exploring philadelphia history through children’s books


With the abundance of history that envelopes our city, from emancipation to revolution and beyond, it’s no surprise that many wonderful children’s books offer a Philadelphia backdrop.  Some are true stories, others are historical fiction, but all of the following tales have captured the hearts of my own children and helped us to be more curious about the history of our city:


P is for Philadelphia by Susan Korman


This wonderful picture book was illustrated by District of Philadelphia middle school students and written by a former graduate student of mine!  Each letter provides background information about our city’s rich history, people, customs and celebrations.  From cheesesteaks to the Mummers, you won’t be disappointed!  Age 5 and up.


The Addy Series by Connie Porter


Say what you will about the American Girl company, but hese books were a great way for my daughter to begin to make sense of some very challenging history.  This five book series chronicles Addy’s journey from escaping slavery to establishing a new life in Philadelphia. Illustrated, short chapter books, age 8 and up.


Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine


Unlike Addy’s historically fictional tale, Henrys story is real.  But it’s also much tougher to believe- because Henry is the freedom seeker who famously mailed himself to freedom.  Heartbroken after being torn away from his family, Henry takes drastic action to start over.  Gorgeous illustrations by the award winning Kadir Nelson.  Picture book, age preschool and up.


The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trinka Hankes Noble


Also based on a true story, this tale of the Revolutionary War in Philadelphia introduces readers to a brave young woman who helps warn the troops about incoming British ships.  The book treats the subject of war seriously, without being graphic.  Picture book, age 6 and up.


Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson


Shortly after the Revolutionary War, sixteen year old Mattie Cook’s big dream is to grow her family’s business, but that dream soon gets turned upside down when Yellow Fever hits home in Philadelphia.  The city is ravaged by the disease, and Mattie’s struggles to find a way to survive and thrive.  Chapter book, age 10 and up.


If you have a favorite children’s book that taps into Philadelphia’s rich history, please share it with us below!

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