CA Historical Books

This is a list of books that are historical fiction and relate to California history.  During the course of the school year, I read the following books aloud to my class.  They can also be used for literature circles or book reports.  They are a great companion to our history curriculum.  I recommend them to any fourth grade teacher teaching California history.  Please read them and see for yourself which ones you can use to enhance your history lessons.  

For most of the books, I give the students comprehension quizzes each day.  I have included the questions here for the benefit of anyone.  

If you are interested in buying any of the following books, please do so through my site.  I have linked each of the books to  When you link to Amazon from this site and purchase a book, I receive a percentage of the sales price from Amazon.  If you are buying more than one book, you can use your browser’s back button to back out of your shopping cart and return to this page.  When you select another book and get to the shopping cart, your previous items will still be there.  Thank you.

Amazon Link Description Questions
Buy It Island of the Blue Dolphins – This is a classic 4th grade historical fiction book. It is a Newberry award winner and I read it when I was in 4th grade. Karana is a Native American girl living on an island off the coast of California. Trouble is brought to island by visitors and the tribe decides to leave. For an unforeseen reason, Karana stays behind and lives on the island alone for the next 18 years. The book details her methods of survival and her relationship with the animals on the island. IBD Questions
(Coming Soon)
Buy It Zia – Zia is also written by Scott O’Dell. It is sort of continuation/sequel to Island of the Blue Dolphins. Zia is Karana’s neice and lives at Mission Santa Barbara. The story is of Zia’s quest to bring her aunt to California from the island. It is also a great description of life at the mission through the eyes of the Native Americans. Zia Questions
Buy It Stowaway: A Tale of CA Pirates – Carlito is a boy living in Monterey that has a tragedy happen to his family because of a pirate attack on his town. Carlito vows revenge and becomes a stowaway on the pirate ship. He is quickly discovered and has to work as the pirate cabin boy while planning his escape, revenge, and survival. This book has good ship vocabulary, California geography, and some parts that are descriptively gross. Stowaway Questions
Buy It Anita of Rancho Del Mar – This book is a great book for studying the period of California history about the ranchos. Anita lives on a rancho with her large family and has many adventures while trying to figure out who is trying to cause their family harm. It helps a bit to study the maps in this book and there are some parts that go a bit slowly. I like this book better than O’Dell’s book, Carlota, about the ranchos. Anita is younger and the book is shorter. Anita Questions
Buy It Patty Reed’s Doll: The Story of the Donner Party – Patty Reed was one of the members of the ill-fated Donner Party. The story is told through the eyes of the young girl’s little doll that she kept in her pocket during the journey. This is a great companion read to studying the California pioneers or the westward movement. Playing Oregon Trail at the same time of year is a good complement to the book. Patty Reed Questions
(also Coming Soon)
Buy It By the Great Horn Spoon! – This is my favorite fourth grade book. It is the story of Jack and his butler Praiseworthy from Boston who travel to California during the gold rush. It is great story with surprises and twists in every chapter. The story follows the pair on a ship around The Horn, to San Francisco, Sacramento, and the gold fields. This book is great for geography, history, and descriptive writing. GHS Questions
Buy It Anisett Lundberg: American Diaries #3 : 1851 – Anisett is a young girl during the gold rush. Her father has passed away and now she, her mother, and her younger brother work selling meals to miners from their wagon. The story takes place during the course of only one day. It is a great description of the gold rush. It is an American Diaries book, but only has a diary entry on the first page and the last, the rest is a normal story. The books starts slowly but builds well and gets a good cliffhanger quality to it. Anisett Questions
Buy It Bandit’s Moon – This is another gold rush period story. Bandit’s Moon takes place in the middle to end of the gold rush when some of the Americans that swarmed to the gold fields had persecuted and unfairly treated the Mexicans that had owned land in California. The main characters are a young girl Annyrose, and the notorious bandit, Joaquin Murrieta. Annyrose follows Joaquin through the gold fields looking for her brother while getting to know Joaquin better. This is written by the same author as By the Great Horn Spoon and is a fun read too. Bandit's Moon Questions
Buy It The Iron Dragon Never Sleeps – This story is about the building of the transcontinental railroad that linked California to the rest of the country. The main character is a girl that lives for the summer with her father who is working as an engineer on the railroad construction. She makes friends with young Chinese boy and learns about the hard work the Chinese do and the discrimination they face. Iron Dragon Questions
Buy It Jimmy Spoon and the Pony Express – Jimmy is a young man from Salt Lake City that joins the Pony Express and works for them in Nevada. When he was a boy, he used to live with the Shoshone Indians. Different adventures happen to him while there. Jimmy lives torn between his thoughts of his Indian home, his family home, his commitment to his job, and his desire to leave after a while. I like this book, but sometimes it hits lulls in interest along the way. This is written by the same author as Stowaway. Jimmy Spoon Questions
Buy It Two Bear Cubs: A Miwok Legend from Yosemite – This is one of several legends I read out of a book that is no longer in print. It is a short read and has great illustrations. I read California Native American legends to the students before they write their own in class.
Buy It Coyote and the Grasshoppers: A Pomo Legend – This is one of several legends I read out of a book that is no longer in print. It is a short read and has great illustrations. I read California Native American legends to the students before they write their own in class.
Buy It Ishi, the Last of His Tribe – This is a good book for learning about the Native American way of life in California. Ishi and his tribe have had their way of life severely compromised by the settlement of California due to the gold rush and ranching. They desperately try to live in their traditional ways, while the modern world closes in on them. It is based on a true story and written by the wife of the anthropologist who knew and lived with Ishi. I like this book’s story, the great descriptions, and the authenticity. I dislike the length and some of the drawn out details. After reading this multiple times, there are parts I skip over.
Buy It The Adventures of Phokey the Sea Otter: Based on a True Story – This is a short story that is written as a cross between a picture book and a chapter book. It is a true story of a rescued otter pup that grows up and confounds marine biologists by acting like a seal and swimming farther than he should. It has great illustrations.