News & Media

18 Picture Books that Honor American Military History

Military history and war times shape every aspect of society, from the physical borders between nations to the language, religion, and rights of citizens.

While peace is always the goal, the American military has a proud history of enforcing the laws of this land by putting honor and valor before self. The books in the Calkins Creek collection reveal the personal stories of individuals who made a difference in many of this nation’s great wars: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the leaders and heroes of each conflict.

This collection is the perfect addition to school libraries and classrooms, or for families who want to keep their bookworms (or reluctant readers!) excited and reaching for the next book. Explore these awesome picture books that honor American military history!

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara E. Walsh, illustrated by Layne Johnson

A perennial bestseller! Moina Belle Michael was a schoolteacher from Georgia who knew she had to act when American soldiers entered World War I. The Poppy Lady is the inspiring story behind the Veterans Day red poppy, a symbol that honors the service and sacrifices of our veterans.

Cloaked in Courage: Uncovering Deborah Sampson, Patriot Soldier by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Anne Lambelet

The remarkable story of Deborah Sampson, a woman who fought in the American Revolution disguised as a man—and who ends up finding her true identity and purpose in life.

To the Front! Clara Barton Braves the Battle of Antietam by Claudia Friddell, illustrated by Christopher Cyr

This powerful tribute to Civil War nurse Clara Barton and her heroic efforts during the Battle of Antietam reveals how she earned the name “The Angel of the Battlefield,” and shows the beginnings of her journey as one of our country’s greatest humanitarians and the founder of the American Red Cross.

Revolutionary Prudence Wright: Leading the Minute Women in the Fight for Independence by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Susan Reagan

Here is the first-ever picture book about female Revolutionary War activist Prudence Wright, who rallied the first and only group of “minute women” to fight the British, changing history in the process.

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

In this dramatic Civil War story, a courageous enslaved fugitive teams with a cunning Union general to save a Union fort from the Confederates–and triggers the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first children’s nonfiction book about a Black unsung hero who remains relevant today and to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Full Speed Ahead: America’s First Admiral: David Glasgow Farragut by Louise Borden

Discover the man behind everyone’s favorite call to action, “Full speed ahead!” in this inspiring and engaging biography about the first Admiral of the United States Navy, David Glasgow Farragut.

Like a River: A Civil War Novel by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Like a River is a lyrical atmospheric first novel told in two voices. Readers will be transported to the homes, waterways, camps, hospitals, and prisons of the Civil–War era. They will also see themselves in the universal themes of dealing with parents, friendships, bullying, failure, and young love.

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution by Gretchen Woelfle, illustrated by Gregory Christie 

Even as American Patriots fought for independence from British rule during the Revolutionary War, oppressive conditions remained in place for the thousands of enslaved and free African Americans living in this country. Uncover the lives of thirteen African-Americans who fought during the Revolutionary War in this striking and accessible picture book. 

Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

Young fans of the smash Broadway hit “Hamilton” will enjoy this narrative nonfiction picture book story about the important friendship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War.

Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by John O’Brien

This is the story behind Benedict Arnold, the most famous traitor in American History, and British Officer John Andre. This riveting nonfiction picture book unfolds like a play, telling a story from American history.

Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease by Gail Jarrow

The science and grisly history of U.S. Civil War medicine, using actual medical cases and first-person accounts by soldiers, doctors, and nurses, is explored in this fascinating nonfiction book for young readers.

Grace Banker and Her Hello Girls Answer the Call: The Heroic Story of WWI Telephone Operators by Claudia Friddell, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley 

Led by twenty-five-year-old Grace Banker, thirty-two telephone operators—affectionately called “Hello Girls” back in the US—became the first female combatants in World War I. Follow Grace’s journey from her busy life as a telephone switchboard trainer in New York to her pioneering role as the Chief Operator of the 1st Unit of World War I telephone operators in the battlefields of France.

The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share by Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Alison Jay

This NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book is the true story of how the great nations of America and England almost went to war in 1859 over a pig–but learned to share instead.

Lincoln Clears a Path: Abraham Lincoln’s Agricultural Legacy by Peggy Thomas, illustrated by Stacy Innerst 

Throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln tried to make life easier for others. Then during the darkest days of the Civil War, when everyone needed hope, President Lincoln cleared a path for all Americans to a better future.

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography by Louise Borden

Ski Soldier is a true-life adventure that tells the story of Pete Seibert, a ski soldier severely wounded in World War II, who went on to found the Vail Ski Resort in Colorado.

Now or Never! Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery by Ray Anthony Shepard 

This Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book is the riveting dual biography of two little-known but extraordinary African-American Union soldiers in Civil War history—George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding.

Robert E. Lee: The Man, the Soldier, the Myth by Brandon Marie Miller

The life of one of the most mythologized men in American history, Confederate States Army General Robert E. Lee, is explored in this comprehensive young-adult biography.

Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale by J. Albert Mann

Sixteen-year-old Noah Daniels wants nothing more than to fight in George Washington’s Continental Army, but an accident as a child left him maimed and unable to enlist… A riveting coming of age story, this book also includes an author’s note and bibliography.