5 Best Children's Historical Fiction Books About Ohio

Ohio is the birthplace of the first ambulance service, the first traffic light, and seven United States Presidents. Named for an Iroquois word meaning “great river” or “large creek,” the state is home to the Ohio River, which is 981 miles long. The nickname Buckeye State comes from another Native American word; they called the nuts of the area’s abundant buckeye trees “hetuck,” meaning “buck eye” because they resembled the eyes of deer.

The Iroquois, Chippewa, Kickapoo and other Native American tribes lived here and in the 1600s, Europeans came to the region. In 1670, Rene-Robert Cavelier claimed the land for France. In 1750, a group named the Ohio Company claimed land for England. Ohio became part of Northwest Territory in 1787 and on March 1, 1803, Ohio became the 17th state of the Union.

Upper-elementary school aged children will begin learning a great deal about their state in history or social studies classes. You can help support what your child is discovering by providing interesting, age-appropriate books set in important eras. Following are five engaging kids’ books that help teach Ohio’s state history:

Danger Along the Ohio

by Patricia Willis

Twelve-year-old Claire and her younger brothers Amos and Jonathan are traveling down the Ohio River by flatboat with their father in 1793. When Native Americans attack the family, the children are separated from their father.

Together, the siblings must find their way through the wilderness to the Marietta settlement, in hopes that their father is still there… and still alive. When one of the boys rescues a young Indian from the water and insists they allow the injured boy to travel with them, their predicament becomes even more arduous and dangerous.

Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio

by Lois Miner Huey

Several days of heavy rain causes several major rivers in the central and eastern U.S. to swell in the spring of 1913. One night in March, residents of Dayton heard howling winds. By the weekend, they’re experiencing an ice storm.

The Great Flood of 1913 claimed hundreds of lives in Ohio and a dozen other states. Dayton became a national symbol of the disaster. This nonfiction book combines first-person accounts of the devastation with historic photos, maps, newspaper clippings and other riveting details. This major and yet little-known natural disaster helped initiate the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Bell Keeper: The Story of Sophia and the Massacre of the Indians at Gnadenhutten, Ohio, in 1782

by Marilyn Weymouth Seguin

Gnadenhutten was the second settlement of the Moravian Church in Ohio. The village was made up of missionaries and Christianized Lenni Lenape people, who were devout pacifists.

Based on true events, this book tells the story of Sophia Papunhank, a young Lenape girl who lived a happy and peaceful life on the banks of the Muskingum River. However, in the summer of 1781, the Lenape people were forced from their village. Although most of her family and friends perished, Sophia manages to protect the church bell, maintain her faith, and show great courage.

The Legend of Ohio (Myths, Legends, Fairy and Folktales)

by Dandi Daley Mackall

How did the first people come to live in Ohio? This engaging story tells the tale of Dikewamis and her family. Nomads, they had to keep finding new places to call home because of the “moving stone mountains” made of ice and snow that continually crept closer.

Their chief appeals to his people to follow him on a lengthy journey. He has a vision, it seems, of a new land, which they will call “Ohio” because of the many beautiful fingers of water crossing it. There, they will be able to work the land, hunt for food, and live peacefully. This combination of folklore and history will spark a new appreciation for the state by its youngest residents.

Whispers at Marietta: Mysteries of the Ohio Frontier

by Karen Meyer

If Rachel Putnam had her druthers, her family never would have moved to the Ohio frontier – but her father is the Superintendent of the Ohio Company, so she has no choice. Her baby brother’s death adds to her pain, and whispered rumors about his passing don’t help.

When her beloved dog goes missing, Rachel and her new friend Maggie investigate. However, their search takes them straight into a Shawnee village. Now their biggest concern is escaping.

Fourth and fifth graders will have fun learning about the state’s past with captivating stories such as these.

Do you have a favorite book about Ohio’s history for kids? Share the title with us!

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