Westward Expansion Books for Kids

Explore the pioneer era with these Westward Expansion books for kids, sorted by picture books and chapter books.

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Picture Books

Little House Picture Book Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (My First Little House Books)

Based on the beloved series, these picture books are a wonderful introduction for young readers into the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

You Wouldn’t Want to Be An American Pioneer! by Jacqueline Morley

In this humorous account of the trials and tribulations of pioneer life, readers discover that homesteading was not always as glamorous as it may seem. 

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

A lighthearted journey of one family and their fruit across the Oregon Trail, this book is sure to delight kids ages 4-9. With bushels of bumbles along the way, this family eventually finds their way to their new home and plants the first apple orchard in the west. 

Chapter Books

Meet Kirsten (American Girl)

Kirsten and her family arrive in the New World by boat, full of anticipation about the opportunities that lie in front of them. As Kirsten navigates friendships, saying goodbye, and strange experiences in this brand-new place, she discovers a new home in America. 

Welcome to Kirsten’s World

Explore what life was like for pioneer families like Kirsten’s as they tried to build a home in a new land. This companion book to American Girl’s Kirsten series is full of photographs and facts that pull the reader in to experience the time alongside Kirsten. 

The Quilt Walk by Sandra Dallas

When Emmy Blue says goodbye to her grandmother before her family’s westward journey, she is gifted a special quilt to carry. As the Hatchett family traverses the American plains they experience a test of their perseverance and strong will. 

Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

An autobiographical account of the Ingalls’ family pioneers as they overcome the difficulties of homesteading in mid-1800s America. Themes of family, hard work, perseverance, and abiding love are present throughout in this classic series. 

Sarah, Plain, and Tall Series by Patricia MacLachlan

A brokenhearted widower sends for a mail-order bride to help him with his farm and his children. Hailing from Maine, Sarah arrives with her quiet spirit and lonely eyes. As time passes, the family begins to heal and grow together. 

Birchbark House by Louise Edrich

This book explores the day-to-day life of a young girl living in an Ojibwe community in the mid-nineteenth century in the Great Lakes region. Because of some more mature content, this first book in the series is recommended for ages 10+. 

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie by Kristiana Gregory (Dear America)

Grieving the loss of two family members, teenager Hattie and her family traverse the great plains from Missouri to Oregon to begin a new life. Along the way, Hattie’s diary gives readers a glimpse into the trials and joys experienced by pioneers of the time. 

The Great Railroad Race by Kristiana Gregory (Dear America)

Westward expansion of the railway is the most important news buzzing around Libby and her journalist father. Libby’s diary keeps readers abreast of the details as the rails are laid and developments occur. 

When Calls the Heart (TV Series)

Wealthy schoolteacher Elizabeth Thatcher heads to Coal Valley with a plan to bring education to the uncivilized settlement. She is in for several surprises as she adjusts to life in the little town, creates lasting friendships, and finds love. This popular TV series is family and kid-friendly!

Pony Express Books

During the Westward Expansion was the Pony Express, which delivered messages across the United States.

Horse Diaries: Penny by Whitney Sanderson

Experience the frenzy of 1850s California and the Gold Rush through the eyes of a Palomino paint named Penny. Penny and her boy Jesse become disillusioned by the empty promises of wealth from gold and decide to join the ranks of the horses and riders on the Pony Express. 

Hoofbeats of Danger by Holly Hughes (American Girl History Mysteries)

Annie, a young girl residing at a pony express station, enlists the help of a rider to help her solve the mystery of her impaired pony. Best for preteens 9 and up. 

They’re Off! by Cheryl Harness

This picture book about the pony express is longer but has a variety of rich illustrations great for grades 5+.

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