Posts Tagged ‘american history’

Booklist: the American Revolution

  Living Books on the American Revolution

Adler, David. Picture Book of Paul Revere and Picture Book of Patrick Henry. Adler has a number of these biographies. Elementary.

Amstel, Marsha. Sybil Luddington’s Midnight Ride. Easy reader. Elementary.

Anderson, M.T. Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Has some mature content but we liked it. Teens +.

Benchley, Nathaniel. Sam the Minuteman and George the Drummer Boy. Easy reader. Elementary.

Blackwood, Gary. Year of the Hangman. Middle-teens.

Bodie, Idella. Secret Message. A girl in SC in 1781 has to deliver a secret message. Elementary.

Borden, Louise. Sleds on Boston Common. Fun  story. Elementary.

Brady, Esther Wood. Toliver’s Secret. Elementary.

Bruchac, Joseph. Arrow over the Door. A Quaker boy in 1777. Elementary-middle.

Bulla, Clyde Robert. Daniel’s Duck. Easy reader. Elementary.

Collier, James Lincoln. War Comes to Willy Freeman. Re an African American boy. Elementary (?).

Dahl, Michael. Row Row Row the Boats and Midnight Riders. Story songs. Elementary.

Dalgliesh, Alice. Adam and the Golden Cock and 4th of July Story. Elementary.

Fleming, Candace. Hatmaker’s Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin. Elementary.

Forbes, Esther. Johnny Tremain. Middle-teens.

Foster, Genevieve. George Washington’s World. Foster’s books make good spine books for a wide range of ages. Elementary +.

Fritz, Jean. Fritz has a lot of books on this era. Most are elementary with titles like: Can’t You Make them Behave King George and Why don’t You Get a Horse Sam Adams. Early Thunder is a slightly longer book.

Gauch, Patricia. This Time Tempe Wick. Elementary.

Griffin, Judith. Phoebe the Spy. Elementary.

Haugaard, Erik. Boy’s Will. Older hard to find book re John Paul Jones.

Hays, Wilma Pitchford. Hays also has a number of books on this era including George Washington’s Birthdays and Fourth of July Raid. Elementary.

Keith, Harold. Rifles for Watie. Middle years.

Krensky, Stephen. Dangerous Crossing. Re John Qunicy Adams. Elementary.

Kroll, Steven. By the Dawn’s Early Light and Boston Tea Party. Elementary.

Lasky, Kathryn. Voice of Her Own. Re Phyllis Wheatley. Elementary (?).

Lawson, Robert. Mr Revere and I and Ben and Me. Elementary.

Lomask, Milton. Charles Carroll and the American RevolutionThe First American Revolution, and Benedict Arnold: the Aftermath of Treason. I have not read these but Lomask is a favorite author. Middle-teens.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Paul Revere’s Ride. Picture book of the famous poem. Elementary.

Lowrey, Janette. Six Silver Spoons. Easy reader. Elementary.

Marrin, Albert. The War for Independence: Story of the Revolution. Marrin is just about my favorite author for history for teens. He also has books on Thomas Paine, Washington and more. Middle-teens.

Marshall, H.E. This Country of Ours. A good spine book for this era. Elementary +.

McGovern, Ann. Secret Soldier. Elementary. 

Miers, Earl. Magnificent Mutineers. Re Mad Anthony Wayne. Older, hard-to-find book.

Monjo. King George’s Head was Made of Lead and Namesake for Nathan. Elementary.

O’Dell, Scott. Sarah Bishop. Middle years.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Ben’s Revolution. The Battle of Bunker Hill. Elementary.

Pratt, Mara. American History Stories. Older book. Elementary.

Paulsen, Gary. The Rifle. The title rifle is used in the Revolution though that is not what the book is mostly about. Middle-teens.

Quackenbush, Robert. Daughter of Liberty. Elementary.

Rappaport, Doreen. Boston Coffee Party. Easy Reader. Elementary.

Reit, Seymour. Guns for General Washington. Elementary.

Rockwell, Anne. They Called Her Molly Pitcher. Picture book. Elementary.

Roop, Connie. Buttons for General George Washington. Easy Reader. Elementary.

Schick, Alice. Remarkable Ride of Israel Bissell. Elementary.

Schurfranz, Vivian. Message for General Washington. Elementary.

Syme, Ronald. Benedict Arnold and John Paul Jones. Elementary.

Turner, Ann. When Mr. Jefferson Came to Philadelphia. Picture book. Elementary.

Vinton, Iris. Story of John Paul Jones. Older hard to find book. Elementary ?.

Walker, Sally. 18 Penny Goose. Easy Reader. Elementary.

Werstein, Irving. 1776: The Adventure of the American Revolution told in Pictures. I love Werstein. Not sure of the level of this one.

Booklist: the Settlement of the US

Living Books on the Settlement of the United States

Aliki. Story of William Penn. Picture book. Elementary.

Avi. Finding Providence. Re Rhode Island. Easy Reader. Elementary.

Brill, Ethel. Madeline Takes Command. Re New France. Middle years.

Bulla, Clyde Robert. Bulla is a favorite author for elementary. He has books on John Billington and Squanto (Plimoth colony) and Pocahontas and the Jamestown colony (A Lion to Guard Us) is about the latter. Elementary level.

Campbell, Elizabeth. Carving on the Tree. About the lost colony of Roanoke. Elementary.

Coatsworth, Elizabeth. Wishing Pear. New Amsterdam. Elementary.

Curtis, Alice Turner. Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony. There are a number in this series. Elementary-middle.

Dalgliesh, Alice. Courage of Sarah Noble. A girl in the early 1700s. Elementary. Her America Begins is talked up a lot in homeschool circles and it is a good book if you can find it but not worth the jacked-up prices. Also elementary.

d’Aulaire, Ingrid and Edgar. Pocahontas. The d’Aulaires’ books are lovely long picture books. Elementary.

de Angeli, Marguerite. Elin’s Amerika and Henner’s Lydia. Wonderful books on Swedish immigrants. Set in Pennsylvania I believe. Elementary. See also her Bright April about a black child in Philadelphia.

Edmonds, Walter. Matchlock Gun. 1750s New York. Elementary.

Field, Rachel. Calico Bush.  Set in Maine. Middle years.

Foster, Genevieve. The Year of the Pilgrims, 1620, World of Captain John Smith and The World of William Penn. Foster’s books make wonderful spine books because they cover so much territory, often including international events too. I use them even with older children and they would work well for a family with a wide range of ages. Elementary +.

Friskey, Margaret. John Alden and the Pilgrim Cow. Elementary.

Fritz, Jean. The Lost Colony of Roanoke and Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock. Fritz is a prolific author. The Roanoke book is one of her longer ones and is middle school level. The Plymouth one would be elementary. She also has one on Pocahontas; I don’t remember the level of that one.

Guerber, Helene. Stories of the Thirteen Colonies. A good spine book. Elementary.

Hays, Wilma Pitchford. A favorite author with a lot on this period. Look for her books on Plimoth colony and Seige The Story of Saint Augustine 1702 for the settlement in Florida. Elementary. She also has one on the French-Indian wars called Drummer Boy for Montcalm and one set in New Hampshire — Trouble at Otter Creek.

Howard, Ginger. William’s House. House building in the 1600s. Early elementary.

Leeper, John. Meet the Dudleys, Not quite living but tells how a family in Connecticut lived. Elementary (?).

Lobel, Arnold. On the Day Peter Stuyvesant Sailed into Town. From the author of the Frog and Toad books. Re New Amsterdam. Elementary.

Lomask, Milton. Cross among the Tomahawks. Re missionaries in the 1600s. A hidden gem of an older author if you can find his books. They tend to be middle school level but this one might be elementary.

Longfellow, Henry Wordsworth . “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” The poem itself is quite long but you should be able to find a picture book version.

Marshall, H.E. This Country of Ours. A good spine book for this era. Elementary +.

Monjo. House on Stink Alley. The Plimoth colonists before they came over. Elementary.

Moskin, Marietta. Lysbet and the Fire Kittens. New Amsterdam. Easy reader. Elementary.

North, Sterling. George Washington Frontier Colonel. Washington’s early career. From another wonderful author. Elementary (?).

O’Dell, Scott. Serpent Never Sleeps (re Jamestown) and Carlota. Middle years.

Otis, James. Ruth of Boston. Middle years.

Pratt, Mara. Stories of Massachusetts. Probably not necessary if you don’t live in MA. She also has American History Stories. Elementary-middle.

Pumphrey, Margaret. Pilgrim Stories. Elementary.

Quackenbush, Robert. Old Silver Leg Takes Over. Re New Amsterdam. Elementary.

Sewall, Marcia. James TowneThe Pilgrims of Plimoth and Thunder from the Clear Sky.(also re Plimoth).  Picture books. Elementary.

Spier, Peter. Legend of New Amsterdam. He has lovely books. Elementary.

Syme, Ronald. John Smith of Virginia and William Penn. Elementary.

Vinto, Iris. Boy on the Mayflower. Older book. Elementary.

Winter, Jeanette. Klara’s New World. A Little girl emigrates from Sweden. Not sure of the time frame. Elementary.

Yates, Elizabeth. Sarah Whitcher’s Story. Set in New Hampshire. I loved this one. Elementary.

Yolen, Jane. Roanoke: the Lost Colony. Elementary.

Booklist: Exploration and Discovery

Living Books on Exploration and Discovery

New World Exploration

Adler, David A. Picture book of Christopher Columbus. Adler has a lot of biographies that make good introductions. Elementary.

Averill, Esther. Cartier Sails the St Lawrence. An older, hard to find book. Middle years (?).

d’Aulaire, Ingrid and Edgar. Christopher Columbus. Wonderful books. Elementary.

Foster, Genevieve. World of Columbus and Sons. Foster’s books are wonderful because they give so much of the historical context of what is going on in an era. I use them even for older grades. They make great spine books. Elementary+.

Fritz, Jean. Around the World in 100 Years and Where do you think you’re going Christopher Columbus. Fritz had a lot of good books. Around the World is longer than her usual and is middle school-teens. Where do you . . . is elementary.

Lawson, Robert. I Discover Columbus. A harder to find book by a good author. Middle school (?).

Lomask, Milton. Ship’s Boy with Magellan. Another good author. Middle years.

Noble, Iris. Honor of Balboa. We like this older author. Middle years.

O’Dell, Scott. King’s Fifth. Re Conquistadors. O’Dell has lots of good historical fiction. Middle years.

Syme, Roald. Amerigo VespucciCartier, et.al. Syme is a wonderful older author and has books on just about every explorer you could name. Elementary.

Arctic and Antarctic Exploration

Burleigh, Robert. Black Whiteness. Elementary.

Curlee, Lynne. Into the Ice. Elementary.

Vikings

Bulla, Clyde Robert. Viking Adventure. Elementary.

Coatsworth, Elizabeth. Door to the North. Elementary.

d’Aulaire, Ingrid and Edgar. Leif the Lucky. Elementary.

Steele, William O. Story of Leif Ericson. Steele’s books are usually middle school level but this one might be elementary.

Miscellaneous

Gerrard, Roy. Sir Francis Drake His Daring Deeds. Elementary.

Monjo. Sea Beggars Son. We like Monjo too. Re a Dutch sea captain fighting the Spanish. Elementary.

Noble, Iris. Spain’s Golden Queen Isabella. Middle years.

Syme, Roald. Captain Cook and Francis Drake. Again, wonderful biographies. Elementary.

Booklist: Native Americans

Living Books on Native Americans

Averill, Esther. King Phillip: the Indian Chief. A wonderful older author but may be hard to find. Elementary?

Bruchac, Jospeh. Arrow over the Door. Elementary.

Colver, Anne. Bread and Butter Indian. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Chapter book. Elementary.

Garst, Shannon. Picture Story and Biography of Red Cloud. Older book. May be hard to find. Elementary?

Hays, Wilma Pitchford. Little Yellow Fur. Wonderful author. Elementary.

Holling,  Holling C. The Book of Indians. I don’t love all of Holling’s books but I do like this one. Elementary.

Lenski, Lois. Indian Captive and Little Sioux Girl. We love Lenski’s books. Elementary-middle.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Hiawatha’s Childhood. A famous poem about a Native American boy. There is a lot of idealization here but it is worth reading because a) it is famous and oft-quoted and b) you can discuss how Hiawatha is portrayed and if this is fair and/or accurate.

McGovern, Ann. Defenders. Another good author. Her books are usually chapter books. Elementary.

Monjo. Indian Summer. Love Monjo too. Elementary.

O’Dell, Scott. Zia and Thunder Rolling in the Mountains. O’Dell has lots of wonderful historical fiction. Middle years.

Speare, Elizabeth George. Calico Captive and Sign of the Beaver. Middle years.

Spradlin, Michael P. The Legend of Blue Jacket. Long picture book. Elementary.

Steele, William O. Flaming Arrows and Buffalo Knife, et. al. Steele has wonderful, adventurous books. Middle years.

Syme, Roald. Geronimo. Older author. Syme writes great elementary level biographies.

Turner, Ann. Dakota Dugout and Sitting Bull Remembers. Elementary.

Various. If You Lived with the . . . (series). Maybe a little less living but a good series for reading about how various tribes lived. Elementary.

Whelan, Gloria. Indian School. Middle years (?).

Living History Books: Settlement and Native Americans

Last year in our homeschool we covered the Middle Ages so this year we are up to the Renaissance, Reformation, and Age of Exploration. In term one our emphasis was more global as we looked at the big ideological trends. In terms 2 and 3 we looked at the settlement of the new world and Native Americans respectively.

Living History Books: Settlement

There are relatively few selections in these sections as I mostly had my two kids read the same books. If you are looking for books for younger kids, check out my lists from the first time we covered this period of history: this one on Colonial New England and on the Settlement of Virginia and on the Colonization of America more generally.

Sweet Land of Liberty by Charles Coffin — My oldest son actually used this book years ago when we covered settlement (see links above). It covers quite a span of time and does so fairly thoroughly without having overly long chapters. A great spine book for this period. 

Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken — I really like this book on the Puritans. I think it gives a very fair portrayal of them. 

The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster — I read this one (or sections thereof) aloud to them in our time together. Foster’s books are wonderful and are often used at younger ages but I find they still have quite a lot to tell to high schoolers. They contain a lot of info. I chose this one mainly because it gives an international perspective and brings in events in Europe (and beyond) from the time period. And frankly, I couldn’t find anything better for that.

Living History Books: Native Americans

We ended the year with a term on Native Americans and the various wars and battles involving them. I had dated going right into the Revolution but didn’t think we could miss the French-Indian Wars entirely. I had them both continue with Sweet Land of Liberty (see above).

Flames Over New England by Olga Hall-Quest — This is a nice, not too long volume on King Philip’s War. You might skip over these events if you live elsewhere but we are in new England and actually quite a lot of things around here are named for Philip. (My son took drivers’ ed at King Philip High School.)

The Struggle for a Continent by Albert Marrin –Marrin is one of my favorite authors for this age because he covers so much ground in a readable way. This one is on the French and Indian Wars. 

Nine Years Among the Indians: 1870-1879 by Herman Lehmann– I was looking for something on Native American life for each of my kids. I had my son read this one. It is about a boy who was originally kidnapped by Native Americans and later decides to stay with them, joining a couple of different tribes. Amazon had a few books with titles like this one but this seemed the most readable. 

The Tracker: The True Story of Tom Brown, Jr. by Tom Brown — My daughter expressed an interest in “how Indians know how to do what they do in the woods.” I am not sure this book is what she had in mind but I read it myself first and thought it was fabulous. It would be a great nature lore book even apart from the Native American element. The author was actually a white boy who learned Native American ways from a friend’s grandfather. There is a bit of a pantheistic/nature-is-God element but I did not think it was too obvious in this book (though it appears to be in some of his others) and I don’t worry too much about my kids getting messed up on that point at this age. 

Living Books on 9-11 and the War on Terror

Dear Reader,

In my post on living books on the 2000s, I promised you a separate post on 9-11 and the War on Terror. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living Books on 9-11 and the War on Terror

Not surprisingly, there are a ton of books on 9-11 and a good number on the War on Terror. My oldest was a baby during the 9-11 attacks. They have no first-hand memories of the attacks but they do know a lot just from being part of our society. My kids are middle and high school and I wanted them to really feel the impact of those events as they unfolded so we found some news footage from the day on YouTube and watched it. I think they appreciated this and that it gave them some sense of what it was like to live through the events. It was interesting for me because, having watched things unfold on TV as they happened, I remembered the big events — second plane crashing, building falling, hearing that something had happened at the Pentagon — but forgot how much time there was in between and how much the poor commentators had to fill in and guess what was happening with no real information. It was interesting to see how slowly they came to the realization that someone had done this on purpose and to use the word terrorism (even though the World Trade Center had been a target previously) while today our minds immediately jump to terrorism no matter what has happened.

We have gone beyond our spine book for the year but I did read this book aloud to all my kids:

911 6

Saved by the Boats by Julie Gassman is a long picture book (but, yes, I read it even to my high schoolers) but it tells the story of 9-11 very well while giving a slightly different take on events. I had no idea about the boat evacuations and how many ordinary people had pitched in to help. As with most books on this topic, I was in tears by the end.

As I said there are a lot of books on this topic and I am sure many are good. But I also didn’t want to belabor the point by just reading about what is essentially an event that covered only a few hours over and over again. But if you are looking for some others, here are some I skimmed through (mainly based on what was available in my library system):

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel tells the story of the World Trade Center (I believe).

14 Cows for America tells of the support that came from far distant lands, including one African village.

Fireboat is another one about the role of boats in the aftermath.

America is under Attack and Twin Towers are more general books relating the events.

Ground Zero Dogs, as its title suggests, is about the canine rescue workers. It does not seem like a living book to me but might appeal to an animal-loving kid.

A few more:

I am not going to go through all of these. The Cornerstones of Freedom series is one I usually like — but only the older books that begin The Story of  . . . The Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 is a newer one (it pretty much has to be) and did not look as good.

A Nation Challenged is good if you want pictures.

To help understand the events, try Critical Perspectives on 9/11 and Understanding September 11th.

As we begin to understand the events, we also move into a discussion of radical Islam and terrorism in general, and to the War on Terror.

There are a lot of middle grade and up books on terrorism. Many seem poorly written and don’t provide a lot of true historical information. I had my 7th grader read Eve Bunting’s The Man with the Red Bag. Bunting is an author we know. The book wasn’t awful though I am not sure it was great either. He seemed to mildly enjoy it. I think more than anything it showed the paranoia in the wake of 9/11. From his narrations, it seemed weak plot-wise (or maybe he narrated poorly).

My 6th grader read The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. This is the first in a series of books about a girl in Afghanistan. This is no Dickens but Ellis seems like one of the bets choices out there for a glimpse of life in Afghanistan and I believe she has books set in other Middle Eastern countries as well. My daughter chose to read the rest of the series on her own.

Life of an American Soldier in Afghanistan by Diane Yancey is what it sounds like and gives another perspective on the War on Terror. I believe The Unforgiving Mind is also the soldiers but looks longer, deeper, and darker.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Living Books on the 1990s

Dear Reader,

This is part of my continuing series of posts on the books we have been using on our homeschool. Find all my booklists here.

As I mentioned in my post on the ’70s and ’80s, it is getting tougher as we get closer to present day to find good living books to use. I was caught off guard when I realized that our spine series ended at 1990 so I scrambled to order all the library books I could find for kids on the 1990s. I checked out as many as I could and began sorting through them to find something that I could read to my kids (grades 6-11) to give them an overview of the major events of the decade:

Looking at all these books makes me appreciate how much better our spine series (Our Century) really was, though it may not be considered living by some.

The two I ended up using are The one on the top left there — The 1990s: Decade in Photos: The Rise of Technology and A Cultural History of the United States through the Decades: the 1990s by Stuart A. Kallen (top row, third book over). Note that the first book has no author listed on the cover; this is not a good sign. It is the simpler of the two and is really elementary level. I used it because it gave a not-too-too- bad synopsis of some events tat the other book left out. Kallen’s book is fuller and goes more in depth but it is a cultural history if the US and touches less on international events.  My third choice from this lot would be History of the 1990s (top, right) but in the end I decided it was a bit worse than my other choices. I did keep out Fashions of a Decade: the 1990s but used it only to show pictures of the fashions and trends of the era. The three on the bottom row I did not like.

More and more of what we are studying has direct bearing on current events so I have begun to take a slightly different take in their individual reading. My goal is for my kids to begin to understand the issues behind the stories they might see in the news. When studying Watergate, I ran across a book that I really liked edited by a woman named Debra A. Miller. A library search revealed that she has a quite a number of volumes available. They are part of different series and so there is some variation in format. Many, like the one I used on Watergate, are compilations of primary sources with only brief, added introductions. These selections may be speeches or statements by politicians and various groups or articles for or against an issue. They seem to be intentionally well-balanced — for every opinion on one side of an issue, there are opinions on the other.

So I began by getting a number of books on various countries and having each child pick one.

1990s 1

We ended up with North Korea, Darfur, Pakistan, and Iran. There is some variation in how hard these books are. Certainly a high schooler could handle them. A middle schooler might have to stretch a bit more. I wouldn’t recommend them for elementary age. I did not require my children to read all of their book but selected the essays that I thought most relevant. I also gave them each some targeted narration questions; that is, rather than just “narrate this” I would say something like “on today’s readings I want you to tell me about nuclear weapons in Pakistan.” Because they are each reading about different countries, they also have to share what they’ve learned with their siblings.

After picking countries, we are moving on to issues. Debra Miller again has numerous books on the hot-button topics of the day:

Some topics are political, some cultural. Some are more appropriate for my younger kids; some are acceptable for high schoolers. As I write this, we are just beginning this process, but my intention is to do the same as we did with the books on countries — guided narrations and presentations to their siblings.

One last book on the ’90s:

1990s 2

I found this one on Hispanic America which I may have my 6th grader read in place of one of the issue books. It seems to give a good idea of the scope of what we mean wen we say “Hispanic” and the different cultures that encompasses.

Nebby

 

Living Books on the 1970s and 1980s

Dear Reader,

I have fallen a bit behind so I am going to give you the books we’ve have been using on both the ’70s and ’80s at once. We moved through both decades fairly quickly anyway. You can find all my lists of living books here.

This is a tough chunk of history to find good books for. IMO older books are more well-written, but you just can’t be that old if you are on recent history, now can you?

Our spine for the year, a series called Our Century by Gareth Steven Publishing, only seems to go through the 1980s; at least, I don’t own the volume for the 1990s and I couldn’t find it in my library system.  We did use the two volume son the ’70s and ’80s to finish up this section. As I am currently looking around for other books on the 1990s, I am more impressed with this series. The volumes are written as a series of separate articles, some written like news stories. They often take the perspective of putting you right in the time — i.e. they use the present tense. Though this is not one continuous narrative, for an overview of the time, I think they are fairly interesting and, as you get closer and closer to modern day, it is hard to find that. I like that they have few sidebars and the like which more recent books tend to overdo.

We covered the Vietnam War with the 1960s so I am not going to touch on that here. We had also dealt with the Cold War in our study of the ’50s and ’60s.

The big domestic topic for the 1970s is Watergate.

If you have a high schooler and a lot of time, there is no substitute for Bob Woodwards and Carl Bernstein’s classic account of their investigation, All the President’s Men. I remember reading his book in high school myself though I also remember that a lot of it went over my head. We didn’t want to take the time so we watched the movie version. I know given the length of the book and the length of the move that there must be a lot left out but this is a very well-done movie. The action keeps going, it was easy for even my middle schcoolers to understand, and they really appreciated the story. I’d watch it even if you are reading the book (afterwards, of course).

Bob Woodward has also written another book, Secret Man, that traces the identity of their famous secret source “Deep Throat.” If you have  a high schooler and want to really go in-depth, you might consider this one. I thought it would be too much for my kids who only came into this with the barest sense of what Watergate was at all. I believe Woodward and Bernstein also wrote other books covering  the later days of the scandal and its aftermath as well.

At the other end of the spectrum, younger children might enjoy The Story of Watergate from the Cornerstones of Freedom series. This series gives nice introductions to a variety of topics at an upper-elementary to middle school level. Just be sure to get the older version of the series whose titles begin with “The Story of . . . ” The newer ones are much worse.

I read a portion of Art Buchwald’s “I am Not a Crook” and read selections aloud to my kids. It is amazing what you can learn about a time but reading political satire of it 😉 I don’t remember Watergate and my kids certainly knew little of the time but I found many of the short articles in this book entertaining and the ones I chose to read to my kids they also enjoyed. It’s definitely middle school and up and probably better for high schoolers.

Moving on to the Carter presidency, my 10th grader read What the Heck are you up to, Mr. President? by Kevin Mattson. This book tells the story of a speech Carter gave which should have been pivotal but wasn’t. From her narrations it does a really good job of telling about the issues of the day and she seemed to enjoy the book and understand it well. High school level again.

One of the big controversies of the time was the Iranian hostage crisis. I wanted to give my kids a sense of this not just for the historical value but also because Iran is still so much in the news. My 6th grader read America Held Hostage by Don Lawson which covers the Iran-Contra scandal as well. Amazon lists it as 7th-12th grade and I would say it was a bit of a stretch for her but it seemed like a decent book.

My 7th grader read Taken Hostage by David Farber. This too seemed like a solid book that gives a good intro to the issues.

My 11th grader read Shah of Shahs by Ryzard Kapuscinski. This book introduces the political situation in Iran rather than focusing solely on the hostage crisis.  It too seemed good. It could probably be done at a slightly earlier age, like early high school.

In fiction that gives a sense of the time, I had my 7th grader read When Zachary Beaver Comes to Town by Kimberley Willis Holt, the story of the fattest boy in the world who comes to a small Texas town and makes life more interesting for its residents. My 10th grader was upset when she saw him reading this for school and exclaimed, “Hey, I read that! I didn’t know it was a school book!”  When pressed, she admitted she had liked the book but she still felt tricked. I’d call it middle school level though honestly I’m not sure how much my kids learned about the 1970s from it.

My 6th grader read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This one is set in 1970s New York City and the protagonist’s mother is slated to appear on the game show $20,000 Pyramid. There are other plots about her friends and there is some mystery involved. It turns out you can still get old episodes of the $25,000 Pyramid on TV (the amount of the big prize changed over time) so my daughter got into those as she read the book, for better or worse. Se seemed to enjoy the story and I think it gave a better sense of the time than Zachary Beaver but I found her narrations hard to follow and I suspect it is not that well-written. Definitely middle school level or maybe upper elementary for a good reader.

I read Revolution is not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine aloud to my middle schoolers. It is the story of a Chinese girl during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I didn’t think it was the best-written book I’ve ever read but it did give a pretty good sense of what things were like then. I’d call it middle school level.

For myself I read Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This is the story of a boy growing up in Afghanistan through all the political changes there. I did learn a lot about the history of this very important place in today’s news. I began reading the book to see if it would be appropriate for one of my high schoolers. I decided not to let either of them read it yet. There are some very adult situations which are quite integral to the plot so read with care.

The big story for the 1980s is the end of the Soviet Union as such. My 6th grader read the Cornerstones of Freedom series again, The Story of the Fall of the Soviet Union. I also had her read Cause & Effect: the Fall of the Soviet Union by Don Nardo. It was in her words “okay.” I am not sure I would say it was spectacular but it seemed decent.

My 7th grader read The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union by John R. Matthews. It seemed again like a decent book.

My 10th grader read The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union (a popular title apparently) by Michael Kort. Her words : “It was okay for a school book.” She is very hard to get praise from so count this as a recommendation.

Nobody read The Age of Delirium but I did check it out. It looked long 😉 Amazon gives it good reviews but it definitely seems like high school level or above.

I am going to leave off here for now. Moving from the 1980s to the ’90s and beyond, I am having my children focus more on issues than events, but I will discuss the books we are using for that in my next post — stay tuned!

Nebby

 

 

 

Living Books on the 1960s

Dear Reader,

You can find all my posts on the living books we’ve been using for history (and other subjects!) here.

Our spine series is, as it has been this year Our Century. You can look at those earlier posts to find out more about it and why we are using it.

The big topic for the 1960s is the Vietnam War. But there are  a few other topics as well so let’s start with those:

I couldn’t find a lot of living books on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I chose the one in the middle — Cuban Missile Crisis: In the Shadow of Nuclear War by R. Conrad Stein — above for my 6th grader to read. Stein is an author I have used before (but only from other series, I think). He does pretty well with making history interesting, not too dry.

Living through the Cuban Missile Crisis is actually a series of essays and first-hand resources. I didn’t end up using it but it could be good if you’d like your child to use original sources.

I checked out Thirteen Days Ninety Miles by Norman H. Finkelstein but it seemed to dry to me; my eyes began to glaze over on the first page. Did you ever notice how living books let the facts come at you slowly? I think this would be a hard book to read if you don’t already have some background knowledge of the people and events of the time.

I like the series Cornerstones of Freedom for brief intros to various topics we don’t have more time for. Be sure to look for the ones that begin “The Story of . . .” They are older and better-written. There are probably more on this time period but these are the two my library system had. FYI these are really elementary level books.

Turning then to the big topic, Vietnam, I was able to find quite a lot on both the war and the society or culture.

My 10th grader is reading Albert Marrin’s America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger. Marrin’s book are mostly high school level (though some are simpler). He does a good job of incorporating a lot of elements and strands in a cohesive narrative of his topic. We use his books a lot.

(My 11th grader, btw, is still working on a book on the Cold War, a more comprehensive account that will take him longer.)

My 7th grader is reading Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story by Sam Johnson. This is an autobiographical account. It would not be for the squeamish but seems quite well-done.

I looked at but did not use A Place Called Heartbreak by Walter Dean Myers and The Wall by Eve Bunting. The latter is (you may have guessed) about the Memorial Wall. Bunting is an author I like but this is really a not too hard picture book and my kids are too old for it. Myers’ book is a chapter book for grades 3-5 or so. Again, I thought my kids were beyond it. I am not sure how good the writing is but it looks like a story at least, not just facts.

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland is another picture book which we skipped; this one is about a family escaping civil war in Vietnam.

My 6th grader read A Boat to Nowhere by Maureen Crane Wartski. It tells the tale of a family of boat people fleeing the Communists.

For a read aloud for my younger two I debated between The Land I Lost and Water Buffalo Days both by Quang Nhuong Hyunh. They both looked so good. I chose The Land I Lost. It tells about life for a boy in Vietnam before the war and is humorous  and entertaining. I can’t speak for Water Buffalo Days but I suspect all books by this author will please.

Happy Reading!

Nebby

Living Books on the 1950s

Dear Reader,

This is part of a continuing series as we work our way through American history. You can find all my booklists here.

Our spine series this year is called Our Century. Though perhaps not living by some definitions, it is well written. You can read the earlier posts for more on why we are using this series (which has a lot to do with availability).

I am finding that there are some eras for which little is available. The 1950s is one of these. When we come to the 60s and Vietnam, there is a ton out there, but there seems to be a dearth of good books for kids on the 1950s. Even in the Truthquest guide for the period (which I use as a bibliography), I couldn’t find much. We are only spending a week or two 50s, but I will still disappointed with the selection.

The two big topics for this decade are the Cold War and Civil Rights. I am trying to give my 11th grader a more global perspective so I am him read The Long Peace by John Lewis Caddis.

The book really covers much more then just the 50s and it will take him at least a month to read so this will be his history for a while. We had this book on our shelf, I assume from some class my husband did in college. I read the beginning and while it is dense I found it quite readable.

My 6th grader read The Story of the Cold War from the Cornerstones of Freedom series. I like this series for upper elementary and early 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 editions).

My 7th grader read The Berlin Wall by Lisa Mirabile. He says it was a “decent sort of book” which is high praise from him 😉 It could be used for upper elementary as well. I think it does a pretty good job of showing the impact of the wall.

The second big topic from the 1950s is Civil Rights.

I had my 10th grader read The Barred Road by Adele Leeuw. It is fiction — the story of a white girl who, against her mother’s wishes, works with black children and makes friends with the new black family next door. This is a book to give the feel of what it was like to be black, or white, then, not to get specific historical information from. She seems to be enjoying the story.

My 6th grader also read Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli. The book itself was not hard and could be used at a younger age. De Angeli is a well-known author so I had high expectations but I’m not sure my daughter got as much from the book as I would have liked.

I read North Star Shining aloud to my two younger ones. It is poetry showing the plight and progress of African Americans in the US. It talks about both the general and about specific people. I enjoyed reading it for the sound of the poetry. One could certainly use it with elementary age but you could also use it even in high school I think if you wanted to take the time to learn a little about each of the people it mentions.

I looked at but did not use two other books on the plight of African Americans: Going North by Janice N. Harrington and Time of Trial, Time of Hope: The Negro in America, 1919-1941 by Milton Meltzer. The former seemed too simple for my children; it has relatively few words but might be good for lower elementary. The latter, as its subtitle suggests, really covers the period of the world wars. It looked good but wasn’t quite what I was looking for right now.

That’s all I’ve got on the 50s. Next up: the 60s and the Vietnam War (lots of books there!)

Nebby