The Hamilton Reading List: For Those Kids That Just Can’t Get Enough
This summer I was walking about the Printer’s Row Book Festival in lovely Chicago, IL, passing a group of about twelve 16-year-old girls. All of whom were singing “Satisfied” from the musical Hamilton. It reminded me of similar past experiences walking by large groups of 8-year-olds singing Frozen two years ago. Now Hamilton is slated to open in Chicago in November and I’ve been putting together various booklists for my adult library patrons. And that’s when it hit me. I know 6-year-olds who have Hamilton memorized. I know 10-year-olds who can explain what the Federalist Papers are in minute detail. So why not make a booklist for the #Hamilkids as well?
But surely it had been done before and done well. To the internets! I did a quick search of anyone who might have put together a Hamilton booklist for kids before and lo and behold the site The Card Catalog did exactly that back in October of 2015. Their post Books for Kids Who Love Hamilton is good, but it occurred to me that since there are only four books there, it could be expanded a tad.
Today then, let’s look at some great books. How many books, you ask? A Hamil-TON!
I’m sorry . . . I don’t know what came over me.
To the list!
Alexander Hamilton (Picture Books)
I wonder at the timing of this one. This book published in October of 2015, just as Hamilton: The Musical started to peak in popularity. Did Brown get the idea for the book prior to the musical’s creation? Was he already working on it and, when it became clear that this was A Very Big Deal did his publisher (Roaring Brook) encourage him to put all other projects on the backburner and get this one done faster? No idea. What I do know is that it’s one of the finer depictions of the duel and the events leading up to it in picture book form.
Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters, ill. Larry Day
While this book doesn’t speak about Hamilton directly to the best of my knowledge, if you’re looking for rhyming Colonial fare, you’ve come to the right place. It takes place on the day of the Boston Tea Party and is told through a variety of voices and professions in the city. It’s also one of those rare books to acknowledge and give voice to slaves in Boston at that time.
Duel! Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrated by Larry Day
Out-of-print (Walker Books, you’ve got a gold mine here!) so better mosey on over to your nearest public library if you want to read it. A lot of hometown pride with this title, since both Fradin and Day were in the Evanston, IL area when this was written. Larry Day, by the way, is also the fellow who illustrated that Kay Winters book I mentioned earlier, so clearly he taps into Colonial America books better than most.
The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter, ill. Barry Blitt
Truthfully I couldn’t remember whether or not Hamilton was in this book, so I had to look it up. Turns out, he is! Like all the other guys here, he gets his own page with his “statistics” and notable qualities, baseball card style. My favorite quote? Alexander Hamilton’s “Stance on France: Not a fan.”
Alexander Hamilton (Older Readers)
Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution by Gretchen Woelfle, ill. R. Gregory Christie
So long, Johnny Tremain. You had a good run, but the days of depicting Colonial America and the American Revolution as affecting only white colonists are long gone. Hamilton mentions slavery repeatedly and this book (which is out in October) goes further to follow thirteen black men and women alive during the war.
Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz
Back in the day (by which I mean the 80s and early 90s) if you wanted a picture book about a Founding Father, Fritz was your best bet. She was one-stop shopping in that respect. Still, she never did a book on Hamilton during that time. Then, in 2011 (which makes one suspect that she might be a bit on the clairvoyant side of things) she wrote this book for kids 10 and up. As extensive biographies for kids go, it’s almost the only game in town.
The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Judith St. George
This one came out in 2009 and was written with a YA audience in mind. In this book you’ll see the similarities between Burr and Hamilton, over and over again. I was particularly interested in the part of the Kirkus review that said, “The author’s ability to lucidly explain the political intricacies of the time is impressive, revealing to readers that politics were as ugly, if not uglier, in the nation’s earliest days as they are now.” Oh, sweet Kirkus. Clearly you failed to fortell 2016.
Which is not to say there aren’t lots more books out there that would fit this topic. Be sure to also check out the similar young Hamil-fan blog posts Hamilton and the Children’s Library from ALSC (which contains more books about Hamilton’s close contemporaries like Washington) and Six Picture Books for #Hamilkids from NYPL (which has the additional bonus of books about hip-hop for young people). There was also The Top Ten Books for Hamilnerds by the Nerdy Book Club folks (specifically Donalyn Miller and Melissa Posten). Also take a gander at the SLJ article Teaching with “Hamilton”, with a particular eye to the resources at the end.
And there are more books on the horizon! In a recent press release from Random House we learned the following:
“Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, has announced plans to publish a picture book biography on the wife of Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Margaret McNamara will serve as the writer for Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.
Phillipa Soo, the actress who played Eliza Hamilton in the Broadway production of Hamilton: An American Musical, has agreed to write a foreword for this project. The release date has been set for Fall 2017. (Playbill)”
If you happen to be in NYC between now and December 31st, please be sure to stop by the main location of New York Public Library. They’ve an exhibit up right now called Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel. Lots of goodies are on display, including Alexander Hamilton’s Draft of President George Washington’s Farewell Address, August 10, 1796. Sounds fun!
By the way, those of you curious about the little felted Lin-Manuel Miranda at the beginning of this post, it’s by Jack and Holman Wang. You can get more info about it at the Chronicle Books post here.
And in conclusion, be so good as to check out Minh Lê’s tribute to Hamilton in Elephant & Piggie style.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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