Great Books for Our Great Stories
Many of you have asked me to share my favorite books that align with the Great Stories. So, here they are! I have used every single one of these books either in my elementary classrooms or in our homeschool life. Some are child-friendly reference books, but many have activities to inspire follow-up work.
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Companions to the First Great Story: The Origin of the Universe
Born With a Bang (book one of The Universe Tells Our Earth Story series): An impressionistic telling of the origin of the Universe, with the Universe itself as the narrator and tour guide. It also has factual information and pictures at the end. Probably best for children ages 9+ (although my son was smitten with it from the age of seven).
National Geographic Kids Space Encyclopedia: Stunning pictures, large-ish text, and just enough details to encourage an elementary child's first deep dive into research. It covers much more than just planets - discover stars, black holes, and even future space travel! This is one I really wish I'd had when I was a guide, because it's been an amazing resource in our homeschool.
The Shortest Day: Explains for lower elementary children what happens during the Winter Solstice, including historical celebrations and science activities to explore this special time of year. You only use it once a year, but it's handy to refer back to year after year and because it's a "seasonal" book, it never gets old!
How the Earth Works: Packed full of hands-on activities that align beautifully with the Montessori Geography lessons. Perfect for kids ages 8+ and their adults who are re-educating themselves. Because it covers so many interesting topics we didn't learn about in school...
The Story of Money: This book is the perfect companion to the study of economic geography, which starts in early elementary. It traces the origins of money to the first trades and barters, through the evolution of metal money in ancient civilizations, all the way to the modern credit card system. Wonderful illustrations and child-friendly text, written by an elementary teacher.
Companions to the Second Great Story: The Story of Life
From Lava to Life (book two of The Universe Tells Our Earth Story series): The Universe continues telling its story, this time focusing on how the Earth came to be. This book covers the origin of life up until the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction. It aligns beautifully with the Timeline of Life and also includes factual information and pictures. Some of the dates and details may be outdated, but it's still a beautiful and inspiring resource.
Continental Drift: A large book that illustrates how the planet has changed over billions of years. It's ideal for using alongside the Timeline of Life, to explore the impact of the shifting continents.
Fossilicious Children's Books: Developed by a Montessorian, these little books are ideal for exploring the Timeline of Life with just the right amount of information to kindle a child's curiosity and answer his questions.
Encyclopedia of Animals: This beautifully illustrated book categorizes animals by phylum, class, and order, which aligns well with the classification work children do with materials. For each animal that's featured (over 300 species), children will learn the common and scientific names, a short description of behavior and living conditions, size, diet, and where it's found. Perfect for lower elementary research! (I personally like this one a lot more than Animalium.)
Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: This is the young reader's edition of the NYT bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees. It answers many questions your children might have about trees, and includes ideas for outdoor explorations.
Companions to the Third Great Story: The Story of the Coming of Human Beings
Mammals Who Morph (book three of The Universe Tells Our Earth Story series): The last book in the trilogy covers human evolution, our progress, and our impact on the planet. It takes a slightly harsh (although not unrealistic) tone towards the end, in terms of how we're causing the third great extinction, but it ends on an optimistic note. That's one of the reasons why I recommend the series for children ages nine and up.
When We Became Humans: Covers the evolution of our ancestors, from hominids to modern man, with appealing drawings that will enchant even your kindergartners. It addresses how early humans met their fundamental human needs, including tool-making, housing, and food, and also has a page on human migration.
Human World: Like the mother of all infographics, this stunning book has color-coded charts divided by subject matter - human history; art and culture; and science, trade, and technology. It's perfect for Fundamental Human Needs work for all ages!
All Of Us (A Young People's History of the World): Unlike many history books for children, this one does a good job covering the history and development of both Eastern and Western civilizations from a secular perspective. It reads like an epic story, with beautiful full-page illustrations throughout. However, it's definitely for upper elementary children, due to its layout and depiction of our often-sordid human history (including colonization, plagues, slavery, religious disputes, and war).
The Story of Clocks and Calendars: Takes you on a journey to discover where our calendar and time-keeping systems originate. Great for complementing history lessons!
Companions to the Fourth Great Story: The Story of the Ox and the House
Ox, House, Stick (The History of our Alphabet): An interesting exploration on the origin of each letter. It's a natural follow-up to our Great Story, even for the youngest elementary learners.
Fun with Hieroglyphs: A fun book that can inspire plenty of follow-up work, especially among younger children. It explains the history of Egyptian writing, includes an alphabet guide, and a set of rubber stamps to write your own messages.
Companions to the Fifth Great Story: The Story of Numbers
Number Stories of Long Ago: The stories in this little book are the perfect complements to our Great Story of Math, and they will inspire children to see math not as a task to complete, but as a gift from our ancestors. This one is perfect for read-alouds for lower elementary children.
What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?: A must-read when the children are exploring triangles...Part history, part math, all fun!
The Sir Cumference series: If your child is a reluctant mathematician but an eager reader or historian, they'll love these books. Each one covers one main math topic (angles, rounding, place value, area, graphing...all the way to calculating volume) with amusing characters, entertaining plots, and clever associations that will help tricky math concepts stick.
Note: The link takes you to one of the books, but once you're in Amazon, you can do a search for "Sir Cumference" and it will show you all the books (you have to add one by one to your cart).
Shapes in Math, Science, and Nature: Full of interesting ideas for exploring geometry in nature, space, history, art, and science. Perfect for inspiring creative follow-ups!
Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Art of Everyday Cooking: This one is great for your sixth-year students (and for you!); it will help them discover the power of math in culinary arts.
Inspiration For Adults
Here are a few books that I absolutely LOVE and that align well with the Great Stories. Because the more you know about these topics, the more you can inspire children. These are also great for read-alouds in small snippets. It's the perfect way to model excitement for and analysis of books.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: Explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.” (description from Amazon.com)
Life on Earth: Told through an examination of animal and plant life, this is an astonishing celebration of the evolution of life on earth written by David Attenborough, with a cast of characters drawn from the whole range of organisms that have ever lived on this planet. (description from Amazon.com) I have this one in book and audiobook format, and I can't decide which one I love more!
The Earth Moved: In The Earth Moved, Amy Stewart takes us on a journey through the underground world and introduces us to one of its most amazing denizens. The earthworm may be small, spineless, and blind, but its impact on the ecosystem is profound. (description from Amazon.com)
The Hidden Lives of Trees: this beautifully-written book journeys deep into the forest to uncover the fascinating—and surprisingly moving—hidden life of trees. (description from Amazon.com)
Do you have other favorites to add to this list? Drop them in the comments! Happy reading!
Are you a Montessori homeschooling parent looking for guidance and support? Do you want to learn how to tell the Great Stories and use them as inspiration for supporting your child's education? Then join The Montessori Homeschool Hub, a membership community created by an experienced AMI Elementary guide and homeschooling parent to lead you from confusion to confidence in your homeschool journey.
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Thank you for sharing with us this extensive list! All the books look so interesting!
A M A Z I N G! Thank you!
This is such a fantastic, comprehensive list. I can't wait to dive in! Thank you!
Thank you so much. Amazing...
Thank you so much for the information about the book...
For the numbers a fun one is "A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars" by Seth Fishman. It's fun and kids love big numbers, at the end they explain how they had come to the numbers by comparison and estimation.
Thank you so much for this list!
Fabulous list! Incredibly helpful for our Lower Elementary classroom!
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