Agriculture in American History
Pre-Colonial / Early
American / Civil
War and Slavery / Immigrants / Pioneers / Wild
West / World War II
Aliki, Corn is Maize, Collins, 1986.
Aliki tells the story of corn: How Native American farmers thousands
of years ago found and nourished a wild grass plant and made it
an important part of our lives.
Johnson, Sylvia A., Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn, and Beans: How
the Foods of the Americas Changed Eating Around the World, Atheneum,
1996. (Grades 6-8)
Louri, Peter, On the Texas Trail of Cabeza de Vaca, Boyds Mills, 2008. (Grades 5-8)
Louri journeys in the footsteps of the conquistador Cabeza de Vaca. Illustrated with many period pictures and maps as well as clear photos, the book offers information about Cabeza de Vaca within a contemporary framework. Offers useful insights into a historians methods and disputes.
Nielsen, L. Michelle, Biography of Corn (How Did That Get Here?), Craptree, 2007. (Grades 4-6)
Maize, or corn, was the staple food of many early cultures in South America, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean. This book shows how the farming of corn spread to the rest of the world.
Waldman, Stuart, We Asked for Nothing: The Remarkable Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, Mikaya, 2003. (Grades 4-6)
Conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and his men were shipwrecked on an island shore off the coast of Texas in 1528. Local Indians brought them food and water and cared for them. Cabeza de Vaca lived among native tribes in the Southwest for eight years as he and three others walked toward the Spanish settlements in what is now Mexico. Enduring starvation, illness, and enslavement, they survived largely through the kindness of the Indians they met along the way. A foldout map traces the journey on land and sea.
Arenstam, Peter, Kemp, John, Grace, Catherine O'Neill and Plimoth Plantation, Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage, National Geographic Children's, 2007.
Large-size photo essay draws on exhibits in the living history museum Plimoth Plantation to re-create a historical event distinguishing fact from fiction.
Bowen, Gary, Stranded
at Plimoth Plantation, 1626, Sagebrush, 1998. (Grades 4-7)
The boat carrying
indentured servant Christopher Sears, 13, to Jamestown, Va., runs
into heavy weather off the coast of New England and is abandoned.
Christopher is billeted at the Brewster house, where he takes to
the daily routines of family and colony. The book is written in
the form of a journal, and Christopher relates scads of fascinating
tidbits, from food to funerals, entertainment to worship, crops
to architecture. He gossips, attends court, falls in love. And in
April he has one of his thrice-yearly baths. The story ends with
a satisfying and believable twist. Bowen's reputation rests secure
as the crafter of scrupulously researched, beautifully illustrated
Grace, Catherine O'Neill, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, National Geographic Children's, 2004. (Grades 3-5)
Well-researched account of the Wampanoag side of the Thanksgiving story. Provides background on the Wampanoag, colonization, Indian diplomacy, the harvest of 1621 and the evolution of the Thanksgiving story.
Ichord, Loretta Frances, Hasty Pudding, Johnnycakes, and
Other Good Stuff: Cooking in Colonial America, Millbrook,
1998. (Grades K-3)
Facts about America's culinary heritage covering such topics as
manners, food preservation, and culinary staples such as corn.
Ichord also includes a section on regional diversity and one she
calls "Soul Cooking," which focuses on the unique cuisine
created by slaves. Recipes for popular dishes, updated for modern
kitchens and accompanied by clear directions and discussion of
how the same dish would have been prepared by colonial cooks, conclude
each chapter. Children will need adult help when they prepare the
food, but they'll have fun learning the history and making such
dishes as johnnycakes, pumpkin soup, and, of course, hasty pudding.
Murphy, Frank, Thomas Jefferson's Feast, Random House for Young Readers, 2003. (Grades PreK-2)
Tells of Thomas Jefferson's trip to France in 1784 and all the exotic foods he learned about and then brought back to America, including ice cream, macaroni and cheese and tomatoes.
Osborne, Mary Pope, and Sal Mardocca, Thanksgiving on Thursday, Random House for Young Readers, 2002. (Grades 1and up)
The Magic Tree House whisks Jack and Annie back to 1621 on the first Thanksgiving Day.
Penner, Lucille Recht, Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book
of Food and Manners, Aladdin, 1997. (Grades 3-5)
The Pilgrims' hardships and accommodations to the New World are
revealed through their diet and changing lifestyle. From the time
of their voyage, wehn the biscuits were full of weevils, the Pilgrims'
had trouble finding food they liked to eat. The first winter, when
food was scarce and many died, was followed by a summer of bounty,
though the newcomers were unaccustomed to many of the foods. The
evolution of diet in early America is a subject that should appeal
to children. Includes 10 tasty, simple recipes.
Thomas, Peggy, and Layne Johnson, Farmer
George Plants a Nation,
Boyds Mill, 2008. (Grades PreK-3)
This picture book biography focuses on George Washington's life
as a farmer, inventor and scientist. Washington's goal to make
his estate self-sufficient carries over to his goal to make the
new country independent.
Civil War and Slavery
Gunderson, Jessica, and Jerry Acerno, Eli
Whitney and the Cotton Gin, Capstone, 2007. (Grades 1-7)
Uses comic book-style word balloons and sophisticated
vocabulary to tell the story of Eli Whitney and the invention of
the cotton gin. Explores the impact the cotton gin had on the Civil
War and the ultimate emancipation of the slaves. Includes a timeline
of advances made by Eli Whitney, a glossary and a recommended reading
Hopkinson, Deborah, Sweet Clara and the
Freedom Quilt, Knopf, 1993. (Grades K-3)
As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams
of a reunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation -
and even of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves
talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration,
Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a
map of the land - a freedom quilt - that no master will ever suspect.
Hopkinson, Deborah, Up Before Day Break: Cotton and People in America, Scholastic Nonfiction, 2006. (Grades 4-8)
Using primary sources and extended with black and white photos and period reproductions, this book provides a detailed picture of the effect of cotton production on the social structure of the US. From 1607, when the earliest English settlers arrived in Virginia, cotton was among the plants grown in colonial gardens. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in England the demand increased, and the southern colonies stepped up production. Hopkinson explores the role of cotton production in the system of slavery and also considers the young women who worked in the textile factories. After the Civil War, the southern economy traded slavery for sharecropping and moved many of the mills were moved to the South. Following workers' histories up through the Great Depression, the final chapter discusses child labor, past and present.
McMullan, Margaret, How I Found the Strong,
Houghton Mifflin, 2005. (Grades 6-12)
Ten-year-old Frank Russell is left to run his family's
small farm when his father and brother go off to fight in the Civil
Connor, Leslie, and Mary Azarian, Miss Bridie
Chose a Shovel, Houghton
Mifflin, 2005. (Grades K-3)
A young immigrant girl selects a shovel to accompany her on a
voyage to America in 1856. The shovel provides subsistence, shelter
and safety as it transforms the land and enriches her life.
Denenberg, Barry, So
Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscol, An Irish Mill Girl, Lowell
Massachusetts, 1847, Scholastic, 1996. (Grades 4-7)
Mary Driscoll and her family have lived in terrible poverty in the
Irish countryside every since the potato famine began several years
ago. When Mary is offered a chance to join her aunt and older sister
in America, she jumps at the chance to seek a better life for herself.
But after a long, stormy, and miserable ocean voyage, Mary arrives
in America to find that it is nothing like she expected. She takes
a job in a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, where she is scorned
by most of the American workers and expected to work long hours
under terrible, unsafe conditions. There are few bright spots in
this account of the life faced by many girls in New England cities
during the mid-nineteenth century, and most of what happened to
the fictional character of Mary happened to various girls who lived
back then and worked in factories and mills.
McCully, Emily Arnold, The Bobbin Girl, Dial,
1996. (Grades K-3)
When her mother's income from the boardinghouse
no longer covers their expenses, 10-year-old Rebecca helps out
by working as a bobbin girl at the local textile mill. The young
women who board with Mrs. Putney endure the mill's bad air, loud
machinery, high injury rate, and low wages in the hope of improving
their lot, but when the mill owners threaten to lower their wages,
the mill workers stage a "turnout," refusing to work. Although
the protest fails, young Rebecca is proud of doing the right thing
and vows to carry on the struggle. A Lowell, Massachusetts, textile
mill in the 1830s may be an unlikely setting for a picture book,
even one for older readers, but McCully weaves historical facts
and fictional characters into an intriguing story. The author's
note details the background, incidents, and people who inspired
the book. Beautifully composed watercolor paintings give a vivid
impression of America in the 1830s and bring the period to life.
A useful book for history units.
Nixon, Joan, A Family Apart, Bantam, 1996. (Grades 4-7)
When their mother can no longer support them, six siblings are
sent by the Children's Aid Society of New York City to live with
farm families in Missouri in 1860.
Paterson, Katherine, Lyddie, Lodestar,
1994. (Young Adult)
Lyddie Worthen must decide whether to risk losing
her job running a loom at a dusty Massachusetts factory--a job
she has taken to earn enough money to reunite her family--by protesting
the poor working conditions.
Anderson, William, Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography,
Harper Collins, 1992. (Grades 4-7)
Details the adult life, as well as the childhood, of one of America's
most beloved authors.
Larsen, Kirby, Hattie Big Sky, Delacorte, 2006. (Young Adult)
Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa and travels to a Montana homestead inherited
from her uncle. She has less
than a year to fence and cultivate the land in order to keep it.
Chapters open with short articles
that Hattie writes for an Iowa newspaper or her lively letters to
a friend and possible beau who is in the military in France. The
authentic first-person narrative,
portrays Hattie's struggles as a young woman with limited options,
a homesteader facing terrible odds, and a loyal citizen confused
about the war and the local anti-German bias that endangers her new
friends. Larson, whose great-grandmother homesteaded alone in Montana,
read dozens of homesteaders' journals and based scenes in the book
on real events.
Durham, David Anthony, Gabriel's Story, Doubleday, 2001.
Set in the 1870s, the novel tells the tale of Gabriel Lynch, an
African American youth who settles with his family in the plains
of Kansas. Dissatisfied with the drudgery of homesteading and growing
increasingly disconnected from his family, Gabriel forsakes the
farm for a life of higher adventure. Thus begins a forbidding trek
into a terrain of austere beauty, a journey begun in hope, but
soon laced with danger and propelled by a cast of brutal characters.
McPherson, James M., Into the West,
Atheneum, 2006. (Grades 4-8)
The book is divided into 39 chapters, most consisting
of a single-page essay about a topic, paired with an attractive,
full-page period illustration or photo, some of which are in color.
Each page of text also has a related Quick Facts sidebar. Many
early sections discuss the upheavals and difficulties of Reconstruction,
including the debate over presidential versus congressional reconstruction,
the Ku Klux Klan, and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Later
chapters cover the Homestead Act, cattle drives, outlaws, and the
forced removal of Native American tribes.
Robbins, Ken, Thunder on the Plains: The
Story of the American Buffalo, Atheneum, 2009. (Grades 4-6)
Robbins briefly traces the history of the American
buffalo from 1875, when there were perhaps 50 million of them,
to the present, in which laws protect the surviving 200,000. "This
is the story of a great shaggy creature, a very American beast,
one found here and nowhere else," he begins. Robbins supplements
the text with dramatic images, inclucing his own photographs of
present-day buffalo grazing in Oklahoma.
Schlissel, Lillian, Black Frontiers: A History of African
American Heroes in the Old West, Simon and Schuster for Young
Readers, 2000. (Grades 4-7)
Lillian Schlissel provides exciting coverage of black frontiersmen,
a group neglected by many historians. Photographs and pictures
dating from 1852 to 1948 show black men prospecting for gold, riding
bucking broncos, and serving in the military. The author also covers
three courageous black women: Stagecoach Mary, Mary Ellen Pleasant,
and Biddy Mason. Snakes, sports, and storms are just a few of the
many interesting details included in this history book.
St. Antoine, Sara (editor), and Trudy Nicholson and Paul Mirocha, The Great North American Prairie: Stories from Where We Live, Milkweed, 2004. (Grades 4-8)
Stories, poems, journal entries and essays that reflect life on the prairies of the US and Canada. The selections, both historical and contemporary, comprise a good mix of fiction and information and reflect the ethnic diversity of the inhabitants. Includes familiar authors such as Carl Sandburg, Willa Cather, and Louise Erdrich, as well as lesser-known writers. Includes maps, a detailed discussion of different kinds of prairies, listings of flora and fauna, etc.
Wood, Frances M., When Molly Was a Harvey
Kane Miller, 2010. (Young Adult)
A historically based story about the hardships and adventures faced
by an orphaned 13-year-old girl in the 19th Century Wild West. In
her job as a New Mexico railroad station waitress she serves up American
classics like chicken salad and peach pie but also forms friendships
that introduce her to Mexican food.
World War II
Paulsen, Gary, The
Quilt, Random House, 2005. (Grades 3-8)
A young boy learns the stories of his Norwegian American family
as told through a quilt created by women left at home during wartime
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Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma
Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture,
Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.