American History Reading

16 Dec

To prepare for our trip to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, in the beginning of 2016, we are reading as much relevant American History as possible.  School may have wrapped up in other households but ours has spun back into swing with this holiday news.

There is so much to learn.  You really can’t appreciate what you’ll see, if you don’t know the story behind it.   For instance, if you look at the Statue of Liberty without knowing its story, you see a famous huge statue.  You’d know it’s a symbol of liberty and much loved by Americans but that’s all you have to go on.  Knowing just a little of its story, you can appreciate it at a much deeper and more memorable level.  The statue then becomes a symbol of friendship and connection with the French and a reminder of the American and French Revolutions; that the idea of a gift of a statue came from Laboulaye, was designed by the sculptor Bartholdi and that the guy who built the Eiffel Tower (Gustave Eiffel) designed and built the internal structure of the statue before he built his famous tower; that the statue was inspired by a previously conceived (but never built) statue that was to stand at the mouth of the Suez Canal; that each part of the statue has intended symbolism; that funding the statue was a drama and that bits of the statue (the hand and the head) were made available to visit to help promote and fund the project.  Goodness, there’s so much more we could tell you about the Statue of Liberty now that we’ve read about her.

We won’t just be learning about buildings and icons that we’ll see, but also about the historical events and people that are linked with the areas.  There’s no doubt that we’ll come across the names George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln during our trip so we need to learn about them so that they will have significance and importance to us.  I’ve made myself a mental list of key people, places and events that we want to explore before we leave and I’m constantly adding to it.  Last night I added September 11th to that list.  I heard about a gorgeous little book called “The Little Chapel That Stood” which tells the story of that day, gently, with the focus of the little chapel that stood in the shadow of the towers but was somehow spared any damage.  We have to visit that chapel.  Oh boy, there is so much to read and learn.  We’re so excited.

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With my mental list at hand, I have spent the first part of our ‘holidays-not’, researching and sourcing books for us to read.  I started with my own bookshelves and found quite a number of goodies. These are just some of what I found on my shelves.

* George vs George

* Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? – Jean Fritz’ books are always good.  I’d like to get the rest of this series too but I’m not sure we’ll have time to read everything before we go

* Why Not Lafayette? – another Jean Fritz’ book

* Red, White and Blue:  The Story of the American Flag – simple but interesting

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* William Penn: Founder of Pennsylvania – not my favourite but we used it anyway.

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* I Am Sacajawea, I am York – Did you know that a lot of what you saw in the movie, “The Night at the Museum” is not in that museum. So there’s no Sacajawea at that museum, but she’s still interesting to read about.

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* A More Perfect Union – the books by the Maestro family are excellent

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* Liberty or Death – because you can not go to the east coast of America without knowing about the Revolution

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* The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal – We were disappointed that the historic canal is no longer there, not that we’d be traveling anywhere near it though.

* Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? – another of Jean Fritz’ books

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* Voice of Freedom:  A Story about Frederick Douglass

* Abraham Lincoln – all of James Daugherty’s books are excellent

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* Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln – I like this “Big Words” series of books.  They include the person’s words and writings and the illustrations are outstanding

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I also checked our local library for American History books but their offerings were meager as I had expected.  There are a few more than is pictured below, but not that many more that are worth reading.  These are the few we have currently.

* Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope – You probably should know something about the leader of the country you are visiting.

* Who Was John F Kennedy? – This series, while not wonderful, isn’t too bad

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* New York City: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know – well they certainly didn’t cover everything we wanted to know but it was an okay graphical overview.

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* Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass – Russell Freedman’s books are brilliant and not to be missed.  I was thrilled that the library had this book (and surprised!).

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Because I never need a reason to purchase new books, (but don’t you think this is an excellent reason if I should need one??), I have been prowling the online book stores hunting for the best US books I could find.  These are what I have found so far.  Most I’ve sourced secondhand as books are incredibly expensive to purchase with the exchange rate the way it is at present (here, imagine an emoticon of me throwing an hysterical tantrum on the floor).  There’s still a few titles floating around in the mail somewhere, slowly making their way to our house.  I’m sure they row the books here sometimes.  How else could it possibly take so long!

Anyway, these are the books that have arrived so far.

* George Washington

* Abraham Lincoln

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* Benjamin Franklin – All three are by the d’Aulaire family.  I don’t love them as much as others but they are still good books.

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* Who was Franklin Roosevelt?

* Who Was Thomas Jefferson? – Both from the “Who Was” series.  (I’ve recently found one on Ben Franklin on my bookshelf too).

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* Freedom Seeker:  A Story about William Penn

* A Pocketful of Goobers: A Story about George Washington Carver – Both of these are books from the Creative Minds Biography series which a friend highly recommended to me and I am loving.

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* The Madcap Mystery of the Missing Liberty Bell – these books aren’t the best (I wouldn’t even say ‘good’) but they are tolerable if you really need a book on a topic.  (I’ve since found a lovely title on the Liberty Bell.  It’s still being rowed to us though.)

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* Poor Richard – another excellent title by James Daugherty (America had some brilliant men!  I don’t know any historical Australians that could come close to the big name Americans.  If there are any, I’d love to know who they are and what books are written about them.  Australians need to write more books about our History, particularly for children…but ones that are worthy of reading.)

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*  We the People:  The Story of the Constitution – because you have to know about these things

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* The Scarlet Stockings Spy – Oh there were so many gorgeous picture books that I was torn about having to leave so many out of my cart.

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* The Brooklyn Bridge

* Empire State Building – these books by Elizabeth Mann are excellent and not to be missed.  All of this series is brilliant.

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* To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt – another book from the “Big Words” series.  This guy is fascinating and I’m going to have to read more about him!  (An embarrassing admission – I didn’t realise there were two Roosevelt presidents.  I’m hoping I’m not the only dunce in the class.)

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*  When Jessie Came Across the Sea – Because a visit to Ellis Island is on the cards.

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* The House That George Built – plenty of information but the “House the Jack Built” format got annoying after a while

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* Our White House:  Looking In, Looking Out – This book is gorgeous!  It’s a compilation from lots of authors and artists, each sharing their work that relates to the White House and its past residents.

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* Theodore Roosevelt – Genevieve Foster’s books are great.  I’m very keen to read this one.

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* Of Courage Undaunted: Across the Continent with Lewis and Clark – more by James Daugherty

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* A Child’s First Book of American History – this was an impulse buy and from a quick flick through I’m feeling very happy about it.

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I also have a Scribd account and there I found several worthy titles also.  While I’m not a fan of reading children’s books electronically (in fact I loathe it!), sometimes you have to do these things to save a little money, particularly when you want to read so much in such a short period.  I was happy to find the following titles for us to read:

* Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holidays

* Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse

* Flags Over America: A Star-Spangled Story – I want to read more of Cheryl Harness’ books to see if I like her style.  She has lots of good looking books.

* Parks for the People: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted – a story about Central Park which should be fascinating (I desperately want to see a squirrel in the wild…and of course photograph it.  Reckon I have a chance at Central Park….in winter?)

* The Declaration of Independence

* Louisiana Purchase – both of these are by Connie and Peter Roop and look okay

*  The True Story Behind Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

* Farmer George Plants a Nation

* Nearly all of the relevant “For Kids” series, which I was going to buy but now don’t have to.  Whoohoo!

As for the books still being rowed to our shores (in all fairness, they come from Abebooks and are sourced from secondhand stores from all over the world), I’ll update this list when they arrive.

Feel free to make some suggestions.  I’m all ears when it comes to books. 🙂


Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Geography, History, My Library


2 responses to “American History Reading

  1. Heidi Wilson

    December 17, 2015 at 11:23 am

    WOW!! When I’m ready to do an American History unit with my boys don’t be surprised if I offer to pay for a courier both ways so I can borrow all your AMAZING books!! 😉

    • Tracey

      December 17, 2015 at 11:26 am

      You need to move north of the border. Surely that’d be cheaper than couriers. 🙂


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