CurriConnects Book List - 20th Century America, Part 1 (1900-1945)

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20th Century America, Part 1 (1900-1945)
What was life like in 20th century America? Explore the major events and watershed moments, as well as everyday life during the decades. Read both fiction and nonfiction titles about times that brought the Model T, an influenza epidemic, and flappers. Dig deep into the Depression and life during wartimes. This list features mostly middle school and high school level books, but does include some at elementary levels, as well. Let students choose a book in an area of interest during the 20th century and share with the class about times long before they were born.

Preschool and Picture Books

These Hands - Margaret Mason, (978-0547215662) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 2
While an African American grandfather is telling and showing his well-loved grandson what his hands have been able to do throughout his life, he reveals he was not allowed to touch the bread that was baked at his factory, Wonder Bread.

Early Elementary Books

America Has Fun: The Roaring Twenties - Sean Price, (978-1410931207) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-5, ESL level: 3
This book presents the era of the 1920's by using primary sources for facts and photos.

Balloons Over Broadway - Melissa Sweet, (978-0547199450) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 1000, ESL level: 2 - 3
This simple biography of Tony Sarg, and inventor and puppetter, tells the story of how Tony created the giant balloons that are still a feature of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Born and Bred in the Great Depression - Jonah Winter, (978-0375861970) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 1060, ESL level: 3
Winter shares his family's actual experience of living through the Great Depression in East Texas.

Dust for Dinner - Ann Turner, (978-0064442251) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 390, ESL level: 3
Jake and Maggy have to move to California with their parents after a dust storm devastates their land, but they are apprehensive about finding a better life elsewhere.

Elizabeth Leads the Way - Tanya Lee Stone, (978-0805079036) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-5, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a champion for women's rights including the right to vote.

I Could Do That! - Linda Arms White, (978-0374335274) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 2 - 3
Esther Morris fought to get women the right to vote in Wyoming and also held public office, another first for women.

Leah's Pony - Elizabeth Friedrich, (978-1563978289) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 580, ESL level: 2 - 3
Leah must sell her wonderful pony in an effort to help her father save their farm during the drought years of the 1930's.

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow - Amy Lee-Tai, (978-0892392155) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3
Mari's art teacher in the Japanese interment camp where she and her family have been forced to live helps bring hope and meaning to her interrupted life.

Potato: A Tale from the Great Depression - Kate Lied, (978-0792269465) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, ESL level: 2 - 3
Based on a family's reminisces, this book tells of a depression family who survived by raising potatoes.

Rudy Rides the Rails - Dandi Daley Mackall, (978-1585362868) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, ESL level: 2 - 3
Rudy takes to jumping trains to escape the solemn atmosphere of his home with his father unemployed and his mother nervous about where their next meal will come from.

Sky Boys: How They Built The Empire State Building - Deborah Hopkinson, (978-0375836107) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 4
A father and son enjoy seeing the Empire State Building go up and up in 1931.

The Stock Market Crash of 1929 - Sabrina Crewe, (978-0836834161) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-5, ESL level: 3
Learn about the causes and results of the great stock market crash in 1929.

Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood - Carole Boston Weatherford, (978-0807576502) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 3 - 4
This rhymed book celebrates the neighborhood of Harlem and all the famous musicians and other African American entertainers who lived and/or worked there.

You Forgot Your Skirt Amelia Bloomer - Shana Corey, (978-0439078191) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 350, ESL level: 2 - 3
This delightfully illustrated book describes how Amelia Bloomer was a champion of women's rights and how the pants she invented (the word bloomer comes from her name) became a symbol of women's liberation.

Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Al Capone Shines My Shoes - Gennifer Choldenko, (978-0142417188) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 620, ESL level: 3
Moose, whose father is an Alcatraz prison guard, lives on Alcatraz Island, finds himself face to face with a request from Al Capone, notorious gangster of the 1930's.

Aleutian Sparrow - Karen Hesse, (978-1416903277) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
This history of the Aleut people who were attacked by the Japanese during WWII tells how the Aleuts were remanded to relocation centers during the war.

Better to Wish - Ann Martin, (978-0545359429) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3
Abby has to take over the responsibility of taking care of her family at the very young age of 8; she must push back her goal of getting to college and writing for a living (Family Tree series).

Billy Creekmore - Tracey Porter, (978-0060775728) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 4
Orphaned Billy finds a home with a distant aunt and uncle and gets involved in mine work at the age of ten, until he runs away to join a circus.

Bird in a Box - Andrea Davis Pinckney, (978-0316074025) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 670, ESL level: 3 - 4
Three remarkable children meet at an orphanage during the 1930's; they help each other, the orphanage staff helps them as well, and getting to see Joe Louis box helps them get over their extreme sadness and sense of loss.

Boomer's Kids - Ruby Tolliver, (978-0937460696) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-6, ESL level: 3 - 4
Andy and Ellie's father follows oil wells for his work, moving the family to whatever site looks promising.

A Boy at War - Harry Mazer, (978-0689841606) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 530, ESL level: 4
Adam struggles to find his father after the attack on Pearl Harbor; Adam was fishing nearby and his father was on the Arizona at the time of the bombing.

Bread and Roses, Too - Katherine Paterson, (978-0547076515) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, ESL level: 3 - 4
This fictionalized account of a mill strike in Massachusetts shows the impact the difficult working conditions and tenement living had on immigrant families.

Children of the Dust Bowl - Jerry Stanley, (978-0517880944) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 1120, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book focuses Dust Bowl study on the famous Weedpatch Camp where children lived and worked and struggled, augmented by wonderful photographs.

Children of the Great Depression - Russell Freedman, (978-0547480350) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book paints a picture of the young people who lived through the Depression era.

Code Talker - Joseph Bruchac, (978-0803729216) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book celebrates the assistance Navajo code talkers gave to the U.S. effort during WWII.

Don't You Know There's a War On? - Avi, (978-0380815449) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, ESL level: 4
Two boys with father fighting overseas during WWII plot to save a teacher whose job is in peril.

The Dust Bowl Through the Lens - Martin Sandler, (978-0802795472) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
The great photographs in this book tell the story of the Great Depression during its Dust Bowl years; the impact the photos had included waking up the public consciousness enough to force the administration to take steps to help the impoverished citizens.

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 - Laurence Yep, (978-0060008468) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-7, Lexile: 510, ESL level: but both also come to appreciate their fathers as
Friends Henry and Chin both love to read popular short novels called "penny dreadfuls

The Everlasting Now - Sara Harrell Banks, (978-1561455256) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 690, ESL level: 3 - 4
Brother is busy with running errands for his mother's boarding house, making friends with an African American boy, and dreaming of riding the rails with some of the friends he has made near the depot.

Factory Girl - Barbara Greenwood, (978-1553376491) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 850, ESL level: 3 - 4
Although Emily is only 12, she must keep her job in a garment factory with deplorable working conditions or her family will starve.

Flesh and Blood So Cheap - Albert Marrin, (978-0375868894) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-8, Lexile: 1000, ESL level: 4
This book tells the true history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NY City where 146 people died, the majority of them women.

Growing Up in Coal Country - Susan Bartoletti, (978-0395979143) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-6, ESL level: 3 - 4
Children in northern Pennsylvania at the turn of the century worked along side their parents in coal mines.

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 - Claire O'Neal, (978-1584155690) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-6, ESL level: 3
This non-fiction beginning reader shares photos, causes, effects, and data about the 1918 flu pandemic.

The Jazz Kid - James Collier, (978-0805028218) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
Paulie only wants to pursue his jazz playing cornet, but his parents and the Chicago underworld where a lot of the jazz takes place impede his development.

Kids at Work - Russell Freedman, (978-0395797266) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 1140, ESL level: 4
Photographer Lewis Hine convincingly shows the perils of child labor during the early 20th century.

Kids on Strike! - Susan Bartoletti, (978-0618369232) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-8, ESL level: 3 - 4
Children working under harsh conditions and for very little money in the early 20th century eventually went on strike.

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt - C.Coco De Young, (978-0440415299) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, ESL level: 3 - 4
During the Depression, Margo writes to Eleanor Roosevelt in a desperate attempt to save her family's home from foreclosure.

Like the Willow Tree - Lois Lowry, (978-0545144698) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 830, ESL level: 3 - 4
Lydia and her brother must learn to live in a Shaker community after losing their parents to the flu in 1918.

Maggie & Oliver - Valerie Hobbs, (978-1250016720) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 650, ESL level: 3
A homeless dog and orphaned girl try to survive poverty and trying to find a new home after Maggie is thrown out onto the street during the early 20th century in Boston.

The Mighty Miss Malone - Christopher Paul Curtis, (978-0385734912) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 750, ESL level: 3 -4
An African American family has a tough time in both Indiana and Michigan during the depression.

Missy Violet and Me - Barbara Hathaway, (978-0618809196) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-8, Lexile: 1040, ESL level: 4
A young African American girl learns about life and death as she assists a local midwife in the 1930's.

On the Wings of Heroes - Richard Peck, (978-0142412046) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 730, ESL level: 4
A young Illinois boy recalls his war heroes, his brother who had been in the Air Force, and his father, who fought in WWI.

Out of The Dust - Karen Hesse, (978-0590371254) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, ESL level: 3 - 4
After Billie Jo loses her parents during the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression, she struggles to keep her life together and continue playing the piano despite burned hands.

R My Name is Rachel - Patricia Reilly Giff, (978-0440421764) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 550, ESL level: 3
Rachel thought she had it bad when her father had to move their family to a farm and there were no public libraries around, but when he has to go to Canada for work, she is left to totally take care of herself and her siblings.

Rosie the Riveter - Penny Colman, (978-0517885673) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-10, Lexile: 1060, ESL level: 4
The roles women played while men were away fighting during WWII had a lasting impact on women in the work force.

Shutting Out the Sky: Life in the Tenements of New York, 1880-1924 - Deborah Hopkinson, (978-0439375900) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 990, ESL level: 3 - 4
The author tells about the lives of 5 immigrant families living in New York at the turn of the 20th century.

The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan, (978-0763652906) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-8, Lexile: 430, ESL level: 3
Jack's life is high stress due to bullies at school, the loss of a way of life due to the Dust Bowl, and also an (imaginary?) creature in the barn.

Team Moon - Catherine Thimmesh, (978-0618507573) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 1060, ESL level: 3-4
This relation of the famous Apollo 11 moon landing has a different perspective, focusing on the people behind the landing including flight directors, camera designers, software experts, suit testers, telescope crew, aerospace technicians, photo developers, engineers, and navigators.

That Book Woman - Heather Henson, (978-1416908128) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-5, Lexile: 920, ESL level: 4
An Appalachian family looks forward to visits from a packhorse librarian, their only contact with public libraries during the 1930's.

The Colored Car - Jean Alicia Elster, (978-0814336069) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, ESL level: 3 - 4
An African American girl narrates her views of life in 1930's Detroit, revealing the extent of discrimination and prejudice in her life and the lives of her people.

The Rooftop Adventure of Minnie and Tessa, Factory Fire Survivors - Holly Littlefield, (978-0761361794) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 390, ESL level: 2 - 3
Minnie and Tessa manage to escape the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which many workers died.

The Trial - Jennifer Bryant, (978-0440419860) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
Katie's poems throughout this book describe her town's views of the Lindbergh kidnapping trial of Bruno Hauptmann.

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting - Jim Murphy, (978-0545130493) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 1160, ESL level: 4 - 5
Author Murphy provides a fascinating account of a true story- the day enemies stopped fighting during WWI and celebrated Christmas together.

The Well: David's Story - Mildred Taylor, (978-0140386424) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3 - 4
In the early 1900's, an African American family shares the water from its well with all neighbors, black and white, despite the prevalent racism in the Southern community (Logan Family series).

What the Moon Said - Gayle Rosengren, (978-0399163524) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 600, ESL level: 3 - 4
After Esther moves with her family to a Wisconsin farm during the depression, she learns to disregard her cold and superstitious mother and recognize the really important things in her life.

With Courage and Cloth - Ann Bausum, (978-0792276470) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-9, Lexile: 1080, ESL level: 3 - 4
Photographs illustrate the history of the women's suffrage movement in the U.S.

Years of Dust - Albert Marrin, (978-0525420774) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-9, Lexile: 1040, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book describes the losses of the plains farmers during the Dust Bowl of the depression years, focusing on the man-made causes and the massive impacts they had.

Middle School to Young Adult Books

After the Dancing Days - Margaret Rostkowski, (978-0673801500) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-9, ESL level: 4
Annie ponders many things after her uncle dies in WWI and she befriends wounded soldiers.

Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Curtis, (978-0553494105) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 4 - 5
Bud escapes from his foster home to try and find his famous father during the Great Depression.

Children of Manzanar - Heather Lindquist, (978-1597141604) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 4
This photographic essay shows the lives of the Japanese children who lived at Manzanar during the Japanese internment in WWII.

Daily Life in the United States, 1920 - 1940 - David Kyvig, (978-1566635844) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4
Learn about American life during the turbulent years of the 20's, 30's, and 40's including the joys of the roaring 20's and the downturn of the depression.

Deadly - Julie Chibbaro, (978-0689857386) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-11, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 4
Prudence is more interested in her real work experience in epidemiology than school, especially when it comes to investigating "Typhoid Mary," the woman who spread typhoid to hundreds of patrons who ate her cooking.

Dear Miss Breed - Joanne Oppenheim, (978-0439569927) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 1040, ESL level: 4
Clara Breed, a librarian in CA during WWII, corresponded with many young Japanese during their internment in camps during the war.

A Death Struck Year - Makiia Lucier, (978-0544164505) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-11, ESL level: 4
Cleo's relief at not having the Spanish flu on the West Coast of the US is shortlived, and she decides to volunteer with the Red Cross to help out, putting herself at peril.

The Dust Bowl - Ken Burns, (978-1452107943) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 4
Famed author and TV producer Ken Burns tells the story of the Dust Bowl with fascinating facts and timely photographs.

Flygirl - Sherri Smith, (978-0142417256) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, ESL level: 3 - 4
A young African American women wants so desperately to become a pilot like her father that she tries to pass as white to enter the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

Frenchtown Summer - Robert Cormier, (978-0385327046) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 1380, ESL level: 4
The author writes a series of short poetic pieces describing a life similar to his growing up in a small town during a hot 1930's summer

The Goodbye Season - Marian Hale, (805-088555) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-10, Lexile: 850, ESL level: 4
Mercy's life becomes unsettled after the 1918 flu epidemic takes everyone in her family.

The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald, (978-0684830421) , Fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 4
This classic novel describes the Roaring 20's and the very rich in their somewhat meaningless and doomed lives.

The Green Coat - Rosemary McDunn, (978-0979225871) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
This historical-fiction narrative describes a family's life in North Dakota during the Dust Bowl years.

The Invisible Thread - Yoshiko Uchida, (978-0671741631) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 3 - 4
The accomplished writer Yoshiko Uchida relates her own personal experience living at Manzanar.

Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial - Ronald Kidd, (978-1442442115) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-10, ESL level: 4
This fictionalized account of the small Tennessee town where the Scopes trial took place recreates the intellectual and social scene of the beginning of a conflict between science and emotion.

The Nazi Hunters - Neal Bascomb, (978-0545430999) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 1000, ESL level: 4
After WWII, a group of Israelis went on a thrilling hunt for Nazis responsible for the Holocaust in this true account.

Richard and Ellie's Family Grows - S.K. Lucas, (978-1496906809) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, ESL level: 3 - 4
Follow Richard and Ellie and their family as they enjoy the roaring 20's and then experience the Great Depression.

Silver Like Dust - Kimi Cunningham Grant, (978-1605984148) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 4
The author only gradually heard about her Japanese grandmother's interment during WWII in a camp after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Six Days in October: The Stock Market Crash of 1929 - Karen Blumenthal, (978-0689842764) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 1040, ESL level: 4
This book describes the hopes and despairs of Americans in the late 1920's, focusing on the effects of the stock market crash.

Under the Blood Red Sun - Graham Salisbury, (978-0440411390) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 640, ESL level: 4
Tomikazu finds he can no longer pursue his beloved baseball after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and he experiences great ostracism.

Uprising - Margaret Peterson Haddix, (978-1416911722) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-12, ESL level: 4
Told from multiple viewpoints, the women who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tell their stories about the conditions there.

The War to End All Wars - Russell Freedman, (978-0547026862) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, Lexile: 1220, ESL level: 4
The author presents a compelling portrait of many factors about WWI that caused people to believe it would be the last war.

Weedflower - Cynthia Kadohata, (978-1416975663) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-12, Lexile: 750, ESL level: 3 - 4
Sumiko is determined to make the best of life despite her family's relocation to an internment camp on an Indian reservation in Arizona.

Books for Mature Teens and Adults

The Worst Hard Time - Timothy Egan, (978-0618773473) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 9-12, ESL level: 5
This historical book describes 12 families and the effects living through the Dust Bowl years had on their future lives; their horrors included experiencing black dust blizzards, crop fails, and deaths.