December 12, 2017

10 Preservation Books for Children and Teens

  • By: Sarah Heffern

Is it ever too young to start introducing children to historic places and the importance of making sure they're saved for generations to come? Unsurprisingly, we here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation don't think so. From picture books to young adult novels, there's an entry point to saving places for every kid in your life. Here are some of our favorites.

Children's Books

When Jackie Saved Grand Central, by Natasha Wing (Author) and Alexandra Boiger (Illustrator)

Jacqueline Kennedy’s best-known contribution to historic places is her restoration of the White House during her time as First Lady, but she was also critical to saving New York City’s iconic Grand Central Station in the mid-1970s when it was threatened with replacement by a skyscraper.

The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton

If preservation has a classic children’s book, this is it. Written in 1943 and winner of the Caldecott Medal, The Little House tells the story of a house far out in the country that grows older as the city moves closer and closer, and how the house is saved. But as Amazon’s review notes, “Young readers are more likely to be drawn in by the whimsical, detailed drawings and the happy ending than by anything Burton might have been implying about the troubling effects of urbanization.”

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal and numerous other accolades, this picture book follows CJ and his grandmother as they take the bus across town. CJ is full of questions, and his grandmother "helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them."

Eloise, by Kay Thompson (Author),‎ Hilary Knight (Illustrator)

For more than 40 years, Eloise’s adventures living in New York City’s Plaza Hotel—a member of Historic Hotels of America—has delighted children young and old. She runs through her unusual home as only a six-year-old can, by creating imaginative adventures and leaving chaos in her wake.

John Philip Duck, by Patricia Polacco

And while we’re exploring historic hotels, the story of the marching ducks at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis makes for a delightful children’s book. Using what’s known of the origin of the unusual attraction, Polacco spins the tale of a boy named Edward and the orphaned duck he trains to march to the tunes of John Philip Sousa.

Beauty and the Beast, by Nancy Willard (Author) and Barry Moser (Illustrator)

This telling of the classic fairy tale takes a historic twist via its illustrations, which are focused around Wilderstein, a historic home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Books for Middle Grade and Teens

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

This autobiographical verse novel for middle-grade readers shares the story of Woodson's childhood in South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. It's not a traditional preservation choice, but it's profoundly connected to place, and its evocative language is perfect for introducing new ways to talk about beloved places.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg

While Claudia and Jamie Kincaid might technically be the leads of this story, its true main character is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the young siblings spend several nights after running away from home. I suspect I am not the only preservation (or museum) professional who fell hard for historic places while reading this book.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford

Seattle’s Panama Hotel, where Japanese-Americans being taken to internment camps during World War II stored their belongings, is the setting for “an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope … [with] an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.”

March, by John Lewis (Author),‎ Andrew Aydin (Author),‎ and Nate Powell (Illustrator)

From the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the halls of Congress, Congressman John Lewis' life is a map of the Civil Rights movement. In this series of three graphic novels, written for eighth grade and up (and, to be honest, for adults too), he introduces readers to the people and places instrumental to the movement.

Did we miss your favorite book that shares a preservation story for children? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

By purchasing any of these products using the links on this page, you'll be supporting the National Trust. A small portion of the sales comes back to us to support our work. Check out other ways you can support preservation as you shop, travel, and play.

Sarah Heffern headshot

Sarah Heffern, the National Trust's former director of social media, embraces all things online and pixel-centric, but she’s also a hard-core building hugger, having first fallen for historic places in a fifth grade “Built Environment” class.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List