Hamilton is currently on its way around the country, making new fans wherever it stops on its journey from coast to coast. Kids who finally have an opportunity to see the show for the first time are likely new fans—or even superfans, if they’re like my nine-year-old. If you have a kiddo in the house who has been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for ages, you can turn their passion for Hamilton into a chance to learn something new about United States history, just in time for the Fourth of July.
These three picks may be picture books, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re lightweight reads. These non-fiction books are packed with information and biographical details that will appeal to your budding U.S. history fan.
God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin
“Immigrants: We get the job done.” – Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette
Singing about America isn’t a new concept, as anyone who has attended a school choir concert knows. But where did the classic patriotic tunes come from? God Bless America: The Story of An Immigrant Named Irving Berlin is the story of young Izzy Baline—Irving Berlin—in an almost poetic look at his early life and how he came to America. He and his family fled Russia in 1893, and he became a citizen, solider, and beloved songwriter in the United States.
He penned hundreds of songs, and Broadway musicals, but “God Bless America” is probably his best known. This short historical story will forever change how you and the kids hear the traditional tune every Fourth of July.
Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word
“I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine…” – Angelica Schuyler
If your Hamilton kid has sung that line from “Schuyler Sisters” without knowing what it’s referring to, Thomas Paine and the Dangerous Word can answer their questions and introduce them to the beginnings of the American Revolution. Paine’s life seemed to be destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a corset maker, but his choices led to him to life at sea for a short while before he turned to writing.
Even though Paine’s path doesn’t cross with Alexander Hamilton in the show, the themes of coming to America to be a new man and using the pen to write his way out of a dire situation should be familiar to kids who have seen or listened to the musical.
Aaron and Alexander
“Burr, my first friend, my enemy…” – Alexander Hamilton
If only more stories about Alexander Hamilton are catching your kids’ interests, pick up Aaron and Alexander for a look at their relationship and duel. This non-fiction picture book emphasizes the men’s similarities as well as their differences. There is a little bit of blood depicted in its pages as it discusses the practice of dueling, and it is a dry account of the story, so keep in mind that this isn’t a picture book for the littlest readers.
Featured Image: Eliza Schuyler by M. Knox
Other Images: Disney Hyperion and Macmillan