Early American History

Explorers Books: Eric the Red, Leif Ericson, Columbus, & more

Explorers books top the list of a good Early American history reading list. And the earliest of the American explorers is the Viking Leif Ericson, circa AD 1000. Incidentally, more reading selections for kids on the Vikings can be found in our World History Reading List.

After the Viking explorer books come several suggested books on other Explorers, with some favorite titles on Columbus in the 1490s.

Historical fiction on early American explorers is scarce, but we found a few more selections for the 1520s and 1540s.

US History Project Ideas

AMERICA 1000s: Eric the Red & Leif Ericson

Eric The Red: The Viking Adventurer (What’s Their Story?) by Neil Grant, illus. Victor Ambrus. Oxford Univ. Press, 1997. E-UE
The story of this father & son (Leif Ericson) reveals Viking life & culture, and tells of their early visit to North America.

Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky (Adventures in the New World) by Barbara Schiller. E-UE

Leif The Lucky by Ingri & Edgar D’Aulaire. E-JH+
The D’Aulaires’ books are richly illustrated, historically thorough, and entertaining.

AMERICA 1400-1600: Explorers Books

The Discovery of the Americas : From Prehistory Through the Age of Columbus by Betsy and Giulio Maestro. E-UE+

Exploration and Conquest : The Americas After Columbus: 1500-1620 by Betsy & Giulio Maestro . Mulberry Books, 1994. E-UE+
Factual account of early explorers. Colorful illustrations and short paragraphs per page keep a child’s interest. Covers the important names, giving a well-rounded understanding of the age of exploration.

AMERICA 1490s: Columbus Books

Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading, Step 3) by Stephen Krensky, ill. Norman Green. Random House, 1991. E
Story is limited to Columbus’ first voyage, but includes behind-the-scenes details such as the sailors’ fears, the boring diet on board ship, and the close mutiny.

A Picture Book of Christopher Columbus by David A. Adler, ill. illus. John & Alexandra Wallner. Holiday House, 1991. E-UE
Not forgotten here is that Columbus sailed across the ocean on 4 separate occasions. All the voyages are told in this thorough, easy-to-understand biography and illustrated with black & white line drawings.

Columbus by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1955. E-JH+
This story keeps going where most others end, giving the complete scenario of his life both before & after 1492. Every page is illustrated, some color and some black and white.

Garfield Discovers America (created by Jim Davis) by Jim Kraft, illus. Mike Fentz. Watermill Press, 1992. E-UE
If you need a little humor to keep school fun, this is it! Learn about Columbus through the eyes of a favorite comic character: Garfield–well, actually, one of his ancestors. This is not in comic strip format, just large, colorfully illustrated pages.

Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage With Christopher Columbus August 3, 1492-February 14, 1493 by Pam Conrad. Scholastic, 1991. UE

Westward With Columbus: Set Sail on the Voyage That Changed the World (Time Quest Book) by John Dyson

Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus? By Jean Fritz, illus. Margot Tomes. UE-JH

AMERICA 1520s: Explorers Books

Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker.
Not yet reviewed. (de Vaca)

AMERICA 1540s: Explorers Books

The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell, illus. Samuel Bryant. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966. JH+
Seven of Coronado’s camp left together to find the fabled golden city on their own. This is their story, told by the now 17-year-old boy who was with them and was one of the few who came through the journey alive. The story is fascinating, slightly sad, and sheds some light on the age of the conquistadors that you might not find anywhere else.

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