Wagons Ho! Westward with Lewis & Clark and The Oregon Trail

These fabulous books, both fiction and nonfiction, will bring history to life for your students.

The Crossing: Lewis & Clark’s Historic Journey Seen Through a Brand-New Pair of Eyes.  Donna Jo Napoli.  Atheneum, 2011.
A lyrical, beautifully illustrated picture book of the 1805 westward journey of Lewis and Clark, guided by Sacagawea.  Her baby son, Jean Baptiste, traveled in a cradle board on his mother’s back.  The amazing sights and sounds of the journey are told through the child’s eyes.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade

A Book for Black-Eyed Susan.  Judy Young.  Sleeping Bear Press, 2011.
Ten-year-old Cora and her family are traveling the Oregon Trail by covered wagon.  Her mother dies giving birth to a new sister that Cora names Susan because her mother loved Black-Eyed Susans.  To cope with the loss, Cora makes quilt squares from scraps in her mother’s sewing box and binds them as a book to chronicle their journey for her new baby sister.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade

Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark.  Patricia reeder Eubank.  Ideals, 2002.
Meriwether Lewis paid $20 for Seaman, a 150 pound Newfoundland.  In this journal we see the Expedition from the dog’s point of view.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade



York’s Adventures with Lewis and Clark:  An African American’s Part in the Great Expedition.  HarperCollins, 2003.
Clark’s personal slave, York, joined the Expedition.  His skill and courage were recorded in the journals.  Some believe the Expedition would have failed without him.  Parts of this book would be effective read aloud.
4th-8th grade


You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Pioneer : A Wilderness You’d Rather Not Tame.  Jacqueline Morley.  Franklin Watts, 2002.
An entertaining look at the many difficulties faced by pioneers who traveled west by covered wagon.  A good example of persuasive writing.  Long Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade


How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail: My Adventures Among Cows, Crooks & Heroes on the Road to Fame and Fortune.  Tod Olson.  National Geographic, 2009.
This lively, fictionalized account of William Reed as he travels 2000 miles with his family on the Oregon Trail in 1852 provides a wealth of accurate information about what life on this journey was like.  Entertaining and educational.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade


The Corps of Discovery.  John Hamilton.  ABDO, 2003.
The goals and reasons for the expedition are aptly explained here.  Interesting to learn that the reasons for so many misspellings in the journals was that there was no source for standardized spelling at the time.  Every page is illustrated.  Picture Book.  Other titles in the series:  The Missouri River; The Mountains; To the Pacific; Uncharted Lands; The Journey Home.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark.  Rosalyn Schanzer.  National Geographic, 1997.
Using quotes and drawings from the traveler’s journals, the story of the 1804 expedition, we learn of their struggles and amazing discoveries.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th-5th grade


Lewis and Clark:  Explorers of the American West.  Steven Kroll.  Holiday House, 1996.
This attractive, factual introduction to the explorers reads like an adventure story.  A great read-aloud introduction.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 4th-5th grade


Oregon Trail.  Mel Friedman.  Children’s Press, 2010.
Clear, concise text.  Nicely designed with photos, reproductions, maps.  The six short chapters are packed with info.  Great for report writing or a read-aloud introduction to the Oregon Trail.
Series:  True Books: Westward Expansion.  Also excellent from this series is: The Lewis and Clark Expedition by John Perritano.


A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark.  David Adler.  Holiday House, 2003.
Great watercolors and the spirit of adventure in fairly simple text make this a good introduction.  Adler includes excerpts and letters from their journals.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade


If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon.  Ellen Levine.  Scholastic, 2006.
An updated description in question and answer format provides a good way to understand the challenges of the Oregon Trail.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade



Life on the Oregon Trail Gary L. Blackwood.  Lucent Books, 1999.
Short chapters organize the information.  Outstanding photos, paintings help to portray daily routines, food, clothing, etc.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade


Life on the Oregon Trail.  Sally Senzell Isaacs.  Heinemann, 2001.
Easy to read, good for beginning researchers,  there are just 2 or 3 paragraphs on each of 14 topics.  Good photos and reproductions.
3rd-4th grade



Across the Wild and Lonesome Prairie : The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847. Kristiana Gregory.  Scholastic, 1997.
It’s 1847 and thirteen-year-old Hattie set out on a six-month journey from Missouri to Oregon City.  In the journal she received for her birthday, she records her experience.  The Dear America Series.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade


Bound for Oregon.  Jean Van Leeuwen.  Puffin, 1996.
Based on the real-life journey of the Todd family’s 1852 journey on the Oregon Trail from Arkansas.  A dramatic story seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Mary Ellen.
Read-aloud 4th-5th grade




I’m Sorry, Almira Ann.  Jane Kurtz.  Scholastic, 2001.
Both Sarah’s and Almira Ann’s families follow the Oregon Trail from Missouri.  They share the excitement and the hardships sacrifices inspired by actual historical incidents.  A great read-aloud.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade



Pioneer Cat.  William Hooks.  Random House, 1998.
Kate is deeply saddened to leave her best friend behind when her family joins a wagon train for Oregon.  She smuggles a cat aboard, makes a new friend.  Fast paced, read-alone.
3rd-4th grade



Rachel’s Journal: The Story of a Pioneer Girl.  Marissa Moss.  Harcourt, 2001.
Rachel records her family’s adventures traveling the Oregon Trail in 1850.  Young American Voices Series.
Read-aloud 4th-5th grade



The Stout-Hearted Seven : Orphaned on the Oregon Trail.  Neta Frazier.  Sterling, 2006.
The Sager family headed west in 1844.  When both parents dies, the 7 children had to fend for themselves until they were adopted by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade



The Tragic Tale of Narcissa Whitman and a Faithful History of the Oregon Trail.  Cheryl Harness.  National Geographic, 2006.
A well researched biography of the missionary’s life until her tragic death at age 39.  Excerpts from her letters home add interest.
Read-aloud 4th-5th grade



The Journal of Jedediah Barstow: An Emigrant on the Oregon Trial
.  Ellen Levine.  Scholastic, 2002.
Jedediah is a thirteen-year-old orphan who describes his journey to Oregon in 1835 after the rest of his family drowns.  A grand an emotional adventure.  My Name is America Series.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade



Papa and the Pioneer Quilt.  Jean Van Leeuwen.  Dial, 2007.
Rebecca and her family are traveling from Missouri to Oregon by covered wagon.  Along the way she collects scraps of fabric to make a quilt.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade



Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains.  Deborah Hopkinson.  Atheneum, 2004.
In this fun tall tale a family journeys from Iowa to Oregon in the 1800’s.  The father builds special wagons to transport his precious apple trees.  They have larger than life adventures along the way.  Daughter Delicious always seems to save the day.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade

Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails.  Verla Kay. Putnam, 2000.
Creative, rhyming verse describes a family’s difficult journey across the Rockies to California.
It could make a great chant for kids to memorize.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade


Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail.  Elvira Woodruff.  Yearling, 2000.
Inspired by actual pioneer diaries, twelve-year-old Austin Ives writes letters to his younger brother describing the journey from Pennsylvania to Oregon in 1851.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade



Easy Work! An Old Tale.  Eric Kimmel.  Holiday House, 1998.
This popular Norwegian folktale is set in Oregon of the 1800’s.  Homesteader McTeague thinks his wife has it easy at home all day, so they trade places.  The results are hysterically disastrous.
Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-4th grade


Mr. Tucket.  Gary Paulsen.  Yearling, 1994
In this rip-roaring adventure, Francis Tucket is kidnapped by Pawnee Indians while traveling the Oregon Trail in 1848.  His escape leads him to a one-armed trapper who teaches him how to survive in the wild.  The first title in the Tucket Adventures series.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade



Wagons West!  Roy Gerrard.  Farra, Straus & Giroux, 1996.
Buckskin Dan leads a wagon train overland to Oregon, facing all the dangers and challenges.  Gerrard’s little people with big hats caricatures add humor to the action.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-4th grade


Going West! A Journey on a Wagon Train to Settle a Frontier Town.  Carol A. Johmann.  Williamson, 2000.
This informative and fun book ties in easy craft projects with different aspects of travel on the Oregon Trail.  Also does a good job with the Native American point of view.
4th-6th grade



Minnow and Rose: An Oregon Trail Story.  Judy Young.  Sleeping Bear Press, 2009.
Rose is traveling west by wagon train with her family.  Minnow, a Native American girl, rescues Rose when she falls in the river.  Alternating narrative helps us see life through their lives.  Beautiful oil paintings.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade

Conestoga Wagons.  Richard Ammon.  Holiday House, 2000.
Named for the Conestoga Valley in Pennsylvania, these were the main long-distance vehicle in America from 1750-1850.  This book explains how they were built and driven and their historical significance.  Picture Book.
3rd-5th grade



A Picture Book of Sacajawea.  David Adler.  Holiday House, 2000.
As always, Adler stays true to the facts and never fictionalizes.  This is a good introduction to what we know about this extraordinary young woman and her contribution to American History.
Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-5th grade


Sacagawea Lise Erdrich.  Carolrhoda Books, 2003.
The author sticks with known facts, here, beginning with Sacagawea’s kidnapping by Hidatsa warriors when she was just 11.  She tells us when there are gaps in what is known about this extraordinary Shoshone woman who played a vital role in Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery.
An excellent Afterword and Timeline are included.  Excellent oil paintings.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade
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