100 books like Playing with History

By Molly Rosner,

Here are 100 books that Playing with History fans have personally recommended if you like Playing with History. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Brown Girl, Brownstones

Janet Golden Author Of Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America Into the Twentieth Century

From my list on American children and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.

Janet's book list on American children and history

Janet Golden Why did Janet love this book?

This coming-of-age novel set in the Great Depression and World War II Brooklyn has it all: girlhood, poverty, and cultural conflict between Barbadian immigrants and black Americans. The voice of the narrator, a young first-generation immigrant girl, is captivating. Although published in 1959, it is timeless and fresh today, you’ll ask yourself, “why isn’t this story going to became a major motion picture?”.

By Paule Marshall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brown Girl, Brownstones as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"An unforgettable novel, written with pride and anger, with rebellion and tears." — Herald Tribune Book Review"Passionate, compelling . . . an impressive accomplishment." — Saturday Review"Remarkable for its courage, its color, and its natural control." — The New Yorker
Selina's mother wants to stay in Brooklyn and earn enough money to buy a brownstone row house, but her father dreams only of returning to his island home. Torn between a romantic nostalgia for the past and a driving ambition for the future, Selina also faces the everyday burdens of poverty and racism. Written by and about an African-American woman,…


Book cover of Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

Paula S. Fass Author Of The End of American Childhood: A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child

From my list on understanding American parenting.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a social historian, I have helped to direct scholarly attention to the history of family life and helped to create the field of history of children. I'm the editor of a pioneering three-volume encyclopedia on the history of children and the author of six books and editor of three others based on extensive research about children’s experiences in the United States and the Western world. I've also been widely interviewed on the subject. The End of American Childhood brings this research experience and broad expertise in the field to a subject of urgent interest to today’s parents who want to understand how their own views about children and their child-rearing perspectives are grounded historically. 

Paula's book list on understanding American parenting

Paula S. Fass Why did Paula love this book?

Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood is a comprehensive and important history of American children and their varied experiences.

By synthesizing a large literature in engaging prose, Mintz introduces readers to children’s lives across four centuries of the American past, starting in the seventeenth century and reaching into the present. Mintz strives to encompass different racial, class, and gender experiences. 

This is the best book to begin exploring the new field of children’s studies.

By Steven Mintz,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Huck's Raft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Like Huck's raft, the experience of American childhood has been both adventurous and terrifying. For more than three centuries, adults have agonized over raising children while children have followed their own paths to development and expression. Now, Steven Mintz gives us the first comprehensive history of American childhood encompassing both the child's and the adult's tumultuous early years of life.

Underscoring diversity through time and across regions, Mintz traces the transformation of children from the sinful creatures perceived by Puritans to the productive workers of nineteenth-century farms and factories, from the cosseted cherubs of the Victorian era to the confident…


Book cover of Teenagers: An American History

Janet Golden Author Of Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America Into the Twentieth Century

From my list on American children and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.

Janet's book list on American children and history

Janet Golden Why did Janet love this book?

This is a book about my life—growing up in the middle of the twentieth century. Bobby Soxers, juvenile delinquents, popular music, MTV, Freedom Riders, Anti-War protestors…it’s all here, along with much more. It isn’t about the good old days; this book takes us to the heart of the culture created decades ago and still influencing us today. We knew teenage life was complex and this book reveals just why that is the case. You’ll wish it came with a playlist.

By Grace Palladino,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nobody worried about teenagers" prior to the 1940s. In fact, as a culturally or economically defined entity they did not exist. But in the 50 years since the last world war, when the term was first coined, teenagers have had an enormous impact on American culture. They have reshaped our language, our music, our clothes. They have changed forever the way we respond to authority. They have become a 200 billion consumer group avidly courted by marketers. And they have changed our culture, which will never again treat their demographic group merely as young adults. Teenagers ranges widely across American…


Book cover of Children and Drug Safety: Balancing Risk and Protection in Twentieth-Century America

Janet Golden Author Of Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America Into the Twentieth Century

From my list on American children and history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.

Janet's book list on American children and history

Janet Golden Why did Janet love this book?

The Covid-19 pandemic makes this book a must-read as the author, reminds us that so many medications prescribed for children have not received all the tests for safety necessary to protect them. Yes, we got the heroin out of teething syrups, and our bottles now have child safety caps. Fun fact: the author you will learn, was as they put it at the time, an aspirin poisoned child thanks to those good-tasting baby aspirin. Shocking reality: pediatric drug research and regulation often follows disasters rather than preventing them. That’s why we, fortunately, have to wait for full testing before those covid vaccines get into the arms of the young. This book is an eye-opener.

By Cynthia Connolly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Children and Drug Safety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Children and Drug Safety traces the development, use, and marketing of drugs for children in the twentieth century, a history that sits at the interface of the state, business, health care providers, parents, and children. This book illuminates the historical dimension of a clinical and policy issue with great contemporary significance-many of the drugs administered to children today have never been tested for safety and efficacy in the pediatric population.

Each chapter of Children and Drug Safety engages with major turning points in pediatric drug development; themes of children's risk, rights, protection and the evolving context of childhood; child-rearing; and…


Book cover of Me... Jane

Brenda Z. Guiberson Author Of Into the Sea

From my list on that spark a lifetime of investigation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an award-winning, best-selling children’s author who writes about unexpected “wow” moments that stick with me. I look for books and articIes that take me on a deep journey into unknown environments. I aim for nonfiction that reads like a story with an emotional connection to new creatures with fascinating lifestyles. As a writer of dozens of books for children, I always learn much more that can go into each effort. Each book comes into a hazy focus after tons of research. The best “wow” details get woven into an incredible story full of surprise, joy, and admiration for those struggling to survive on our changing plant.  

Brenda's book list on that spark a lifetime of investigation

Brenda Z. Guiberson Why did Brenda love this book?

This book is about Jane Goodall, famous chimp researcher and United Nations Messenger of Peace. As a child, she shared her backyard “magical world of nature” with her stuffed chimp named Jubilee. The book Tarzan of the Apes expanded her passion into dreams of going to Africa to study animals. “Wow!” She did it, and her stick-to-it observations led to the discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools. As she protects wildlife she also helps people in wild places to get better food, water, and education. Her concerns for all creatures have inspired children around the world to take some action toward a better planet.  

By Patrick McDonnell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Me... Jane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his characteristic heartwarming and minimalistic style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of 'a life living with and helping all animals,' until one day she finds that her dream has come true.

One of the world's most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to…


Book cover of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Susan M Soesbe Author Of Bringing Mom Home: How Two Sisters Moved Their Mother Out of Assisted Living to Care For Her Under One Amazingly Large Roof

From my list on portraying death and loss honestly and hopefully.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lost my marriage. I lost my dad to cancer, and my mom to Alzheimer’s Disease (and wrote a memoir about it). Along the way, I lost my sense of superiority and entitlement. I gained the ability to laugh at myself and trust God for everything. I found that I was not as important as I had tacitly assumed. I’ve learned Jesus’s words are true: “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” When I see this depicted well in a book, I think, “Thank God for writers who will tell me the truth.” Today, I’m a fiction book coach with a goal of helping writers tell the whole awful, glorious truth.

Susan's book list on portraying death and loss honestly and hopefully

Susan M Soesbe Why did Susan love this book?

Edward Tulane is a vain, selfish, coldhearted toy rabbit. And, except for the toy rabbit part, I am Edward Tulane. That’s why I needed this book.

Whilst the family is on the Queen Mary, Edward is cast overboard, like Jonah. Outside the bosom of his family, Edward is largely unloved and disrespected. Through many trials and tribulations, he is reunited with his family. It’s classic Odyssey territory, except that Edward’s trials broaden his perspective and enable him to appreciate – and, yes, love – those who love him.

Edward may be merely a toy rabbit, but he stands in for all of us who need to die in order to live.

By Kate DiCamillo, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Incredible Journey meets The Mouse and His Child, an enchanting tale that begs to be read aloud.

The magical story of the adventures of a lost toy rabbit from a New York Times bestselling author, twice winner of the Newbery Medal. Abilene loves her blue china rabbit, but Edward Tulane is extremely vain and only loves himself. On a voyage from New York to London, Edward falls overboard and from there finds himself on an amazing journey. He travels with tramps, works as a scarecrow, comforts a dying child ... and finally learns what it is to truly love.


Book cover of The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh

Aviva Gittle Author Of Kitten & Butterfly

From my list on kid’s picture books about unusual friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am pathologically allergic to “message” books. As the former host of The Gittle List contest for self-published authors, I’ve read hundreds of children’s books. Many were “tell, not show” books. Stories with phrases like “we all should respect each other’s differences” rather than showing characters respecting each other’s differences. My recommended books are, at least in part, about diversity. Like my own book series, they demonstrate diversity through unusual friendships. Showing how characters work out their differences by learning about each other and finding ways to get along. A good story can change hearts and minds when characters carry the message–not beat readers over the head with it.

Aviva's book list on kid’s picture books about unusual friendships

Aviva Gittle Why did Aviva love this book?

I love books that show children (and adults) how to get along with others who look and live differently from them.

The relationships in the Pooh stories go well beyond a bear and a boy. The other characters are more than just different animals—each has a unique personality. There are many Pooh picture books to choose from, but I like the classic version.

I was thinking of Winnie-The-Pooh when I wrote my series. Not the specific stories or characters but the tone of the stories and the feelings they evoke. As a child, the Pooh stories fostered curiosity, calmness, and kindness. Read any Pooh story and see if you, too, feel the zen.

By A. A. Milne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

This exquisite, deluxe edition contains the complete illustrated texts of both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. In full-color and featuring a satin ribbon marker, it is the perfect gift and a cornerstone of every family's bookshelf.

Since 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends-Piglet, Owl, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, and the ever doleful Eeyore-have endured as the unforgettable creations of A. A. Milne, who wrote two books of Pooh's adventures for his son, Christopher Robin, and Ernest H. Shepard, who lovingly gave them shape through his iconic and beautiful illustrations.

These characters and their stories are timeless treasures of childhood that…


Book cover of Found

Carmen Oliver Author Of Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

From my list on picture books about bears, buddies, and writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I once spotted a mama black bear and her cubs on a camping trip in Manitoba, Canada. I kept a safe distance watching in awe as the cubs climbed trees. I’ve been fascinated with bears ever since. Most of the books I publish center around strong themes of family, friendship, making a difference in the world, and many have a bear as a secondary character. I think there’s always room for more bear stories in the world, don’t you?

Carmen's book list on picture books about bears, buddies, and writing

Carmen Oliver Why did Carmen love this book?

It’s a tender story about the length a friend will go to make sure that their new found friend is taken care of and loved. It’s a book that celebrates love and friendship and it’s one of those books you’ll return to and want to read again and again. It’s a perfect storytime or bedtime book!

By Salina Yoon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Found as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

An NPR Best Book * Winner of the SCIBA Book Award for Best Picture Book

Geisel Honor-winning author/illustrator Salina Yoon introduces adorable duo Bear and his bunny Floppy in Found--a charming picture book that celebrates love and friendship in its many forms.

When Bear finds a lost stuffed toy bunny in the forest, he begins to worry. After all, the stuffed bunny must feel lonely and want to return safely to its owner and home! But as Bear diligently searches for the bunny's owner, he grows attached to his newfound friend. What will happen when the bunny's owner finally comes…


Book cover of When Water Makes Mud: A Story of Refugee Children

Ellen Leventhal Author Of A Flood of Kindness

From my list on the healing power of kindness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a teacher, writer, mother, and grandmother who sees the debilitating effects of meanness and the healing effects of kindness daily. In case that isn’t reason enough for writing A Flood of Kindness, I’m also what some call “A Floodie.” Like my character’s home flooded, so did mine. As devastating as it was, the kindness of others was overwhelming. I spent time with children whose homes also flooded. Aside from losing material things, it is easy to feel powerless. Like myself, I found that the children began their healing when they were able to give back, even in very small ways. I knew this had to be my book. 

Ellen's book list on the healing power of kindness

Ellen Leventhal Why did Ellen love this book?

Janie Reinart’s lyrical telling of this story, coupled with Morgan Taylor’s beautiful illustrations, takes the reader on a ride filled with love and emotion. It’s about refugee children who have, as the author says, “nothing but dreams.” Big Sister wants Little Sister to be happy, so she decides she can create something from nothing. She makes amazing things, but they don’t last. However, when Big Sister makes a mud doll, the two sisters play together, create other mud dolls, and continue to dreamWhat affected me the most as I read this is that this book is based on a real refugee camp, and proceeds are donated to UNICEF where our collective kindness can have the power to heal. 

By Janie Reinart, Morgan Taylor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Water Makes Mud as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

When war forces two sisters to flee their home in South Sudan with nothing but the clothes they are wearing, Big Sister strives to help Little Sister smile again at the refugee settlement. But as quickly as Little Sister's smile appears, it disappears: that is until water makes mud. In the end, Big Sister's artistry and kindness brings hope to their situation.

This title is a tribute to the resourcefulness of children who have no toys, but continue to play and is dedicated to the 200,000 refugee children living at the Bidibidi settlement in Uganda.


Book cover of The Little Engine That Could

Ari Gunzburg Author Of Someday Soon

From my list on to inspire hope.

Why am I passionate about this?

I continue to find hope as a constant theme in my talks and my various media appearances. Hope is so integral to being able to fight for another day. When we can plant the seed of hope and perseverance in kids from a young age, by giving the gift of books that show them the true meaning of hope and aspirations, we give them a gift that carries them well through life.

Ari's book list on to inspire hope

Ari Gunzburg Why did Ari love this book?

This book was originally published in 1930 and also goes back a long way in my own life as well. I have fond memories of my father reading this story to me when I was young, acting out all the parts of the story, using different voices, and more. Despite being little and unassuming, the Little Blue Engine uses hope and belief to get over the mountain. Without belief in ourselves we often can’t even begin to try, but the Little Blue Engine chose to trust in himself and it paid off - big time. We can all use a little more belief in our own abilities to create massive change in our lives.

By Watty Piper,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Little Engine That Could as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic story in a board book format

One of the true classics in children's books is now available in a sturdy board book edition perfect for little hands! The story has been slightly abridged and features the famous illustrations from the original Hauman edition. Now toddlers can cheer on the little blue engine and that "can-do" attitude that keeps her chugging along!


5 book lists we think you will like!

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