United States Through Literature

This article by Carol Otis Hurst first appeared in Teaching K-8 Magazine.

Let's explore the United States through literature in the library this month. Find as many United States maps as possible including shots from space to keep it all in perspective. Put your largest map on the bulletin board with pins and ribbons trailing from them on each state. Staple a book shape to the end of each ribbon and staple both to the edges of the bulletin board. A title such as "Look at the State I'm In" should go at the top.


Robert McCloskey

Start things going by reading some picture books by Robert McCloskey since he uses three states for his locales: Massachusetts for Make Way for Ducklings, Ohio for Lentil and Homer Price and Maine for One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder. List the things you learn about each state from the picture book. Decide on ways of verifying the information and make a chart such as the following:

|  Author  |	Title	          | State  |  Understandings   |   Facts from   |    
|          |                      |        |    from Book      |  Non-Fiction   |
|          |                      |        |                   |                |


Adding to the Map

Work at the map from two directions at once. Give the children some book titles and ask them to find out which state is the setting for the book. Give other children a state and ask them to find some fiction which is set in that state. Ask others to brainstorm a list of state settings for books they already have read. Mix picture books with novels for the older kids and keep the younger ones in the picture books or simpler novels.

My list of fiction about the states (see below) is no where nearly complete, but it might help you get started, but don't stop there. Kids should first read the work of fiction and then find some non-fiction material to verify and extend their information. Then they should ask themselves such questions as: Why did the author set that particular work of fiction in that state? Could it have been the same story if the setting were different? What would have to change?


Your Own State

Look at your own state. What areas would be good settings for a novel? Which parts of history in your state? What historical figures would you try to work in? How?


Historical Fiction

Of course, many of the works of fiction are set in other eras and this makes the topic even more interesting. Now you can make a time line of the fiction, compare the state or territory then and now, and ask such questions as: Why did the author choose that time? Were there other eras which would be equally interesting to write about with the same geographical setting?


Quiz Games

Put the books together for some quiz games with questions like: How long would it take you to get from the place where Dicey's singing to Sal's blueberries? and, If Searchlight hadn't died and kept running north, which state would he run into?


Student Authored State Books

How about an alphabet book for each state? It would be lots more interesting to compose and to read than the usual school state reports. Use drawings, photographs, travel brochures for illustrations.


Children's Books


St. George, Judith - In the Shadow of the Bear (Putnam, 1983) ISBN 0-399-21015-6)


George, Jean - Julie of the Wolves - (Harper, 1972 ISBN 0-06-440058-1)


Wier, Ester - Rumptydoolers -(Vanguard ISBN 0-8149-0439-4)


Greene, Bette - Philip Hall Likes Me I Reckon Maybe - (Dial, 1974 ISBN 0-8037-6098-1)


Yep, Lawrence - Child of the Owl - (Harper, 1977 ISBN 0-06-026743-7)


Hobbs, Will - Bearstone - Atheneum, 1989 ISBN 0-689-31496-5)


Speare, Elizabeth George - The Witch of Blackbird Pond - (Houghton, 1958 ISBN 0-395-07114-3)


Cleaver, Vera & Bill - The Kissammee Kid - (Lothrop, 1981 ISBN 0-688-51992-X)


Griffith, Helen - Georgia Music -(Greenwillow, 1986 ISBN 0-688-06072-2)


Feeney, Stephanie - Hawaii Is a Rainbow (University of Hawaii, 1980 ISBN 0-8248-1007-4)


Cleaver, Vera & Bill - The Mimosa Tree - (Lippincott, 1970)Herman, Charlotte - Millie Cooper, 3B (Puffin, 1985) ISBN 0-14-032072-5)

Peck, Richard - A Long Way from Chicago.


Goodwin, Marie D. - Where the Towers Pierce the Sky (Four Winds, 1989 ISBN 0-02-736871-8)


Thomas, Jane - The Princess in the Pigpen - (Clarion, 1989 ISBN 0-395-51587-4)


Barger, Gary W. - What Happened to Mr. Forster - (Clarion, 1981 ISBN 0-395-31021-0)


Lyon, George - Borrowed Children - (Orchard, 1988 ISBN 0-531-08351-9)


Callen, Larry - Pinch - Little, 1975 ISBN 0-316-12495-8)


McCloskey, Robert - One Morning in Maine - Penguin, 1952 ISBN 0-670-52627-4)


Voigt, Cynthia - Dicey's Song (Atheneum, 1982 ISBN 0-689-30944-9))


Lowry, Lois - Taking Care of Terrific - (Houghton, 1983 ISBN 0-0440-48494-4)


Robertson, Keith - In Search of a Sandhill Crane - (Viking, 1973)


Paulsen, Gary - Popcorn Days and Buttermilk Nights ( Puffin, 1989 ISBN 0-14-034204-4)


Taylor, Mildred D. - Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry - (Dial, 1976ISBN 0-8037-7473-7)


Twain, Mark - Adventures of Tom Sawyer - (Troll Communications, 1991 ISBN 0893753580)


Conrad, Pam - Prairie Songs- (Harper, 1985 ISBN 0-06-021337-X)

New Hampshire

Blos, Joan - A Gathering of Days - (Macmillan, 1979 ISBN 0-684-16340-3)

New Jersey

Robertson, Keith - Henry Reed's Baby-Sitting Service - (Viking, 1966 ISBN 0-14-034146-3)

New Mexico

Baylor, Byrd - I'm in Charge of Celebrations (Macmillan, 1986 ISBN 0-684-18579-2)

New York

Konigsburg, E. L. - From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - (Macmillan, 1976 ISBN 0-0-689-20586-4)

North Carolina

Smith, Doris Buchanan - Return to Bitter Creek - (Viking, 1986 ISBN 0-670-80783-4)

North Dakota

Lawlor, Laurie -

Addie's Dakota Winter

- (Whitman, 1989 ISBN 0-8075-0171-9)


Cameron, Eleanor - To the Green Mountains - (Dutton, 1975 ISBN 0-525-41355-3)


Wallace, Bill - Danger in Quicksand Swamp - (Holiday, 1989 ISBN 0-8234-0786-1)


McGraw, Eloise Jarvis - The Money Room - (Atheneum, 1981 ISBN 0-689-50208-7)


Rappaport, Doreen - Trouble at the Mines - (Crowell, 1987 ISBN 0-690-04446-1)

Rhode Island

Avi - Something Upstairs: A Tale of Ghosts - (Orchard, 1990 ISBN 0-531-08382-9)

South Carolina

Tate, Eleanora - The Secret of Gumbo Grove - Watts, 1987 ISBN 0-531-10298-X)

South Dakota

Cleaver, Vera & Bill - Dust of the Earth - Harper, 1975 ISBN 0-397-31650-X)


Jukes, Mavis - No One Is Going to Nashville (Knopf, 1982 ISBN 0-394-89264-X)


Nelson, Theresa - Devil Storm - Orchard, 1987 ISBN 0-531-08311-X)


Fitzgerald, John D. - The Great Brain - (Dell, 1972 ISBN 0-440-43071-2)


Haas, Jesse - Keeping Barney - (Greenwillow, 1982 ISBN 0-688-00859-3)


Reeder, Carolyn - Shades of Gray - (Macmillan, 1989 ISBN 0-02-775810-9)


Beatty, Patricia - Sarah and Me and the Lady from the Sea - (Morrow, 1989 )

West Virginia

Rylant, Cynthia - A Blue-Eyed Daisy - (Bradbury, 1985 ISBN 0-02-777960-2)


Paulsen, Gary - The Island - (Orchard, 1988 ISBN 0-531-08349-7)


Gardiner, John R. - Stone Fox - (Harper, 1983 ISBN 0-06-440132-4)