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Picture Book Historical Fiction

Picture Book Historical Fiction

More Booklists

The Matchbox Diary

Sometimes a social studies or history book can be overwhelming. It’s hard to keep the people and places and dates straight. There just seem to be SO MANY! On the other hand, when people are telling stories about their experiences and memories, we can be so entertained and our attention so focused that it is easy to laugh or cry right along with the storyteller.

The books below are history books that tell one small piece of history at a time and use beautiful and compelling pictures to help tell the tale. They emphasize the storytelling over the facts, even though the facts are where the story begin. These books are often so short they can be read in one sitting. Reading them, it is easy to put yourself in the place of the characters you are reading about. You are not memorizing the name of a battle or the date it took place, you are imagining what that event was like for a person who lived at that time and experienced what was going on.

Choose a book below to transport yourself to another time and place. Live for a minute in someone else’s shoes!


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Follow the Drinking GourdLet the Children MarchShow WayThe Matchbox DiaryA Single PebbleAmelia and Eleanor Go for a RideAround America to Win the VoteBlacksmith's SongDiana's White House GardenFairy Floss the Sweet Story of Cotton CandyFish for JimmyGrandfather's JourneyHeroes of the SurfKnit Your BitMailing MayUnspoken a Story from the Underground RailroadWind Flyers
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The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan

Ivan the gorilla lives at the Exit 8 Bigtop Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan lives in a small glass domain with nothing but a food bowl, a stuffed toy and a television. Humans come and press their faces to the glass and point and stare. The zoo owner sometimes gives Ivan a crayon or paint. Ivan likes to draw pictures.

I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.
It’s not as easy as it looks.
People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback.
The names are mine, but they’re not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. (pages 1-2)

Doesn’t that remind you of Harry Potter when he says to Hagrid in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “But I’m just…just Harry!” Ivan has a couple friends, an old elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob. Bob sneaks into Ivan’s cage every night to sleep on his warm belly.

When the Exit 8 Big Top owner realizes attendance is down he buys a baby elephant named Ruby to make more people want to visit. Ruby’s arrival makes Ivan and his friends see their situation in a different way. Stella, in particular, can’t stand the idea of Ruby growing up at the mall. So, in the spirit of Charlotte’s Web, Ivan hatches a plan hoping to save Ruby from a lonely life at the mall. You’ll cry and cheer both! 2013 Newbery Medal Winner.

Ivan’s story is based on a real gorilla that lived for 27 years in a mall zoo. The real Ivan died August 21, 2012.

  • The Real Ivan
  • The Silverback of South Tacoma: Remembering Ivan the Gorilla
  • NPR: Ivan Dies at 50 – a Gorilla Life Remembered Best Quote “Ivan’s story has touched thousands of people. He reminded us that even as we must face the “big” conservation and environmental problems with an ecosystem approach, we can’t forget the individuals, each of whom has a story, a personality and a history. Now Katherine Applegate’s book will help Ivan’s story touch thousands more.” ~Barbara J. King

If you like Ivan here are some more stories that imagine what life would be like from the animal’s point of view. We can never really know of course, but it IS interesting to imagine. You also might like to read about the gorilla Koko. Koko learned sign language, which makes you wonder if we CAN learn a little about what animals think. The last four books are about scientists who study gorillas in the wild or in captivity. Really, really fascinating. And I’m warnin’ ya…the animal stories will make you cry, just like Ivan. If you have a pet you’ll go hug it and think more about your responsibility and what it means to have an animal friend.

Charlotte's WebA Dog's LifeBlack BeautyWhittingtonKoko: Conversations with a Signing GorillaGorilla DoctorsDian Fossey Friend to Africa's GorillasI am Jane GoodallLight Shinging Through the MistRickie and HenriThe Watcher Jane Goodall's Life with Chimps
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