Best Kids Books About Family history

Our Favorite 15 Books About Family History

Updated Mar. 26, 2019

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.

Mama Seeton's Whistle book
#1
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.

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.

Auntie Claus Deluxe Edition book
#3
Auntie Claus Deluxe Edition
Written and illustrated by Elise Primavera
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

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!

Alma and How She Got Her Name book
#4
Alma and How She Got Her Name
Written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from Mr. Stacatto

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.

What's in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from -- and who she may one day be. If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; Jose, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all -- and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Islandborn book
#5
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

Fancy Nancy: My Family History book
#6
Fancy Nancy: My Family History
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

This Is the Rope book
#7
This Is the Rope
Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by James Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from 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.

A rope passed down through the generations frames an African-American family's story as they journey north to New York City from the rural south during the time of the Great Migration. Full color.

Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) book
#8
Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)
Written by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Sara and Susan share tea, cookies, crab cakes, and stories about hats when they visit their favorite relative, Aunt Flossie.

Song and Dance Man book
#9
Song and Dance Man
Written by Karen Ackerman and illustrated by Stephen Gammell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

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.

Homeplace book
#10
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
#11
Grandad Mandela
Written and illustrated by Zazi Mandela, Ziwelene Mandela, 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.

The Matchbox Diary book
#12
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.

The Granddaughter Necklace book
#13
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.

Looking for Yesterday book
#14
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.

The Great Henry Hopendower book
#15
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.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.