Keep Reading For 20 Books about Pennsylvania for a Homeschool Unit Study
The best part of being in Pennsylvania is that it means you aren’t in Ohio anymore. Nothing against the fine state of Ohio but when you are trucking across the United States in a big rig, Ohio gets a bit, how do you say it? Boring!
In the fall of 2004, I was able to ride along with my husband as he drove his semi across the eastern US. It was an amazing time and some of our best memories as a newly married couple. We spent a lot of time crossing Pennsylvania, and while being steeped in American history, it is also an absolutely gorgeous state.
Studying and learning about Pennsylvania, or any state, is more than memorizing its state rock and main agricultural crop. My approach to studying the 50 states involves what as Charlotte Mason coined, living books. Living books are books that make the subject you are studying come alive and are written by people who love the subject.
ICYMI, click HERE for all the other state book lists!
If you are starting to study Pennsylvania, I have a list of 20 books of various reading levels to get you started. From Benjamin Franklin to the Battle of Gettysburg this list has something for all interests and age ranges that homeschooling families may have.
Pennsylvania History and Facts
- Pennsylvania is nicknamed the Keystone State because it was a middle colony of the original 13 colonies, and because it has held a key position in the economic, social, and political development of the United States.
- The Pennsylvania state motto is virtue, liberty, and independence
- Pennsylvania became a state on December 12, 1787. It was the second state.
- Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania.
- Pennsylvania was named in honor of Adm. Sir William Penn, father of William Penn. It means “Penn’s Woodland.”
- James Buchanan, the 12th President of the United States, was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania on November 2, 1795.
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Descriptions come from Amazon; some are edited for length
Living Books about Pennsylvania
Kids Books About Pennsylvania
K is for Keystone: A Pennsylvania Alphabet by Kristen Kane
“Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water, Gettysburg, Ben Franklin’s inventions, the Liberty Bell — there is so much to learn about Pennsylvania’s history and geography. K is for Keystone is a wonderful introduction to many of Pennsylvania’s unique features for readers young and old.”
This series of books called Discover America State By State are some of my favorites for introducing a state to kids. Each letter states a fact or a thing about that state. For example, for Pennsylvania letter A is for Amish and so on. Each letter comes with a four line rhyme about that respective letter’s fact or subject. What I love most is on the side of the page it gives more in-depth description about each subject. It’s a great jumping off point for what sparks an interest in your child!
One for All: A Pennsylvania Number Book by Trinka Hakes Noble
“Trinka Hakes Noble invites young readers to join her as she counts her way through the history and traditions of the great state of Pennsylvania. Using state symbols, landmark events, and famous people, numbers come to life in simple rhymes, accompanied by detailed expository text.”
Books About Pennsylvanian History
Saving the Liberty Bell by Megan McDonald
“Some tall tales are actually true. This is a grand one, told with rightful pride by a boy who was there in the city of Philadelphia in 1777 and was lucky enough to play a role in the American Revolution. John Jacob Mickley, eleven years old, and his father were in the city when the Great Bell began ringing from atop the State House to warn the citizens: “Redcoats! The Redcoats are coming! Megan McDonald has aptly caught John Jacob’s excited retelling of the story, and Marsha Gray Carrington has relished every wild and wooly moment of it in her pictures — both funny and carefully researched.”
The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
“What happened on the Fourth of July long before there were fireworks and parades? Alice Dalgliesh takes young readers back to revolutionary times, back to the colonists’ desire for freedom and the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Simple text captures the excitement of the era, telling how word of Independence traveled up and down the thirteen colonies, touching the lives of everyday people throughout the land. Like all of Alice Dalgliesh’s work, The Fourth of July Story remains an American classic.”
Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln: The Story of the Gettysburg Address by Jean Fritz
“Abraham Lincoln was one busy man. He had a country to run. And a war to win. And a family to care for. But when it came time to honor all the soldiers who had died in the great battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln still took time to say a few words. Two hundred and seventy-one to be exact. Here is a true story about a great man and his famous speech.”
Picture books About Pennsylvanian Historical Figures
Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta
“From bifocals and daylight savings time to post offices and lightning rods, the incredible inventions and ingenuity of Benjamin Franklin are presented in this informative celebration of one of the nation’s most beloved figures.”
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
“Chronicles the life of scientist John James Audubon, who pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds thanks to his lifelong love for the species. If there was one thing James loved to do more than anything else, it was to be in the great outdoors watching his beloved feathered friends. In the fall of 1804, he was determined to find out if the birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home would really return the following spring. Through careful observation, James laid the foundation for all that we know about migration patterns today. Capturing the early passion of this bird-obsessed young man as well as the meticulous study and scientific methods behind his research, this lively, gorgeously illustrated biography will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds large and small near their own home.”
What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz
“No matter how busy he was, Ben Franklin always found time to try out new ideas. Such as a remote-control lock (so he could stay in bed and lock his door), a rocking chair (which powered a fan), and a windmill (to turn his meat roaster). Aside from being a man of ideas, he was an ambassador to England, a printer, an almanac maker, a politician, and even a vegetarian (for a time).”
Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor
“A biography of the pioneering scientist and environmentalist, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. Determined and curious even as a child, Rachel Carson’s fascination with the natural world led her to study biology, and pursue a career in science at a time when very few women worked in the field. This lyrical, illustrated biography follows Carson’s journey—from a girl exploring the woods, to a woman working to help support her family during the Great Depression, to a journalist and pioneering researcher, investigating and exposing the harmful effects of pesticide overuse.”
Betsy Ross and the American Flag by Kay Melchisedech Olson
“Looks at the life of Betsy Ross from her Quaker childhood to her days as an independent businesswoman. Also examines the legend of the Betsy Ross flag. Written in graphic-novel format.”
“Ever wonder where inventors get their ideas? As it turns out, the great inventor Benjamin Franklin got his best ideas from a mouse named Amos! Funny, interesting and wise, this classic tale has been a favorite for generations. Once you’ve met Amos and read his account, you’ll never think of Ben Franklin-or American history-quite the same way.”
Picture books Set in Pennsylvania
Raising Yoder’s Barn by Jane Yolen
“In a stunning picture book, eight-year-old Matthew tells what happens when a devastating fire destroys the barn on his family’s farm and all the Amish neighbors help to rebuild it in one day.”
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
“People have always told Jonathan that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain, no bears at all. So he isn’t afraid to set out alone over the mountain. But as Jonathan discovers one cold winter night, people aren’t always right…There are bears on Hemlock Mountain!”
Chapter Books Set In Pennsylvania
The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz
“Ann Hamilton’s family has moved to the western frontier of Pennsylvania, and she misses her old home in Gettysburg. There are no girls her age on Hamilton Hill, and life is hard. But when the Hamiltons survive a terrible storm and receive a surprise visit from George Washington, Ann realizes that pioneer life is exciting and special.”
Dear America: The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
“Eleven-year-old Abigail Jane Stewart’s fictionalized diary about her life, family, friends, and neighbors, and the sides they have to choose in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the height of the Revolutionary War, renders a vivid portrayal of one of the most memorable and crucial winters in American history.”
“When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. A sweet and satisfying delight, as inviting as warm pie on a cold day. You’ll enjoy every last bite.”
Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid by Jerry Spinelli
“Newbery medalist Jerry Spinelli has penned his early autobiography with all the warmth, humor, and drama of his best-selling fiction. From first memories through high school, including first kiss, first punch, first trip to the principal’s office, and first humiliating sports experience, this is not merely an account of a highly unusual childhood. Rather, like Spinelli’s fiction, its appeal lies in the accessibility and universality of his life. Entertaining and fast-paced, this is a highly readable memoir.”
Young Adult Fiction Set in Pennsylvania
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
“During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out. Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.”
Macaroni Boy by Katherine Ayres
“Mike Costa has lived his whole life in The Strip, Pittsburgh’s warehouse and factory district. His father’s large Italian family runs a food wholesale business, and Mike is used to the sounds and smells of men working all night to unload the trains that feed the city. But it’s 1933, and the Depression is bringing tough times to everyone. Money problems only add to Mike’s worries about his beloved grandfather, who is getting forgetful and confused. Mike is being tormented at school by a loud-mouth bully, who calls Mike ‘Macaroni Boy.’ But when dead rats start appearing in the streets, that name changes to ‘Rat Boy.’ Around the same time Mike notices that his grandfather is also physically sick. Can whatever is killing the rats be hurting Mike’s grandfather? It’s a mystery Mike urgently needs to solve in this atmospheric, fast-paced story filled with vibrant period detail.”
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
“Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is ‘grounded for life’ by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore―typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.”
Books Set in Pennsylvania (For Mom!)
I love to read, and I love a good theme or challenge for a reading list. So my final two books on this Pennsylvania book list are one adult fiction and one adult non-fiction!
Fiction Book Set In Pennsylvania
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
“‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.’ So begins the story of Susie Salmon, who is adjusting to her new home in heaven, a place that is not at all what she expected, even as she is watching life on earth continue without her — her friends trading rumors about her disappearance, her killer trying to cover his tracks, her grief-stricken family unraveling. Out of unspeakable tragedy and loss, THE LOVELY BONES succeeds, miraculously, in building a tale filled with hope, humor, suspense, even joy.”
Non-Fiction Book Set In Pennsylvania
An American Childhood by Annie Dillard
“A book that instantly captured the hearts of readers across the country, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard’s poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s.”
I hope this book list sparks an interest in your homeschooler. It could be Benjamin Franklin, the Revolutionary War, or the Liberty Bell! Pennsylvania has so many fun areas to explore and expand on. Which one does your child love best? What kind of books would you like to see in the future? Drop a comment below to let me know!
Don’t forget to check out the other states!
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
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