Presidents’ Day is an American federal holiday that is celebrated on the third Monday in February. While the holiday is still officially titled “Washington’s Birthday,” Presidents’ Day is also when we celebrate Abraham Lincoln (who was also born in February), and recently the holiday has become a time for Americans to celebrate all presidents, past and present.
Today I’m pleased to share 15 delightful books that kids will love reading any day of the year, but especially on Presidents’ Day! I’ve included some books specifically about Washington and Lincoln and plenty more that cover all the presidents. I’ve even got a book about the first ladies! Whether you’re looking for material for a classroom or a home library, this list has got you covered!
I’ve included age recommendations for each book since the books on this list cover quite a wide range. Please know that these are only guidelines since every child is different.
Presidents’ Day by Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell
An elementary school class puts on a Presidents’ Day assembly program. The children dress in costumes as different presidents, make a papier-mâché Mount Rushmore, and give speeches about the history of America. This fun, fact-filled book is an excellent introduction to Presidents’ Day for young children. Ages 3-6.
Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters and Nancy Carpenter
This inspiring biographical picture book details the young life of Abraham Lincoln. When Abe was a boy his family moved several times and he didn’t have much opportunity for formal education. But Abe loved to read and learn any chance he got. As a young man, he saw many injustices in the world that he sought to right. He studied law without a teacher, eventually going on to become a lawyer, a congressman, and, of course, president of the United States. Ages 5-8.
President Taft is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett and Chris Van Dusen
After hours of trying to pry himself free, President William Taft must admit to his concerned wife that he is stuck in the bath. What unfolds next is a parade of clueless cabinet members, who take turns advising Taft on how to get out of his predicament. Unfortunately for Taft, each solution is more preposterous than the last. When Taft and his advisors have run out of options, the first lady steps in and suggests a team approach. This proves to be the simplest – and best – solution. Chris Van Dusen’s bright, glossy paintings are packed with humor. As the author’s note points out, there is no proof that the legend of Taft getting stuck in his bathtub is true, but kids will nonetheless love this hilarious story. Ages 5-8.
Abe Lincoln’s Dream by Lane Smith
A young girl named Quincy wanders away from her tour group at the White House and makes an unlikely friend: the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln confesses to Quincy that he fears for the fate of the country, which was in a fragile state during his presidency. Quincy gives Lincoln an update on how the country has progressed since 1865, and Abe is reassured to know that the states are united. In the final scenes, Lincoln’s ghost is seen leaving the White House, finally at peace. This story is touching, stunningly illustrated, and incredibly original. Ages 5-9.
John, Paul, George, and Ben by Lane Smith
This sidesplitting book gives a comical (and highly fictionalized) peek at what the founding fathers were like as children. There was Honest George (Washington), Bold John (Hancock), Noisy Paul (Revere), Clever Ben (Franklin), and Independent Tom (Jefferson). The endnotes separate fiction from fact and set the record straight about many commonly perpetuated myths about the founding fathers. Fans of Lane Smith’s wonderfully energetic illustrations are sure to be delighted. Ages 6-9.
What Presidents Are Made Of by Hanoch Piven
This unique picture book is illustrated with innovative collages made from objects! The objects in each collage often represent something about the subject, for instance, in the picture of George W. Bush (who was once co-owner of a baseball team) a hot dog and baseball make up the president’s nose and mouth. The text delves into who the presidents were as people. The author includes plenty of interesting details and anecdotes, including stories about Ulysses S. Grant getting a speeding ticket, Andrew Jackson’s penchant for pistol duels, and how JFK once saved a wounded soldier during his service in WWII. The book covers 18 of the former presidents (with a timeline that includes all 44), making it a nice, quick read for an elementary school classroom. Ages 6-10.
Smart About the Presidents written and illustrated by Jon Buller, Susan Schade, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, Dana Regan, and Jill Weber
This presidential primer is perfect for a young history buff. Like all the books in the unique “Smart About” series, this book is stylized to look like a grade school class project, complete with cartoony illustrations and each president’s name in handwritten block letters. Every page is packed with trivia, fun facts, and historical information about each presidency and the book manages to fit in quite a lot of information without being overwhelming. There is also a brief section discussing vice presidents and first ladies, a look inside the white house, and a map denoting where each president was born. Ages 7-10.
Smart About the First Ladies written and illustrated by Jon Buller, Susan Schade, Dana Regan, Sally Warner, and Jill Weber
This follow-up to Smart About the Presidents will introduce readers to the great women who stood beside our presidents. The book has lots of interesting trivia about the lives of the first ladies before, during, and after their time in the White House. Ages 7-10.
Presidential Pets by Julia Moberg
From cute and cuddly to big and wild, all kinds of animals have taken up residence in the White House over the last 200+ years. While many of the presidents have had dogs, cats, and horses, there have also been plenty of more unusual presidential pets including goats, a raccoon, and even an alligator! While not terribly informative, this book is a fun read for children with an interest in animals. Ages 7-10.
So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George and David Small
Which president was the tallest? Or the youngest? Which ones hated vegetables? How many presidents were born in log cabins? Get the answers to these questions and many more in this fun book that gives insight into the similarities and differences between each president. Unlike many books about the presidents, this one has more of a narrative which makes it fun and easy to read in one sitting. This book was first published in 2000 (and won the 2001 Caldecott Medal!) but was updated in 2008 to include George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Ages 7-10.
Who Was George Washington? by Roberta Edwards
This biographical chapter book takes a fascinating look at the life of George Washington, from his youth all the way through the Revolutionary War and his presidency. The information is historically accurate and presented in a kid-friendly way, without being dumbed down at all. Ages 8-12.
Who Was Abraham Lincoln? by Janet B. Pascal
From his humble beginnings to becoming one of the United States’ most celebrated presidents, this biographical chapter book is a must for any reader who wants to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. The book does an excellent job of depicting the civil war (from Lincoln’s point of view) in a way that kids can comprehend. Ages 8-12.
This is Washington D.C. by Miroslav Sasek
This classic book is a first-rate introduction to all there is to know and see around Washington D.C. Readers will see such monuments as the White House, the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, the National Zoological Society, and the Pentagon, to name a few. The book is packed with fun and interesting facts that are broken down into small morsels that are easy to digest. Dozens of painterly illustrations accompany this detailed tour of the nation’s capital. Ages 8-12 (but fun for any age!).
George vs. George: The American Revolution as seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
This engaging nonfiction picture book tells the true story of two enemies: George Washington, the man who freed the colonists, and King George III, the British king who lost them. This book is packed with information about the Revolutionary War and its two leaders, who had much more in common than many people realize. Was King George a tyrant, or a man of the people? Was George Washington a traitor, or the father of his country? Complete with detailed illustrations and real quotes from the men who fought on either side, this captivating book is an excellent reminder that in history, there are always two sides to every story. Ages 8-12.
Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents by David Stabler
As the title suggests, this entertaining chapter book is a collection of true stories about the childhood events that shaped the lives of the men who would one day become our presidents. Kids will relate to these honest stories of common struggles like sibling rivalry, bullies, and overprotective parents. The cartoon illustrations will appeal to fans of books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. This book is a great choice for reluctant and avid readers alike. Ages 8-12.