A couple of homeschool moms asked me to put together a reading list for Texas history so that they could do a (brief) literature-based Texas history unit. Well, the list grew a little longer than the request, but here are a few not-to-be-missed gems for children and adults who are making their way through Texas’s colorful and fascinating history.
TEXAS Unit Study:
Indians Who Lived in Texas by Betsy Warren. This is a nonfiction book, only 46 pages, but it is an introduction to the study that gives students a good overview of the Native Texans who lived here before the coming of the European explorers.
Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker. Read aloud fiction about the tragic story of a Native American boy named Chakoh and of Esteban, the slave who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Lost Cities of Cibola.
Easter Fires by Wilma Pitchford Hays. A fictionalized version of the beginning of the custom of lighting bonfires at Easter time among the Indians of the Southwest. This short book also tells the story of how the Tonkawas were introduced to the wonderful story of Easter and of God’s son, Jesus.
Biography of early Texas heroes. Choose one (or read them all):
For younger children, grades 1-3:
A Picture Book of Davy Crockett by David Adler.
Davy Crockett: Young Rifleman by Aileen Wells Parks.
Stephen F. Austin: The Son Becomes Father of Texas by Mary Dodson Wade.
For older children, grades 4-8:
Wilderness Pioneer: Stephen F. Austin of Texas by Carol Hoff.
Make Way for Sam Houston by Jean Fritz
James Bowie by Shannon Garst.
Texas Yankee: The Story of Gail Borden by Nina Brown Baker.
Johnny Texas by Carol Hoff. “In the early days of Texas history, ten-year-old Johann comes from Germany with his family to settle in this vast land and soon grows to love his new home.” In the sequel, Johnny Texas on the San Antonio Road, Johnny travels over 600 miles to Mexico and back on the old San Antonio Road.
Caleb’s Choice by G. Clifton Wisler. In 1858 Caleb Dulaney feels an obligation to help the runaway slave who saved his life even though the Fugitive Slave Law makes it a crime to assist a runaway slave. Mr. Wisler wrote several other good books set in frontier days in Texas. If you like this one, check out Buffalo Moon or Winter of the Wolf or All for Texas.
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. Classic boy and dog story takes place just after the Civil War.
Texas Rangers: Legendary Lawmen by Michael Spradlin. This picture book packs in a lot of story and information about the men who were Texas Rangers. I have a couple of other books that are longer with more stories about the Rangers for kids who are particularly interested: The Texas Rangers (Landmark history) by Will Henry and The Real Book about the Texas Rangers by Allyn Allen.
Cowboys of the Wild West by Russell Freedman (nonfiction) OR The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones by Helen Hemphill (fiction). Cowboy life and times.
Galveston’s Summer of the Storm by Julie Lake. (fiction) The Galveston hurricane of 1900, still the deadliest single-day event in U.S. history.
Moonshiner’s Gold by John Erickson. Fourteen year old Riley and his younger brother discover moonshiners have set up a still in a deserted canyon on their family property. How can they protect their single mother, outwit the outlaws, and get them to leave without violence? Great action-packed adventure with engaging characters and a lot of history sneaking in through the back door. John Erickson is known for his Hank the Cowdog series, but this stand-alone adventure is just a good as the Hank books and should be just the right reading level for most sixth graders.
I know that’s more than the five books than the mom who started all of this Texas history listing asked me for. And I have lots more great Texas living books on my shelf: Texas Tomboy by Lois Lenski, Winnie’s War by Jenny Moss, We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo by Margaret Cousins, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Underneath by Kathie Appelt . . . OK, I’ll stop.
Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!