Let’s Play Guess which is the Living Book

Dear Reader,

Ready for a game? Below are the first paragraphs from two history books I picked up for my kids’ schooling this year. You tell me which one is the living book. Bonus points if you tell me which one was published first. Spoiler: this should be super easy. Comment below with your answer. When I get the right response, I tell you what the books are. Ready? Here we go:

Book #1:

“When John Brown was born in 1800, the United States was a young and growing country. Settlers poured into the new territories of the West. They built towns and turned forests into farmland. New states were added to the Union, and the country’s population swelled. Americans were very proud of their country. Many people claimed there was more freedom on the United States than in any other country in the world. However, in the southern states, almost one million blacks wore the chains of slavery.”

Book #2:

“Gunshots cracked the cold grey dawn of October 17, 1859 in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Awakened by the noise, frightened citizens hastily dresses and gathered in the streets. “What is it?” “What has happened?” they nervously asked one another.”

Bring on those guesses!


p.s. Double bonus: tell me which one makes you want to keep reading.


7 responses to this post.

  1. book 1 is the textbook. Book 2 is the living book which I would want to read more of.


    • Okay! How quick was that?! Of course, Barbara was right. Not to diminish her work, but I told you is was easy. Now, can anyone guess which one was written first? It’s not a trick but there is a little piece of info on these books I haven’t told you yet.


  2. I am going to say that Book #2 is the older publication.


    • That’s right, Sharon. Book #2, the living book, is older. I don’t know how others do it but often when I am searching my library’s online catalog, I sort the books by publication date and start looking at the oldest ones first.

      What’s interesting about these two books is that they are both part of the same series. Book #2 is The Story of John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry by Zachary Kent, pub. 1988 (not actually all that long ago). Book #1 is John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry by Brendan January, pub. 2000. They are both part of the Cornerstones of Freedom series. We have used their books in the past and liked them. They are not tough but in general I would say they give good and interesting introductions to subjects for elementary aged kids. In preparing for this school year, I was looking for books in the Truthquest guide and found this note: “New Cornerstones series is usually written for slightly older students.” So I thought, “Great! I can use this series I like but get the newer one for my middle schooler so he is a bit more challenged.” Only the books seem to be very similar in content and length. The only difference (I have only skimmed them, not read them) I can see is in their style. And for that the older is way better as you can see. I should note too that though Truthquest calls the newer one “New Cornerstones” my copy of each has the same series heading — it is not obvious from the cover which is the new series. It does seem like in the new series they are doing away with titles that begin “The Story of . . .” so that is a good clue. And, of course, one can check publication dates. Personally, I just don’t get why you would rewrite books and make them less interesting.


      • Perhaps, the re-writing is motivated to make the books line up better with traditional school standards/requirements? Political correctness? There is no doubt that you can see a change in the quality in content and literacy level.I wonder if some of the re-written publications are at a different reading level?

        Of course, I could be totally off on all those thoughts.


  3. […] all seem to start with “The Story of” as far as I can discern — as I explained in this post (make sure to look at the comments for a […]


  4. […] middle school to get a brief introduction to a topic we can’t spend a lot of time on (see this post for more on the series and why you should look for the older […]


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