Beautiful Feet Books has brought back into print some of my favorite books for world history for upper elementary grades through high school. This is a series of books by Genevieve Foster that were written around the 1940s. Titles published by Beautiful Feet are:
Augustus Caesar’s World
The World of Columbus and Sons
The World of Captain John Smith
The World of William Penn
George Washington’s World
The Year of the Horseless Carriage
Abraham Lincoln’s World
These books reflect a Christian culture although they don’t have explicitly Christian content.
The beauty of these books is the storytelling approach to history. Foster begins with the day the key person was born and traces “goings-on” around the world throughout his lifetime. Foster makes the connections between people and events all around the globe that are usually lacking in textbooks. Because of this approach, even George Washington’s World is a world history study. If you read these in chronological sequence you cover world history fairly well for the time periods they reflect.
The World of William Penn and The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 are both briefer books which should work fine as read alouds for children as young as fourth grade. All of the other books are great for read-aloud time, but only with older students, probably at least fifth grade level. Younger children will be overwhelmed with the information and will not have enough background knowledge to make the necessary connections.
Often the information comes “rapid fire,” and even older children will need you to stop from time to time and discuss or explain what you have read. You might even take time off in the middle of a Foster book to read a biography or historical fiction that narrows down to a single person or event for a change of pace. Despite the danger of information overload, I love the way these books connect events that are happening simultaneously around the world.
For the adventurous parent, I suggest creating your own unit studies by jumping off on one or more topics within each section of any of Foster’s books. While there are no suggested assignments, study or discussion questions in these books, you could easily come up with some of your own for independent reading and research. Note that all of the books have indexes that are very helpful when you want to locate information.
The author provided her own hand-drawn illustrations for all of these books. The illustrations are often helpful visualizations of the story content, including maps and drawings of key characters.
Beautiful Feet Books, publisher of the Foster series, also publishes “history through literature” study guides, some of which include study questions for the Foster books. For example, their Early American and World History guide for junior high uses the Foster books on Columbus, John Smith, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln along with other books. Their Early American History guide for younger students uses The Year of the Horseless Carriage. Their Ancient History guide uses Augustus Caesar’s World. The World of William Penn is used with the Western Expansion guide.
Whether you read them on their own, in conjunction with a Beautiful Feet history guide or as part of another unit study, I expect you and your children will enjoy Foster’s books.