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The watermelon’s eaten and fireworks are over, but perhaps the celebrations just whet the appetites of you and the kids to know more about America’s beginnings.  Here are a few books that we liked and you might like too. — Nancy

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 1 & 2)

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution (about Books 3 & 4)

 The Children’s Book of America

Sacagawea: Girl of the Shining Mountains

We the People: The Story of Our Constitution

If you go looking for these books on Amazon, be sure to include the author’s name in your search. Titles are not subject to copywrite and so you will often find several books with the same title. Also Amazon, to the dismay of those of us who did graduate work in librarianship, does not always list books with the conventions of alphabetizing in mind.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.)  Her latest work for children is We All Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. It is the second book in the series that began with I Get a Clue. You can learn more about her and her books at www.nancyellenhird.com .

For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.

With talk of campaigns and elections in the air, why not take a look at Lynne Cheney’s book We the People: The Story of Our Constitution?  Published by Simon and Schuster (Reprint edition, 2012), the book allows readers to almost be standing in the room at that early time in U.S. history. They will sense the struggles and feel the worry. Will this young nation survive as a nation with its new idea of a government of the people and by the people? Men such as Madison, Washington and Franklin faced this almost impossible task.

Readers learn that delegates from twelve states came to Philadelphia to do more than revise the weak Articles of Confederation. A new kind of government was to be formed. This government would have three branches and it would not be ruled by a king, as England was. Throughout the long, hot months of the summer the delegates argued, compromised and prayed. When completed, Ben Franklin said, “The Constitution was astonishingly good.”

The introduction to We the People: The Story of Our Constitution sets the tone. The illustrations of awarding-winning artist Greg Harlin enhance each of the historic happenings. The vocabulary and style is more for eight-year-olds but younger children will enjoy having this book read to them.

Cheney engages the reader, capturing on each page the step by step progress of the new nation. The document’s signing in 1787, was a triumph of history that all children should learn about.

Carol Green, a graduate of Northwestern, is married and the mother of three adult children. Her five grandchildren affectionately call her “Grams cracker.” She is the published author of many poems for both adults and children; three coloring books: God Gave Me Five, ABC Fun Book, and Color God’s World Bright; and the picture book: My Mom Loves Me.

(Today Kristina gives us good info about the last two books in the four-book compilation, American Dream: The New World, The Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution, Barbour Publishing, Reprint edition, 2011. Info about the first two books can be found at American Dream.)

Maggie’s Dare by Norma Jean Lutz is set in Boston, 1744, during the time of the Great Awakening. Twelve-year-old Maggie is the daughter of a doctor and a typical girl interested in friends and having fun. A member of the popular crowd, she is close friends with the governor’s daughter, Adelaide Chilton. Maggie is invited to attend dance lessons at the Chilton house in preparation for the upcoming Christmas Ball.

A conflict is developing in the community over the teachings of two rival ministers. Maggie and her family follow the teachings of Joshua Gee of the Old North Church. However, other townspeople find Jonathan Edwards’ sermons compelling. Maggie begins to learn more about the teachings of Jonathan Edwards. Some family members and friends begin to follow his teachings, and she notices the positive changes in their lives. Edwards’ teachings prompt Maggie to think about helping those who can’t take care of themselves.

One day at high tea at the Chilton’s, Adelaide introduces Maggie and her friends to her new personal slave, Melee. Maggie does not like the idea of slavery. She also suspects, because she’s a doctor’s daughter, that the slave is ill. As time passes Maggie discovers the truth about the servant Melee and her problem. Maggie must figure out a plan to get her some help, but what Maggie does causes problems for both of them. Will Melee be healed physically and spiritually? Will Maggie come to understand more about the teachings of Jonathan Edwards?

The Great Awakening opened the doors for many religious ideas and reforms, thus allowing people to deepen their relationship with the Lord. This book teaches about looking beyond the surface to find the truth. It is a great read for 9 to 12-year-old girls who like history.

The fourth book in the American Dream compilation is Lizzie and the Redcoat. It was written by Susan Martins Miller.

Lizzie is a young girl living in Boston during the pre-American Revolution. Lizzie and other Bostonians learn through the bulletins that the Seven Year’s War has depleted the English treasury. King George wants the colonists to pay additional taxes to help restore England’s finances. The colonists are already struggling financially.

New taxes are not their only dispute with the King. The British government has also decided there should be a standing army in the colonies. Some colonists are being forced to quarter soldiers in their homes. British agents are also carefully watching merchants to insure they are not smuggling goods.

On Christmas Day Lizzie’s family comes together to celebrate, however the family is divided on the new taxes, the presence of British troops, and the future of the colonies. As spring starts to emerge some colonists protest and boycott the British. Lizzie throws a snowball at a British soldier.

Everything comes to a head when the Stamp Act is passed. A government stamp must be paid for and placed on all printed documents. Lizzie’s father is a printer and this new tax will impact his business. He is pressured by some to not post the stamp. Boston, as a result of the Stamp Act, becomes polarized between the loyalists and the revolutionaries. Civic leaders such as Samuel Adams start the Sons of Liberty movement and organize meetings where he and others give anti-British speeches. The speeches spark a small riot between the colonists and British troops. A British soldier is wounded and others are hurt in the riot.

Lizzie and her uncle, who is a doctor, rescue the wounded Redcoat. She and her uncle treat him while the protest continues outside the window. Will he survive? What will Lizzie learn from this incident? During the crisis, Lizzie’s father is torn between speaking the truth about the Boston Massacre–the colonists fired first–and what some colonists want to hear. Finally, a victory for the colonists comes; the Stamp Act is repealed. But it is too late, the tide is turning toward a revolution.

Lizzie’s story is about a young girl who learns during a crisis that looking out for others is more important than following the crowd. She learns that the truth is more important than following others. This is an excellent book for young girls who are interested in history.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother of twin girls, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoys raising her two girls.

American Dream: The New World, Colonial Times, and Hints of Revolution is  four books collected into one. This collection from the Sisters in Time series is published by Barbour Publishing (Reprint edition, 2011). Historical fiction, the novels are about young Christian girls who experience the real changes and challenges that were a part of the early days in American history. All of the books have a vocabulary section. Each of them also has a history section which gives more background on historical figures such as Miles Standish, William Bradford, etc. who play minor roles in the books. The first two stories are penned by Colleen L. Reece.

The first novel, The New World, is viewed through Sarah’s eyes. It begins in Holland where a number of the Puritans have gone to escape religious persecution in England. They have been in the Netherlands for some years. Now Sarah and her family are among those who are considering leaving to settle in Virginia. There they hope to find religious freedom. Her family decides they will join the group who are going. Not all of the Puritans will leave. Some will remain behind and in some cases families will be divided.

The would-be colonists prepare for their journey. Many months pass before they can depart, but finally the Speedwell, their ship, is ready to set sail for Southampton, England. In Southampton the settlers meet up with more settlers and the Speedwell and the Mayflower set sail.

Young Sarah and her family are on the Speedwell, an old ship.  The voyagers encounter rough seas. Finally it is too much for the Speedwell. The ship must return to England for repairs. Sarah’s family must decide what to do. They decide to continue on to the New World on the Mayflower.

On the sea voyage Sarah learns in practical ways what it means to be a young colonial woman. The journey also tests her faith in God, her confidence in herself and her ability to remain optimistic. Will she hear the famous words, “land ho”? Will the Mayflower find the shore and will the new colony be settled?

Rebekah in Danger, the next novel, was also written by Colleen L. Reece. In this book the Mayflower has reached land. But it is not the place the colonists’ expected; it is not Virginia. The ship has been blown off course and it is late fall. Rebekah and the others are eager to get off the ship but  must remain on board until an area is found to settle. Under the leadership of Miles Standish the colonists secure an area and find some food. Rebekah and others soon realize that the colony is in danger from disease and starvation. Will Rebekah and her family survive the winter? Things go from bad to worse for the colony when the common house burns and the governor takes ill.

On the voyage from England Rebekah and her brother had encountered a rough and tough sailor named Jake. He was not a Christian, but Rebekah discovered he had a soft spot for children. Rebekah and her brother began praying for him and talking with him. In time Jake’s hard heart was softened by God and he learned about Rebekah’s faith. Sadly, Jake becomes ill, but before he dies he has one thing to tell Rebekah and her brother. He wants them to know that he accepted the Lord.

Finally, spring and planting season arrives. The weakened colonists plant corn and other crops given to them by the Native Americans. At harvest time the new governor, William Bradford, announces a day of thanks to the Lord. The Native Americans are invited to join the colonists in the celebration and so the first Thanksgiving is created.

These two books bring history alive for young girls. The books show Christianity in historical settings. It makes a person wonder if the struggles of  Christians today are that different from those in the past. The lessons the characters learn are still a major part of childhood today. These books are great for pre-teen girls who like history and want to learn more through a person their age.

Kristina O’Brien is a mother of twin girls, an avid reader and a credentialed teacher. She has taught both middle school and high school history. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and enjoys raising her two girls.

Pocahontas, True Princess by Mari Hanes was published by Multnomah Books (1995).

Pocahontas, favorite daughter of the great Chief Powhatan, is ten years old when she stops Captain John Smith from being killed by her people. She becomes a favorite visitor of the English colonists. In her efforts to make peace, Pocahontas clashes with the priest of the war god in her village. She is kidnapped in an effort to stop all out war between the two peoples. While staying in the home of a minister and his wife, she embraces their faith. There she meets and decides to marry John Rolf. She and her son later journey with him to England, where she is warmly received.

This is the spiritual journey of a young woman growing up in a changing world. The voice of Pocahontas is both brave and endearing. Even though the essentials of her life are widely known, this story still captivates the reader.

In this historical fictional account of the life of Pocahontas, the author attempts to stay true to a wealth of historical facts handed down through journals, letters, and other records. She wants to paint an accurate picture of Algonquin life in the early 1600s and treat the actions of both Native Americans and English colonists fairly.

The book is suited for upper elementary and middle school readers. Due to the nature of this period of history, there is violence, suspense, and loss. But this tale leaves a lasting impression of a girl who embraces great adventure with incredible courage.

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

Book Reviews

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