100 Living Books for a Classically-Based History Cycle...And Free Graphic Organizers for Reading

When I first began homeschooling, I had never heard of a "living book." I jumped into homeschooling using a textbook/workbook based curriculum that I had been using in the private, Christian school where I taught before having children. That was all I knew to do. We were "doing school" after all, so we needed school books.

Of course I read to my children outside of "regular schoolwork." I read and read and read. I've always been a reader, and I've always valued reading aloud. Even in my classroom teaching days, I had times to read great books aloud to my kids. In my classroom and then for my own children I chose good, quality books to read aloud. I read classics written by authors I had enjoyed as a child.

But I never knew that we could read these awesome books for our "school time." I thought we'd bear down, read our dry and dusty textbooks the best we could and get through so we could actually have time to read something enjoyable. And then, as a young homeschooling mama, I heard about this concept of using "living books" to teach school subjects.

Living history books for a Classical history cycle
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As I learned more and more about homeschooling methods and resources, I veered away from the structured curriculum I was using and became an eclectic homeschooler that used many Charlotte Mason and Classical homeschooling methods and ideas. And I found the joy of learning with my children through reading great books.

One of the subjects I've most enjoyed using living books to teach is history. I always loved history in school, even when it was taught out of a boring textbook. But when we began learning more about history using living books, I loved the subject even more.

In our homeschool, we've primarily learned history using a classical history cycle. This cycle rotates through historical time periods and focuses on world history. Unlike some of the more structured, traditional curricula I've seen, the Classical model doesn't focus primarily on American history. Instead the history of America is woven into the more modern history cycles- where it fits. The history cycle that we have followed has four major time periods:

~Ancient history

~ Medieval/Renaissance

~ Renaissance/Early Modern

~ Modern

You can read more about the Classic history cycle here. We've rotated through this cycle, digging deeper as the kids get older. In the earlier years I choose easier books, and the kids did hands-on activities such as coloring sheets and lapbooks to relate to our reading. As they've gotten older, we've used notebooking, writing assignments, and more elaborate projects in conjunction to with our reading.

In this post- which I'm linking up with the iHomeschool Network's 100 Things post series- I'm sharing 100 living books that you can use with a classical history cycle. I've divided them by time period, and I've labeled them as Primary (PreK-2nd grade), Elementary (3rd-5th grade), Middle Grade (6th-8th grade), and High School.

Of course, as a homeschool mom knows, these groupings are relative. Older kids often enjoy picture books, and if you read aloud, even preschoolers can listen in to a longer chapter book. So take the age recommendations with a grain of salt. At the end of the post, you can pick up a free set of Graphic Organizers for Reading that can be used, primarily for the elementary-aged kids, as a response for reading fiction or nonfiction.

Ancient History (5000 BC-400 AD)


The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare- Middle Grade

The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw- Elementary/Middle Grade

God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah by Joanne Williamson and Daria M. Sockey- Middle Grade and Up

The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt by G.A. Henty- Middle Grade

Adam and His Kin: The Lost History of Their Lives and Times by Ruth Beechick- High School

The Children's Homer: The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum- Middle Grade

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire- Elementary and Middle Grade

The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki- Primary

Twice Freed by Patricia St. John- Middle Grade

Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History by Richard M. Hannula- Middle Grade and High School

Pyramid by David Macaulay- Middle Grade

Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman- Elementary

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky- Elementary

Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick- Middle Grade

Mummies Made in Egypt by Aliki- Primary

Tutankhamen's Gift by Robert Sabuda- Elementary

A Cry From Egypt by Hope Auer- Middle Grade/High School

The True Story of Noah's Ark by Tom Dooley- Elementary

Pharaoh's Boat by David L. Weitzman- Elementary

Adventures in Ancient Greece by Linda Bailey- Elementary

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy- Middle Grade/High School

Dinosaurs of Eden: Did Adam and Noah Live With Dinosaurs? by Ken Ham- Elementary

The Trojan Horse by Emily Little- Elementary

Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green- Middle Grade/High School

The Golden Bull: A Mesopotamian Adventure by Marjorie Cowley- Middle Grade

Medieval/Early Renaissance (400-1600)


The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli- Elementary

The Apple and the Arrow by Conrad Buff- Middle Grade

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess by Richard Platt- Elementary/Middle Grade

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman- Middle Grade

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray- Elementary/Middle Grade

A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman- Elementary/Middle Grade

I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Wilson- Middle Grade

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly- Middle Grade/High School

Hawk That Dare Not Hunt by Day by Scott O'Dell- Middle Grade/High School

Ink on His Fingers by Louise A. Vernon- Middle Grade

Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley- Elementary

The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood- Middle Grade

The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman- Middle Grade

Pedro's Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus, August 3, 1492-February 14, 1493 by Pam Conrad- Elementary

Eric the Red by Neil Grant- Elementary

Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth 1 of England by Diane Stanley- Elementary

The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski- Elementary

A Medieval Feast by Aliki- Primary/Elementary

A Year in a Castle by Rachel Coombs- Primary

The Making of a Knight by Patrick O'Brian- Primary

Michelangelo's Surprise by Tony Parillo- Primary

Famous Men of the Renaissance and Reformation by Robert G. Shearer- Middle Grades/High School

The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French-Middle Grade

Son of Charlemagne by Barbara Willard- Middle Grade

The King's Shadow by Elizabeth Alder- Middle Grade/High School

Living books for Classical history cycle

Later Renaissance/Early Modern (1600-1850)


The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh- Elementary

Alone Yet Not Alone by Tracy Leininger Craven- Middle Grade

Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaires- Elementary

The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh- Primary/Elementary

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla- Elementary

The Pilgrims of Plymouth by Marcia Sewall- Primary/Elementary

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds- Elementary

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla- Middle Grade

Toliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady- Elementary/Middle Grade

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare- Middle Grade

Johnny Tremain by Esther Hoskins- Middle Grade

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates- Middle Grade

Peter the Great by Diane Stanley- Primary/Elementary

Mr. Revere and I: Being an Account of certain Episodes in the Career of Paul Revere,Esq. as Revealed by his Horse by Robert Lawson- Elementary

Brady by Jean Fritz- Middle Grade

If You Lived With the Iroquois by Ellen Levine- Primary/Elementary

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern and Anna DiVito- Primary/Elementary

The Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross and Carolyn Croll- Primary

The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Richard L. Neuberger- Middle Grade

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham- Middle Grade/High School

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos by Robert Lawson- Elementary

The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz- Elementary

George Washington'd World by Joanna and Genevieve Foster- Elemenary

The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty- Elementary

The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz- Elementary

Modern (1850-present)


The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder- Elementary/Middle Grade

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan- Elementary/Middle Grade

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White- Elementary

Wagon Wheels by Barbara Brenner- Primary/Elementary

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman- Elementary

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith- Middle Grade/High School

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson- Middle Grade/High School

Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen- Middle Grade

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt- Middle Grade/High School

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr- Middle Grade

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry- Middle Grade

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne- Middle Grade/High School

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac- Middle Grade/High School

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink- Middle Grade

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor- Middle Grade/High School

Esperanza Rising by Pam Nunoz Ryan- Middle Grade

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson- Middle Grade/High School

The War That Saved by Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley- Elementary/Middle Grade

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Foreman Lewis- Middle Grade/High School

The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin- Elementary/Middle Grade

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse- Middle Grade

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse- Middle Grade

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery- Middle Grade

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia- Middle Grade

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park- Middle Grade


Reading great living books can foster a love of history- for you and for your children, so try some of these great choices to learn about history in all four Classical history time periods. And don't forget to grab this FREE packet of graphic organizers for reading that you can use as you read fiction and nonfiction with the kids.




Don't forget to visit all the other 100 Things posts at the iHomeschool Network.


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