Family is important and makes us who we are. It’s the people that came before us that helped create our life and our culture as individuals, families, and society. Hodding Carter said, “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children - one is roots, and the other, wings.” By helping our children learn about their ancestors, we’re giving them roots and wings, which is why we’ve gathered these fabulous, fun, and sweet books about family history that will inspire your children to learn more about their own heritage.
Looking for Yesterday - If yesterday was the best day ever, wouldn’t it be great to find a way to repeat it? A whimsical tale about happiness with sure appeal for science-minded kids — and wise grandparents — everywhere. What could beat yesterday’s perfect day at the fair? Maybe nothing, one boy thinks, and he wishes he could go back and do it again. So he puts all his scientific knowledge to work, from stars to time machines to wormholes (is it possible he could find one in his garden?). He thinks that maybe Grandad could help him. But Grandad, in sharing some memories from his own past, reminds him that every new day brings the chance of a new adventure. With quirky illustrations imparting a sense of wonder, Alison Jay takes a fanciful look at being content in the here and now.
Fancy Nancy: My Family History - When Nancy has to write a report on her ancestors for school, she can’t help exaggerating a little—at first. After all, what’s wrong with making her family history sound fancier? But Nancy goes too far and has to deal with truth and consequences! Readers will sympathize with Nancy’s quandary in this engaging Fancy Nancy I Can Read story.
Big Papa and the Time Machine - Discover the true meaning of being brave in this tender and whimsical picture book from Daniel Bernstrom (One Day in the Eucalytus, Eucalyptus Tree) and Shane Evans (Chocolate Me!) that follows a grandfather and grandson who travel through time in a beloved 1952 Ford. A little boy who lives with his grandpa isn’t reprimanded for being afraid to go to school one day. Instead, Big Papa takes him away in his time machine—a 1952 Ford—back to all of the times when he, himself, was scared of something life was handing him. Full of heartfelt moments and thrilling magical realism, Big Papa and the Time Machine speaks to the African American experience in a touching dialogue between two family members from different generations, and emerges as a voice that shares history and asks questions about one family’s experience in 20th-century black America. *“Wasn’t you scared?” “Oh, I was scared,” Big Papa said. “Sometimes you gotta walk with giants if you ever gonna know what you made of. That’s called being brave.”*
When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox - In this delightful story, by the same author who wrote When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree, a boy is disappointed with his grandfather’s gift—until he learns he can use it to build exactly what he wanted with his own two hands, and a little help from grandpa, of course! You asked for a special house for your dolls; but instead Grandpa gives you a toolbox! What do you do? Launching it into outer space is a bad idea. So is feeding it to a T. rex! Instead, be patient, pay attention, and you might find that you’re pretty handy. And just maybe, with grandpa’s help, you’ll get that dollhouse after all. This clever story celebrates kindness, hard work, and community, as well as variety in gender expression: the male main character proudly engages in activities that might be considered typically girl (playing with dolls) and typically boy (building with tools).
Want to see books about grandpa?
Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) - Sara and Susan share tea, cookies, crab cakes, and stories about hats when they visit their favorite relative, Aunt Flossie.
Grandad Mandela - Two great-grandchildren ask their grandmother 15 questions about the man they remember as Grandad, and the world remembers as Nelson Mandela, the global icon of peace and forgiveness who spent 27 years in prison. They learn that he was a freedom fighter who put down his weapons for the sake of peace, and who then became the President of South Africa and a Nobel Peace Prize-winner, and realise that they can continue his legacy in the world today. Seen through a child’s perspective, and authored jointly by his great-grandchildren and daughter, this amazing story is told as never before to celebrate what would have been Nelson’s Mandela 100th birthday.
Going Down Home with Daddy - “On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home.” Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil’ Alan and his parents and sister will join great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil’ Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to family history. All the kids have to decide on what tribute to share, but what will Lil’ Alan do? In this rich and moving celebration of history, culture, and ritual, Kelly Starling Lyons’ eloquent text explores the power of family traditions. Stunning illustrations by Coretta Scott King Honor-winner Daniel Minter reveal the motion and connections in a large, multigenerational family.
Grandma's Purse - Spend the day with a grandma and granddaughter in this charming picture book about the magic found in their favorite accessory, perfect for readers who love How to Babysit a Grandma! When Grandma Mimi comes to visit, she always brings warm hugs, sweet treats…and her purse. You never know what she’ll have in there—fancy jewelry, tokens from around the world, or something special just for her granddaughter. It might look like a normal bag from the outside, but Mimi and her granddaughter know that it’s pure magic! In this adorable, energetic ode to visits from grandma, beloved picture book creator Vanessa Brantley Newton shows how an ordinary day can become extraordinary.
Want to see books about African Americans?
Grandpa Cacao - This beautifully illustrated story connects past and present as a girl bakes a chocolate cake with her father and learns about her grandfather harvesting cacao beans in West Africa. Chocolate is the perfect treat, everywhere! As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In a land where elephants roam and the air is hot and damp, Grandpa Cacao worked in his village to harvest cacao, the most important ingredient in chocolate. “Chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao,” Daddy says. “We can only enjoy chocolate treats thanks to farmers like him.” Once the cake is baked, it’s ready to eat, but this isn’t her only birthday present. There’s a special surprise waiting at the front door . . .
Beyond the Green - “After twelve-year-old Britta’s family fostered Chipeta, a Native American baby, for four years, Chipeta’s birth mother has the right to take her back. In 1979 Utah, Britta can’t imagine life without her beloved little sister, and so she grows determined to do whatever she can to keep her sister and to eventually understand how complicated and important family is—in all its forms”—
Want to see books about family life?
A Crash of Rhinos - Introduces in rhyming text the collective names used for various animal groups.
There Is a Tribe of Kids - If Lane Smith’s Caldecott Honor Book Grandpa Green was an homage to aging and the end of life, There Is a Tribe of Kids is a meditation on childhood and life’s beginning. Smith’s vibrant sponge-paint illustrations and use of unusual collective nouns such as smack and unkindness bring the book to life. Whimsical, expressive, and perfectly paced, this story plays with language as much as it embodies imagination, and was awarded the 2017 Kate Greenaway Medal.
Chrysanthemum - She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name. Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. “I’m named after my grandmother,” said Victoria. “You’re named after a flower.” Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn’t improve. In fact, it got worse. Then the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle. And suddenly, Chrysanthemum blossomed….
Use Your Words, Sophie - Preferring to speak in nonsense languages to tell her parents how she feels, little Sophie is challenged to use her words but prefers to communicate with a baby sister who understands her better. By the award-winning creator of the Max & Ruby series.
The Train - Ashley meets her great-uncle by the old train tracks near their reserve in Nova Scotia. When she sees his sadness, he shares with her the history of those tracks. Uncle tells her that, during his childhood, the train would bring their community supplies, but there came a day when the train took away with it something much more important. One day he and the other children from the reserve were taken aboard and transported to a residential school, where their lives were changed forever. Ashley promises to wait with her uncle as he sits by the tracks, waiting for what was taken from their people to come back to them.
The Vegetable Museum - Thirteen-year-old Chloë left her whole life back in Montreal, including her mom and her best friend. Now she’s stuck in Victoria with her dad and her estranged grandfather, Uli, who recently had a stroke. When Chloë agrees to help Uli look after his garden, she’s determined to find out why he and her dad didn’t speak to each other for years. For decades Uli has collected seeds from people in the community, distinct varieties that have been handed down through generations. The result is a garden full of unusual and endangered produce, from pink broccoli to blue kale to purple potatoes. But Chloë learns that the garden will soon be destroyed to make way for a new apartment complex. And the seed collection is missing! Chloë must somehow find a way to save her grandfather’s legacy
The Thundermaker - The Thundermaker is based on Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy’s spectacular mixed-media exhibit of the same name. In the book, Big Thunder teaches his son, Little Thunder, about the important responsibility he has in making thunder for his people. Little Thunder learns about his Mi’kmaw identity through his father’s teachings and his mother’s traditional stories. Syliboy’s spectacular, vibrant artwork brings the story of Little Thunder to vivid life.
The Great Big Book of Families - This fun and fascinating treasury features all kinds of families and their lives together. Each spread showcases one aspect of home life-from houses and holidays, to schools and pets, to feelings and family trees. Ros Asquith’s humorous illustrations perfectly complement a charming text from the acclaimed Mary Hoffman; kids will love poring over these pages again and again. A celebration of the diverse fabric of kith and kin the world over, The Great Big Book of Families is a great big treat for every family to share.