Family History: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about family history?

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.

Always Neverland book
#1
Always Neverland
Written by Zoe Barton
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This modern-day take on the story of Peter Pan will have readers interested from the get-go, and I love the emphasis from the “new Wendy” that women can do hard things. This sequel to Peter Pan will tell you what’s happened since the first “Wendy girl” went to Neverland. With a lot of pixie dust, adventure, and fun, you’ll be sure to love the time you spend with Peter, Ashley, and all the lost boys while reading this book! I loved that Ashley surprised the lost boys by doing a lot more than just making food for the boys—she’s a strong female character that uses her knowledge to problem solve and help Peter Pan and all his boys!

Move over, Wendy Darling. There’s a new girl in Neverland! Swimming with mermaids, fighting off pirates, and befriending Tiger Lily is all Ashley can think about when she finds Peter Pan in her room one night. With a pinch of fairy dust and a few happy thoughts, she follows him all the way to Neverland. But Ashley’s plans for adventure are thwarted when Peter and the Lost Boys expect her to be the new “Wendy girl” and help with the spring cleaning. Spring cleaning? This is not what Ashley has in mind! Will Ashley win them over?

The Frank Show book
#2
The Frank Show
Written and illustrated by David Mackintosh
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This is one of my favorite grandparent books! It tells the story of a little boy who has to talk about his grandfather for one full minute during a show-and-tell and is increasingly nervous and embarrassed about it because he believes his grandfather isn’t nearly as interesting as any other family member. When his grandfather saves the day for him, we all learn a little something about how amazing his grandpa is, and might just be inspired to learn a little more about our own grandparents! The illustrations are marvelously expressive and add a lot to the story too!

This hilarious, offbeat picture book from the creator of Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School reveals that there is more to the older generation than meets the eye. Grandpa Frank doesn’t have any interesting hobbies, unless you count complaining about how everything was better in the old days. He doesn’t speak Italian like Paolo’s mom, or play the drums like Tom’s uncle. He’s just a grandpa. So when the young narrator of this story is forced to bring Frank to school for show-and-tell, he’s sure it’s going to be a disaster. But Frank has a trick—make that a tattoo—up his sleeve! And a story to go with it. After all, the longer you’ve been around, the more time you’ve had for wild adventures.

The Matchbox Diary book
#3
The Matchbox Diary
Written by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Follows a girl’s perusal of her great-grandfather’s collection of matchboxes and small curios that document his poignant immigration journey from Italy to a new country.

Half Upon a Time book
#4
Half Upon a Time
Written by James Riley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I love that Half Upon a time is a more modern, beautiful tangle of all of the fairy tale stories we know—or thought we knew. With a few fun twists, you won’t want to put the book down! Jack and May are on the run from the Hunstman and have so many adventures along the way. I didn’t want to put this book down. :)

In the village of Giant’s Hand Jack’s grandfather has been pushing him to find a princess and get married, so when a young lady falls out of the sky wearing a shirt that says “Punk Princess,” and she tells Jack that her grandmother, who looks suspiciously like the long-missing Snow White, has been kidnapped, Jack decides to help her.

Mama Seeton's Whistle book
#5
Mama Seeton's Whistle
Written by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This is the sweetest book about a mother’s love for her children! I love the sweet text and that the tradition of whistling was passed down to her children. The illustrations are lovely, too!

Without even thinking about it,Mama Seeton puckered her lips and whistled.It was not a loud whistle.Or a fancy whistle. Just a simple two-note whistle. When Mama Seeton whistles, her children run home for chocolate cake, hugs, kisses, and shared memories. But as time passes, they travel farther and farther away from the familiar sound. Can mama’s whistle be heard all over the world, and bring her children home one more time? Newbery Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli’s sweet lyrical text and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations show the timeless love between a mother and her children.

  1. Auntie Claus (Deluxe Edition) - A deluxe gift edition of the modern Christmas classic, featuring an access code to a printable Christmas party kit, plus downloadable audio read by Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn! Auntie Claus is just another eccentric New Yorker—or is she? Young Sophie has often wondered about her unusual great-aunt, Auntie Claus. She lives in penthouse 25C at the Bing Cherry Hotel and is so curioso! After all, Auntie Claus serves Christmas cookies all year long and her tree is always the best-decorated in the city. And then there’s her annual “business trip,” right around the holidays. This year Sophie is determined to get to the bottom of Auntie Claus’s mysterious ways. Put on your mittens and bundle up for an adventure beyond your wildest dreams. Ho, ho, ho!

  2. Alma and How She Got Her Name - Mr. Staccato - What’s in a name? This book is all about a girl who thinks her name is too long until she learns the special meaning behind each part. It’s a cute story about family and the importance of a name.

  3. A Wolf's Tale - B is for Bookworm - This darling spin-off of the three little pigs story is so fun and has a wonderful ending. Grandpa wolf tells everyone about his story, and I love the theme that being good, not bad, let’s you live happily every after with your family. :) The illustrations in this book are gorgeous—I love the unique style that fits so perfectly with the story!

  4. Día de los Muertos - At the end of October each year, it’s time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Dia de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe–winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Dia de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed. From sugar skulls to papel picado, this is a holiday that truly commemorates the cycle of life.

Andi Unexpected book
#10
Andi Unexpected
Written by Amanda Flower
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This story shows how grief is manifested in different ways, but how the two sisters and their guardian bonded together and strengthened one another in their difficult times. I also loved that the mystery was about Andi’s family history and linked to the great depression, both of which are great topics for readers to learn about. I loved following along in their sleuthing and detective efforts to figure out the answer to their mystery. :)

The first in a new middle-grade mystery series, in Andi Unexpected, twelve-year-old Andi Boggs, discovers evidence of her forgotten namesake, a missing relative, which leads her into a family mystery rooted in the Great Depression.

The Granddaughter Necklace book
#11
The Granddaughter Necklace
Written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A mother shares with her daughter stories of the generations of women in their family as each individual has passed along the tales and a glittering necklace to her own daughter. Includes notes on the author’s exploration of her ancestry.

The Great Henry Hopendower book
#12
The Great Henry Hopendower
Written by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Deborah Hocking
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

For fans of Grandpa Green, a young boy remembers his much-loved grandpa in this touching story about family, memory and everyday magic.

Henry wakes up one bright morning ready to take on the day and find magic! After all, he is the Great Henry Hopendower—an aspiring young magician who learned everything he knows from the very best, his grandpa. Henry has so many favorite memories of his grandfather, including his house with its wobbly cuckoo clock and his famous leaning tower of pancakes that tipped but never toppled. And then there was the day his grandpa gave him a red checkered suit and shared the secret to being a magician: magic is everywhere, you just have to see it. So with Grandpa’s words as his guide, Henry sets off to do the truly impossible.

This heartwarming story is a celebration of the magic that surrounds us all and the people we love most.

Looking for Yesterday book
#13
Looking for Yesterday
Written and illustrated by Alison Jay
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

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.

Islandborn book
#14
Islandborn
Written by Junot Diaz and illustrated by Leo Espinosa
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

The illustrations in this book are phenomenal, filled with gorgeous colors! When a girl needs to remember her home country for a school assignment, she ends up asking those in her neighborhood for help because she moved when she was little and doesn’t remember her birth place. She learns a lot about the history of her family and her people. The book references a monster that threatened the island and people for many years, until boys and girls stood up to fight it—a great concept for those who know the reference of a past dictator in the Dominican Republic.

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places. So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.” Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves

  1. 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.

  2. The Length of a String - Imani is adopted, and she’s ready to search for her birth parents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way. Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.

  3. This Is the Rope - Lemony Snickers - This is a unique story about one woman’s family. Author Jacqueline Woodson, a Newbery Honor-winning author uses a commonplace object—a rope—to tell symbolically of one family’s migration from the South to New York City, where they built a successful life. The rope features in small, ordinary moments while the family’s story moves quickly through the years. It’s used to tie down objects when moving, hang clothes to dry, and skip rope with new friends, among other things. This book feels like reading a small biography of another person’s family.

  4. 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.

Homeplace book
#19
Homeplace
Written by Anne Shelby and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A grandmother and grandchild trace their family history.

Grandad Mandela book
#20
Grandad Mandela
Written and illustrated by Zazi Mandela, Ziwelene Mandela, and Zindzi Mandela
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

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.

From Mother to Mother book
#21
From Mother to Mother
Written and illustrated by Émilie Vast
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

“Looking back at Baby’s ancestors, Mother describes how long, long, long, long ago, her mother’s mother’s mother’s mother gave birth to her mother’s mother’s mother. And so it goes, describing Baby’s lineage through to present day. Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) illustrated on each spread get smaller with each page turn, and each is a different color decorated with animals, flowers, and other nature-based items”—

From Father to Father book
#22
From Father to Father
Written and illustrated by Émilie Vast
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

“Looking back at Baby’s ancestors, Father describes how long, long, long, long ago, his father’s father’s father’s father welcomed to the family his father’s father’s father. And so it goes, describing Baby’s lineage through to present day. Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) illustrated on each spread get smaller with each page turn, and each is a different color decorated with animals, flowers, and other nature-based items”—

Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question book
#23
Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question
Written and illustrated by Martha Freeman
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

“City girl Effie Starr Zook is not excited about spending the summer on her aunt and uncle’s farm in Nowheresville, Pennsylvania, until she stumbles across a mystery that leads her smack into an old family feud”—

  1. Grandfather's Journey - Lyrical, breathtaking, splendid—words used to describe Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey when it was first published. At once deeply personal yet expressing universally held emotions, this tale of one man’s love for two countries and his constant desire to be in both places captured readers’ attention and hearts. Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal, it remains as historically relevant and emotionally engaging as ever.

  2. The Broken Ornament - When a beloved ornament breaks, will it ruin the holidays or save them? New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi offers a brand-new Christmas story that is sure to be a holiday classic. Jack wants this to be the best Christmas ever, and he knows just how to make it happen… More! More lights, more presents, more cookies, more treats. More. More. More! So, when Jack breaks a dusty old ornament, he’s not sure why his mom is so upset. They can always get more ornaments, so what’s the big deal? Turns out the ornament was an heirloom, precious for more reasons than one. And Jack has a lot to learn about the true meaning Christmas. A fairy emerges from the shattered ornament. She has the power to make the most magical Christmasy things happen. Suddenly trees are sprouting, reindeer are flying, and snowmen are snowball fighting. All of it is so perfect, or it would be if she could fix Mom’s ornament. But she can’t. So it’s up to Jack to make some Christmas magic of his own.

  3. Quit Calling Me a Monster! - A young monster resents being called a monster.

  4. Song and Dance Man - Illus. in full color. “In this affectionate story, three children follow their grandfather up to the attic, where he pulls out his old bowler hat, gold-tipped cane, and his tap shoes. Grandpa once danced on the vaudeville stage, and as he glides across the floor, the children can see what it was like to be a song and dance man. Gammell captures all the story’s inherent joie de vivre with color pencil renderings that leap off the pages. Bespectacled, enthusiastic Grandpa clearly exudes the message that you’re only as old as you feel, but the children respond—as will readers—to the nostalgia of the moment. Utterly original.”—(starred) Booklist.

Grandma's Purse book
#28
Grandma's Purse
Written and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

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.

I Love You, Fred book
#29
I Love You, Fred
Written by Mick Inkpen and illustrated by Chloe Inkpen
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

From the father-daughter team behind I Will Love You Anyway comes another heartwarming tale about a sweatband-wearing pug.

Fetch! and Sit! and Stay! and Ball! and Walk! and Bed! I know those words… …but what is Fred?

Little ones will laugh out loud as you read Mick and Chloë Inkpen’s delightful second story all about a troublesome little dog who finally discovers his own name.

Some Places More Than Others book
#30
Some Places More Than Others
Written and illustrated by Renee Watson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father’s family in New York City—Harlem, to be exact. She can’t wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family—and herself—in new way.

But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It’s crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family.

Nowhere Boy book
#31
Nowhere Boy
Written by Katherine Marsh
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A timely, poignant tale of family, sacrifice and the friendship between a young Syrian refugee and an American boy living in Brussels.

Hope (Picture Books) book
#32
Hope (Picture Books)
Written by Isabell Monk and illustrated by Janice Lee Porter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

During a visit with her great-aunt, a young girl learns the story behind her name and learns to feel proud of her biracial heritage

  1. 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 . . .

  2. Just Right Family - Meili, who is six years old and adopted from China, learns that her parents are going to adopt a baby from Haiti. She’s not happy. Why do they need a new baby? Their family is just right as it is. As Meili learns more about her new sibling and the importance of being a big sister, will she realize that a new addition can be just right for their family too?

  3. Grandpa's Stories - One young girl reflects on a year with her beloved grandpa. She remembers the fields and parks they explored in the springtime and the old toys they fixed up in the summer. She remembers the handmade gifts they exchanged in the fall and the stories Grandpa told by the fi re each winter. But this year, the girl must say good-bye to Grandpa. In the face of her grief, she is determined to find a way to honor him. She decides to record her Grandpa stories in the notebook he made for her and carry Grandpa with her as she grows. An honest and relatable depiction of loss, Grandpa’s Stories celebrates life and the ways in which love lives on.

  4. 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 book
#37
The Thundermaker
Written by Alan Syliboy and illustrated by Lindsay R Marshall
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

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 Promise book
#38
The Promise
Written by Margie Wolfe and Pnina Bat Zvi and illustrated by Isabelle Cardinal
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

The night that Rachel and Toby’s parents are taken away by the Nazis, they give their daughters three gold coins. “Use these wisely to help save your lives,” they tell them. They also ask the girls to promise that they will always stay together. This compelling true story follows the girls as they confront the daily horrors of Auschwitz, protecting one another, sharing memories, fears and even laughter. Always together. But when Rachel becomes ill and is taken away by Nazi guards, likely forever, Toby risks her life to use the wellhidden gold coins to rescue her little sister.

Krista Kim-Bap book
#39
Krista Kim-Bap
Written and illustrated by Angela Ahn
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-13

Krista and Jason have been best friends since preschool. It never mattered that he was a boy with reddish brown hair and she was “the Korean girl” at school. Now in fifth grade, everyone in their class is preparing their Heritage Month projects. Jason has always loved Krista’s Korean family, and particularly her mom’s cooking, but Krista is conflicted about being her school’s “Korean Ambassador.” She’s also worried about asking her intimidating grandma to teach the class how to cook their traditional kim-bap. Combine that with her new friends pulling her away from Jason, and Krista has a lot to deal with this year!

The Great Big Book of Families book
#40
The Great Big Book of Families
Written by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Ros Asquith
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

Me and My Family Tree book
#41
Me and My Family Tree
Written by Joan Sweeney and illustrated by Emma Trithart
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Who is part of your family? How are they related to you?

In this edition of Me and My Family Tree, with new art by Emma Trithart, a young girl uses simple language, her own childlike drawings, and diagrams to explain how the members of her family are related to each other and to her. Clear, colorful, detailed artwork and a fill-in family tree in the back help make the parts of the family—from siblings to grandparents to cousins—understandable to very young readers.

  1. 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”—

  2. The Steves - When puffin Steve meets puffin Steve, neither can believe it. Surely one of them must be the first Steve, the best Steve, the Stevest of Steves… The claims of each bird become sillier and sillier as the argument descends into name-calling—until both Steves realize there’s really no need to fight over a name.

Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did we miss one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!