jan Stevens
Coyotes All Around by Stuart Murphy
Georgia O’Keeffe by Mike Venezia
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
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
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
Katie’s Trunk by Ann Turner
William’s House by Ginger Howard
The New Americans: Colonial Times 1620-1689 by Betty Maestro
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
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
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.
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.
50 States Notebooking Pages$10.00
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
Online Geography Quizzes
Technology Rocks links several games
Printable Geography Games
Geography Songs & Videos
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.
Where in the USA Interview Project
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 ProjectWorld Geography Living LiteratureWorld Geography Project
I love this…thanks so much!
You are welcome, Joni!
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!
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. 🙂
You’re welcome, Melissa!
Alaska — Larry Gets Lost in Alaska
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! 🙂
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!
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!!
Yes, Kate, it was a huge undertaking! I enjoy the research, though. 🙂 And that’s the secret…lots of research…which is really no secret at all. Hahaha
You’re welcome, Lana!
Thank you, Mary! I SO enjoyed getting to know you, too. You are absolutely the sweetest! (And our beds are all made. LOL)
Nice. Can’t wait to check it out!
This is awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing. I am printing this list for our US history/geography studies this year. So excited!
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!
For Vermont, Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Understood Betsy is a classic well worth reading.
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!
Thank you, Liz!
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!
Thanks for putting this together, what a fabulous list! Already pinned it 🙂
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.
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.
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. 🙂 Thanks also for the other suggestions!!
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.
Thank you, Kim!
This is just wonderful! Thanks for all your work putting it together!
Very fun! Love the list!
Here’s a few contributions:
FLORIDA- Strawberry Girl
VERMONT- Understood Betsy
ALASKA- The Year of Miss Agnes
KENTUCKY- Mary on Horseback
Great suggestions, Chrissy!
Wow! This is a fantastic plan. Thanks for sharing.
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!
Is there a link to print the names of the books for each state? thank you
No, Kelli. Sorry.
this is awesome! thank you!!!
Exactly what I’ve been looking for thanks!!!
You are very welcome!
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.
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. 🙂
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! 🙂
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.
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!
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
Thank you for the additions, Esther! We’ve read Fire Boat. I think all the others are new-to-me titles!
As a Michigander, I’d like to suggest adding “M is for Mitten” to the Michigan portion. Great information and nice illustrations.
what state does The Hatmaker’s Sign go with?j
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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? 🙂
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!
You’re welcome, Melissa! We had SO much fun during our study. Some of these books became our most treasured. 🙂
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!
I’m so glad this post was helpful for you, Michelle. 🙂 I hope your first day of homeschooling went well and I wish you many, many wonderful days ahead!
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!
How cool that you might get to actually explore some of the places as you read along!
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!
Oh, great idea! I’ll add it. 🙂
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!
I have some suggestions for Washington D.C. listed under District of Columbia near the top of the post. It’s easy to miss. 🙂
Sing Down the Moon by O’Dell for Arizona/New Mexico
Thank you, for this chapter book recommendation, Michele! 🙂
What a great idea and a fabulous resource! I went ahead and ordered the first 4 books on the list to get us started!
Glad it’s helpful, Julie! These books are still favorites in my house. 🙂
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!
You’re very welcome, Candace! 🙂
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!
nevermind, I read up a bit more and it’s right, sorry!
No worries, Monica! 🙂 I was just getting on here to say that it’s about a migrant worker in the cotton fields of Fresno, CA.
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!
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. 🙂
What a great resource! Thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Teresa!