If you’re looking to read books for ancient history studies with your kids this year, this booklist is for you. It’s a short list of delightful picture book read-alouds for the whole family.

Why only picture books?

Well… because picture books are worthwhile for everyone. Your high schooler is likely to enjoy these books every bit as much as your first grader. And I bet you’ll learn a thing or two, as you’re reading along. ;)

If you happen to be short on time (am I the only one raising my hand here?), committing to reading aloud from a picture book is a whole lot easier than sitting down to read a novel or even a chapter book.

You’ll notice in the descriptions below that I’ve noted the general geographic location (or origin) of the story. I hope that helps you choose your read-alouds based on where you are in your studies.

Whether you’re learning about ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, or Egypt… we’ve collected our favorite picture books for you right here.

Click the play button below:

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Picture books for ancient history

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Listener Guide

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:

  • 1:36 Get the printable
  • 3:03 A short, delightful list
  • 5:12 Fables from Demi
  • 7:01 Ancient Greece
  • 10:00 Ancient Egypt
  • 13:14 Ancient Rome and Mesopotamia
  • 14:42 Tomie dePaola Bible stories and more
  • 15:34 Less is more
  • 16:29 Let the kids speak

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Quotes to remember:

Picture books can be especially informative, helpful, and beautiful. They reach us in a different place. They add an element of beauty. And really, the text in a picture book is only half of what you get. The illustrations lend the other half.”

“Let this be a way that you can dip into an enjoyable, historical read-aloud with your child, and connect with them.”

“We tried to choose what will have a really wide appeal in your home, a good chance for delight and connection, offer a good opportunity for conversations in your family, and appeal to a broad range of ages. I think all of the books on this list will do all of those things.”

(Download the transcript above for more quotes and pull-outs.)

Books from this episode:

(All links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Ancient History
The Empty Pot

The Empty Pot

FROM SARAH

The story of a Chinese Emperor's challenge and a schoolboy's honesty. A delightful fable with Demi's classic illustrations.

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Demi's exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping's embarrassing failure is turned triumphant in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

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One Grain of Rice

One Grain of Rice

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Long ago in India, there lived a raja who believed that he was wise and fair. But every year he kept nearly all of the people's rice for himself. Then when famine came, the raja refused to share the rice, and the people went hungry. Then a village girl named Rani devises a clever plan.

 

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What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Children can test their math skills and learn the Pythagorean Theorem alongside young Pythagoras in this STEM adventure. Pythagoras' curiosity takes him from Samos to Alexandria, where he meets a builder named Neferheperhersekeper, who introduces him to the right angle.

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Pythagoras and the Ratios: A Math Adventure

Pythagoras and the Ratios: A Math Adventure

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Pythagoras and his cousins want to win a music contest, but first they must figure out how to play their instruments in tune, something that's never been done before.

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The Egyptian Cinderella

The Egyptian Cinderella

FROM SARAH

EGYPT- an Egyptian spin on the classic Cinderella tale, initially recorded in the first century by a Roman historian and retold in picture book form by Shirley Climo

FROM THE PUBLISHER

This Egyptian spin on the classic Cinderella tale was initially recorded in the first century by a Roman historian and is retold here by folklorist Shirley Climo.

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Of Numbers and Stars

Of Numbers and Stars

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

Presents the life of a Egyptian woman who lived in fifth century Alexandria and became a respected scholar in mathematics and philosophy.

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Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy)

Gilgamesh the King (The Gilgamesh Trilogy)

FROM SARAH

MESOPOTAMIA- The story of Gilgamesh is said to be one of the oldest stories every recorded. This is the first picture book in a trilogy, retelling the epic of Gilgamesh for children.

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Gilgamesh, half-god and half-man, in his loneliness and isolation becomes a cruel tyrant over the citizens of Uruk. In answer, another kind of man, Enkidu, is sent to earth to live among the animals and learn kindness from them.

 

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The Miracles of Jesus

The Miracles of Jesus

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Inspired by Romanesque art, Tomie dePaola brings the New Testament to life as he retells the stories of twelve miracles in the Bible.

FROM SARAH

BIBLE- the miracles of Jesus, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (highly recommended)

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Mary: The Mother of Jesus

Mary: The Mother of Jesus

FROM THE PUBLISHER

In sharing events from Mary's birth to her crowning as the Queen of Heaven, these fifteen stories will inspire a lifelong love for and devotion to Mary. They will draw children closer to her son and invite them, like Mary, to say Yes to the presence of Jesus in their lives.

FROM SARAH

BIBLE- a picture book biography about the Mother of Jesus, illustrated by Tomie dePaola (highly recommended)

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Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories

Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Tomie dePaola lovingly brings to life thirty-seven well-known Bible stories and Psalms, featuring some of the most memorable and significant people in both the Old and New Testaments.

FROM SARAH

BIBLE- a collection of Bible stories lovingly illustrated by Tomie dePaola (highly recommended)

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D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

FROM SARAH

GREECE- a favorite collection of Greek Myths, retold and illustrated by the talented D'Aulaires

FROM THE PUBLISHER

In print for over fifty years, D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths has introduced generations to Greek mythology—and continues to enthrall young readers.

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Pyramid

Pyramid

FROM SARAH

EGYPT- David Macaulay's compelling and detailed account of how a Pyramid was made (highly recommended)

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Through concise text and richly detailed black and white illustrations we come to know the philosophy of life and death in ancient Egypt.

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City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction

City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction

FROM THE PUBLISHER

ROME- a visual feast and informative account of how a Roman City was built

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Aesop’s Fables

Aesop’s Fables

FROM SARAH

GREECE- a collection of fables first told by the Greek slave & philosopher, Aesop, combined with lush, rich illustrations by Jerry Pinkney

FROM THE PUBLISHER

In this elegantly designed volume, more than sixty of Aesop's timeless fables have been carefully selected, humorously retold, and brought gloriously to life by four-time Caldecott Honor-winner Jerry Pinkney.

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Mummies Made in Egypt (Reading Rainbow Books)

Mummies Made in Egypt (Reading Rainbow Books)

FROM SARAH

EGYPT- a nonfiction look at the process of mummification; this one gets a little gruesome-- don't say I didn't warn you!

FROM THE PUBLISHER

Aliki describes and illustrates the techniques and the reasons for the use of mummification in ancient Egypt.

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Picture books for ancient history

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