Covered Wagon; Oregon Trail Books

Oregon Trail Books, the Alamo, Davy Crockett, Industrial Revolution, Western Expansion, Pioneer Life

US History Project Ideas

Oregon Trail books are a big part of titles available for the early 1800s. Since the 1830s brought the battle at the Alamo in Texas, the reading list includes books on the Alamo, along with one of its notable fighters, Davy Crockett. Topics expand in the 1840’s to include immigration, the Industrial Revolution, and pioneer life.

The early 1800s is also the appropriate time for the Junior High or High School student to read Tom Sawyer, or upper elementary and beyond to read about the author, Mark Twain.

The older student would get a great picture of industrialization, child labor, and the hardships of the workers from the historical fiction, Lyddie. Be sure to read the description & cautionary notes below for this title.

Out of all these choices, the Oregon Trail books seem to be the most popular. Browse through the reading list below to choose your favorite topics!


A Gathering of Days : A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-32 by Joan W. Blos. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979. UE+
Newbery Medal. Gives a glimpse of life on an early American farm in New Hampshire.

A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence, Gonzales, Texas, 1836 (Dear America) by Sherry Garland. Scholastic, 1998. UE+
The life of a “Texian” girl is affected by Texas’ struggle with Santa Ana. The story behind the Alamo. Caution: One sentence describing out-of-control soldiers ravaging the town says they “molest[ed] the women.” This is the extent of the description.

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illus. Barbara Cooney K-E
Caldecott Medal. Daily life throughout an entire year of a New England farmer and his family.

A Picture Book of Davy Crockett (Picture Book Biography) by David A. Adler; illus. John & Alexandra Wallner. Holiday House, 1996. E
Well illustrated; can be read in one sitting. Alludes to the tall tales of Davy Crockett, so be sure to read a few at the same time! (see 1800s — Tall Tales)

Samuel Morse and the Telegraph (Graphic Library: Inventions and Discovery series) by David Seidman, illus. David Seidman, Rod Whigham, Charles Barnett III. Capstone Press, 2007. E-UE


A Brilliant Streak: The Making of Mark Twain by Kathryn Lasky, illus. Barry Moser. Harcourt Brace & Co., 1998. UE-JH
Fascinating account of Mark Twain’s life up until he was about 30 years old, nicely complemented with plenty of color illustrations. Enough detail to give a well-rounded picture of an adventurous American life in the early 1800’s without being overly burdensome. See Tom Sawyer.

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847 (Dear America) by Kristiana Gregory.
Not yet reviewed.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. JH+
Fictional adventures of a young boy, based on Mark Twain’s own life in the deep South in the 1840’s. Sequel is Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Attack in the Rye Grass (Trailblazers Series) by Dave & Neta Jackson. UE-JH
Christian historical fiction. Marcus & Narcissa Whitman, Oregon Territory pioneers.

Conestoga Wagons by Richard Ammon, illus. Bill Farnsworth. Holiday House, 2000. E-UE
Between 1750 and 1850, the Conestoga wagons were part of the American story. This book tells you what made them so special & how they were used, giving you a glimpse into the transportation challenges of early America.

If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon by Ellen Levine, illus. Elroy Freem. Scholastic, 1986. E-UE
Describes the journey on the Oregon Trail by asking questions and giving answers.

Katie’s Wish by Barbara Shook Hazen, illus. Emily Arnold McCully. Dial Books, 2002. K-E
Caldecott Medal. The Irish potato famine sends a girl from her native land to America.

The Legend of Jimmy Spoon (Great Episode series) by Kristiana Gregory. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. UE+
Jimmy thinks he is riding with Indians for a few days, but ends up adopted by the chief’s family far away from home. Good adventure story, good ending, and excellent resource on Indian (Shoshoni) culture.

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson. Lodestar Books, 1991. JH+
Lyddie finds work in the mills in Lowell, Mass., to get out of desperate circumstances. Excellent look at New England’s mills and the need for labor reform! Caution: a respected unmarried character makes immoral choices and becomes pregnant, but she does reap negative consequences. Also, Lyddie repels a supervisor’s unwelcome advances.

Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Scholastic, 1952. UE-JH
Jim had lived with Indians for years, and finds it difficult to readjust to his own family’s ways. He helps them travel to Oregon, but will he stay? Good adventure story, and a favorite book for boys.

A Pioneer Sampler : The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840 by Barbara Greenwood, illus. Heather Collins. Houghton Mifflin, 1994. UE
Stories, explanations, and craft/activity suggestions are intermingled to cover virtually every aspect of pioneer life. Illustrated throughout. Good book!

Walking the Road to Freedom: A Story About Sojourner Truth (Carolrhoda Creative Minds Book) by Jeri Ferris, illus. Peter E. Hanson. E-UE

Westward To Home: Joshua’s Oregon Trail Diary by Patricia Hermes. Scholastic 2001. E-UE

The Wild West (See Through History) by Tim Wood. Viking Press, 1996. UE-JH
Explains westward expansion from the late 1700’s to 1800’s with colorful illustrations, one major topic per two-page spread.

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