5 Best Children's Novels That Teach Vermont History
Although it was once a territory that was part of New York, Vermont declared its independence early on and became a self-sustained little nation, boasting its own monetary, postal, and naturalization systems. On March 4, 1791, Vermont became the 14th state to join the union.
Nicknamed the Green Mountain State –verd mont means “green mountain” in French—Vermont’s lush, rolling hills hold hundreds of years of history. During the Woodland Period more than one thousand years ago, Native Americans established villages in the region. The first European sighted Vermont in 1535, when French explorer Jacques Cartier traveled the Atlantic coast. The first European settlers established homes in the mid-1600s and in 1777, Vermont abolished slavery, becoming the first state to do so.
Kids who are learning about their state’s past in upper-elementary grades have a great deal to absorb. You can support your child’s state history knowledge by providing age-appropriate books about Vermont that are both informative and entertaining. Following are five fantastic books that combine fact with fiction that can help bring Vermont’s history to life for your child:
by Karen Hesse
It is 1924, and the Ku Klux Klan is attempting to recruit new members by infiltrating small towns across the country and instilling fear of people who are different. In this book, KKK members have made their way into a small Vermont town, attempting to spread hatred and prejudice among its citizens.
This book is unique for multiple reasons. First, it’s written in free verse, which many kids may find enjoyable to read. Second, the story is told from the alternating perspectives of 11 different characters, including two young girls who have lost their mothers: African American Leanora Sutter, who is 12, and 6-year-old Esther Hirsch, who is Jewish. While it is historical fiction, the story is based on actual historic events, which are woven into the storyline.
by Jessie Haas
Sue is the sturdy daughter who could be counted on, while her sister Clare is the “delicate” one. Due to her delicate nature, Clare will be sent to join their wealthy aunt on an extended vacation, for which Sue and their mother have to sew several new dresses.
As Sue digs around for fabric in the attic, she makes an interesting discovery. Finding an old diary of her father’s, she surreptitiously begins to read it, learning about some of his experiences in the Civil War which he’s never mentioned. The final entry is intriguing and several pages are missing. Sue busies herself seeking the rest of the story and trying to help solve the mystery of the recent barn arsons in Westminster West, Vermont in 1884.
by Lenore Blegvad
In the late 1800s, famed author Rudyard Kipling had a house built in Dummerston, Vermont. He and his American-born wife lived in that home for several years, during which he worked on and completed multiple books, including the beloved story The Jungle Book.
This historical fiction book combines facts from this period of the author’s life with a charming fictional character named Kitty, who is a young girl from a neighboring farm who befriends him. Kitty’s parents reprimand her seemingly insatiable curiosity, but Mr. Kipling encourages it. This illustrated book will introduce kids to Rudyard Kipling and give them a glimpse into life in Vermont near the turn of the 20th century.
by Patricia Gauch
The Green Mountain Boys were a militia group formed in Vermont in 1770 by American Revolutionary War patriot Ethan Allen. This book tells a story based on actual events during the Revolutionary War, when the regiment fought at the battles of Hubbardton and Bennington in 1777.
Nine-year-old Aaron Robinson is relegated to helping his grandfather bake bread for the soldiers as the townspeople of Bennington prepared for British redcoats who were coming to commandeer supplies stored nearby. What Aaron really wants to do was run messages or guard the tavern, but he ends up helping the cause in a way he never anticipated.
by Elizabeth Winthrop
Grace is only 12 years old in 1910, when she has to leave school to go and work as a doffer, replacing the spindles on her mother’s looms at the Mill in North Pownal, Vermont. However, Grace is left-handed and doffing is right-handed work, so she’s slow and makes numerous mistakes. Grace’s errors cause problems for her mother –the fastest and most powerful worker in the mill—and ultimately mean lost income for her family.
Under the concerned guidance of a caring teacher, Grace and her best friend write a letter to the Child Labor Board. The letter prompts famous reformer Lewis Hine to investigate undercover, camera in hand. This story, based on true events, gives readers insight into the lives of children working in the mills before Child Labor Laws were enforced.
Kids in fourth or fifth grade will enjoy reading any of these books, learning more about Vermont’s past in the process.
Do you have a favorite children’s Vermont history book not included in our list? Share the title with us!
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