The best children’s books that introduce history and culture

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a complete history nerd since childhood—since I opened a Christmas present to reveal one of the books I recommend here, People in History. Since then I’ve written 21 children’s books, and published more by other authors as the founder of Goosebottom Books. All these books touch on some aspect of history or culture in one way or the other. There’s always an emphasis or insight into custom, time, or place. Even the adult novels I’m currently working on are historical fiction. I’m still completely enthralled by the many worlds of the past. I even listen to history podcasts when I’m doing the dishes!


I wrote...

Eat Your Peas, Julius! Even Caesar Must Clean His Plate

By Shirin Yim Bridges, Fiona Lee (illustrator),

Book cover of Eat Your Peas, Julius! Even Caesar Must Clean His Plate

What is my book about?

In a rhyming romp through dinner, the future leader of the Roman Republic learns to eat a balanced meal and finish everything on his plate.

It’s time for little Julius, who will grow up to become the most powerful person in ancient Rome, to put on his toga, attend the dinner banquet, and eat his oysters, boiled camel’s feet, baked dormouse, and peas! It’s tough finishing everything on your plate—for kids and future caesars, alike.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of People in History

Shirin Yim Bridges Why did I love this book?

This was the book that started my lifelong interest in history, and that led to my present career as an author of historical fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. I received it as a Christmas present when I was ten or eleven, and I can still remember poring over the varied characters this book presented—albeit all British—and being transported in both time and place away from my bunk bed. This book ignited not only a love for history by showing me that history was made up of human stories, not just dates and battles; it also ignited a love for reading and writing because of the warmth, cadence, and accessibility of its prose.

By R.J. Unstead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked People in History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People in History - From Caractacus to Alexander Fleming ( Books. 1-4 in 1 volume ) Unstead, R.J.


Book cover of Tales of Ancient Greece

Shirin Yim Bridges Why did I love this book?

Closely related to my love for history is my love of mythology—the boundary between the two is porous. This book started that love. There have been many books published that present the Greek myths to children, and this book is not considered one of the classics, but because it was my favorite book when I was six, I have never found another version better. I love the illustrations and how stylized they are. They capture the myths’ mystique, yet you can always see the human. I was clutching this book in the back seat of my family’s car when my mom announced that we would be getting a baby brother. As I was reading about Jason and the Golden Fleece, I suggested Jason as a name. It stuck!

Book cover of The Rock Maiden: A Chinese Tale of Love and Loyalty

Shirin Yim Bridges Why did I love this book?

This book presents mythology from my own Chinese culture—specifically, a legend from Hong Kong, where I lived from the age of seven to sixteen. We used to go on drives into the countryside on the weekends—Hong Kong still had some semblance of countryside then—and we’d often see the Amah Rock looming above us in the distance. This book tells the sad and poignant legend behind that rock. I love how it takes a tale specific to one geographical spot—one small pile of stones—and turns it into a universal story about love and loyalty. What also makes it special is that the author used to be beside me in the backseat of the car. Natasha Yim, a very well-respected children’s author, is my sister.

By Natasha Yim, Pirkko Vainio (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rock Maiden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When her fisherman husband fails to come home after a storm at sea, the beautiful maiden Ling Yee is heartbroken. Every morning, she puts her baby on her back and clambers to the top of a cliff looking for any signs of his return. But day after day, she is disappointed. The villagers try to convince her to give up her vigil. No," she would say, He will come home soon." Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Heavens, takes pity on her grief and turns Ling Yee and her child into stone so that they would mourn no more. The…


Book cover of Mary Tudor "Bloody Mary"

Shirin Yim Bridges Why did I love this book?

Back to pure history! At one point, I was the founder and publisher—the Head Goose—of Goosebottom Books. Of all the books we published, this title is my favorite. Gretchen Maurer, the author, did a great job of presenting a very complex and nuanced story in a way that makes it human and understandable to young readers, without side-stepping the facts. The book design and illustration are remarkable and evoke the rich Tudor aesthetic. But what I love most about this book is that it presents the antihero to my childhood hero, Elizabeth I of England, and raises the question: just how fair was history? One of these two sisters became known as Bloody Mary, the other as Good Queen Bess. Did they fully deserve those reputations?

By Gretchen Maurer, Peter Malone (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Tudor "Bloody Mary" as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The first reigning Queen of England, Mary Tudor believed fervently that Catholicism should be the religion of the land, leading her to burn at the stake hundreds of Protestants. Was she just a ruler of her times, or did she deserve the name, Bloody Mary? Gorgeous illustrations and an intelligent, evocative story bring to life a real dastardly dame who, fueled by her faith, created a religious firestorm.


Book cover of Girl on a Motorcycle

Shirin Yim Bridges Why did I love this book?

History is not only about famous people and kings and queens; it’s about all people, and how all lives were lived. This book presents one of the many remarkable people who live unremarked amongst us. It’s about the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world, alone. That anybody can undertake such an adventure is something all children should know. That a woman did it deserves to be emphasized. But what I love best is how this story is told. The writing is lyrical, dreamy, and captures for me the magic carpet ride of travel. And I love how it’s interspersed with practical tips in high contrast—about how to change a tire, how to drink tea in India. The illustrations enhance the vibe. This book is a fabulous ride. 

By Amy Novesky, Julie Morstad (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Girl on a Motorcycle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

A picture book biography by an award-winning team about the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world

One day, a girl gets on her motorcycle and rides away. She wants to wander the world. To go . . . Elsewhere. This is the true story of the first woman to ride a motorcycle around the world alone. Each place has something to teach her. Each place is beautiful. And despite many flat tires and falls, she learns to always get back up and keep riding.

Award-winning author Amy Novesky and Governor General's Award-winning illustrator Julie Morstad have teamed…


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Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Conditions are Different After Dark

Owen W. Knight Author Of The Visitors

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)

Owen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 1662, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. Awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.

Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They discover their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected? They fear their choice of new home is no coincidence. Unexplained events hint at threats or warnings to leave. They become convinced the village remains cursed despite their friends’ denials. Who can they trust, and who are potential enemies?

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

What is this book about?

In 1660, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. While awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.
Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They learn that their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected?
Faith and James fear that their choice of a new home is…


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