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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Historical Nonfiction Children’s Books I’d Like to See (Based Entirely on Drunk History Episodes)

Recently I did a post where I mentioned several wonderful Hark, A Vagrant webcomics featuring historical figures that I’d love to see turned into picture book biographies.  Well, in a similar vein, I’m a big fan of the Drunk History series on Comedy Central too.  It’ll be returning soon for a fourth season and has a lovely way of highlighting stories that I think would adapt brilliantly into the children’s nonfiction book format.  The real stories, that is.  Not the drunk tellers.  That would be weird.

Now because this is a post where comedians get drunk and try to tell historical moments in history, I think it’s pretty safe to say that a goodly chunk of the videos embedded here are Not Safe for Work.

A quick note too that this is mostly male, just as the Hark, A Vagrant piece contained mostly women.  Kate Beaton’s better at awesome women than Drunk History.  Sad but true.

And none of these video clips are complete by the way.  They’re just little snippets of the full stories.

First up!

Jim Thorpe is named the greatest athlete of the 20th century

The Joseph Bruchac picture book biography Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path and his fiction work Jim Thorpe: Original All-American are pretty much the gold standard on all things children’s-books-about-Jim-Thorpe. Still, considering how amazing the guy was, I bet we could get a lot more books about him out there (though I’d be amiss in not also mentioning Don Brown’s Bright Path: Young Jim Thorpe).  You could even do what Drunk History does here and just highlight one amazing moment in his life.  This clip doesn’t get to it, but when his shoes get stolen and he competes with a pair he finds in the trash . . . I mean, that’s amazing.

Japanese-American Daniel Inouye fights in World War II

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – We do NOT have enough picture book bios of badass Asian-American heroes.  In the Hark, A Vagrant post I made a case for Katherine Sui Fun Cheung.  Well considering Daniel Inouye’s life and contributions it is doggone weird that he has so little in the children’s biography realm.

Sybil Ludington takes her midnight ride

Sadly this clip doesn’t really get to the thick of her contributions in the Revolutionary War, but it’s a good start.  Very few 16-year-old female war heroes out there.  To be fair, this very year (2016) Feiwel and Friends published E.F. Abbot’s fictionalized accounting in Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider.  But a little nonfiction wouldn’t hurt too.

Muhammad Ali refuses to fight in the Vietnam War.

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One of my favorites.  I know we’ve a fair number of Ali bios for kids.  But, again, what about highlighting this moment in his life? It makes for a fascinating story in and of itself (and lord knows we have too few pacifist bios out there on beyond Gandhi).

Despite having only one hand, Jim Abbott proves to be a great baseball players.

Again, I wish we had the full clip here for you to watch.  Abbott’s story is amazing in and of itself.  The Cuba part is nice but let’s just get into the fact that he could pitch one-handed.  How about that, eh?

Thanks for checking them out!  And with the fourth seasons of the show at hand (including one told by Lin-Manuel Miranda) more ideas are bound to come up.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. As a huge fan of Drunk History, I can see the school author visit Q&A right now:
    Student: “How did you get the idea for your book?”
    Author: “Well, I was watching this show called ‘Drunk History’ …”
    Student: “What’s drunk mean?”
    Author: Wishes she had a bloody mary right about now.

  2. Sybil Ludington, you say? Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride by Marsha Amstel, illustrated by Ellen Beier, came out in 2000. It’s nonfiction and the paperback is still going strong sixteen years later!

  3. I love love love Drunk History. And I love all these ideas for non-fiction children’s books, and I hope someone takes you up on this, and I would like Jason Momoa to come over and read me the Jim Thorpe one.

  4. Eric Carpenter says:

    Let’s not forget that Drunk History has also told the Claudette Colvin story which I assume was inspired when someone on the show read Philip Horse’s newbery honoree.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh, there are a lot of stories I learned about first through children’s books that have ended up as Drunk History segments. Another post for another day, perhaps?

  5. Steve Sheinkin says:

    Totally agree, this is a great source of ideas! I’m actually writing a nonfiction book about Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School football team (with some Olympic action too, since he was at Carlisle when he went to the Olympics). Can’t say I got the idea from Drunk History – though the comment above is right, that would make an amazing school visit intro.

  6. answood says:

    Seriously laughing so hard. I am sure we can come up with a way to build this level of engage with students as they create videos in their own way that are historically accurate (sort-of).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Hmm. Student videos retelling history in the manner they remember, with dubbing for the voices? Oh. That could certainly be done. And it could be amazing. OR OR OR….. better idea! TEACHERS from the school reenacting the stories told by the students. THAT’S IT! Someone go do that thing.