Monday, October 24, 2011

The Revolutionary War An Interactive History

As I have mentioned in several previous blogs I have been trying to locate history books that present accurate, but interesting presentations of American history to children with the hope that they will actually engage in learning it.

The Revolutionary War: An Interactive History Adventure (You Choose: History) provides an interesting format for learning about the time period of the American Revolution. I thought the introduction was rushed. However, I did like the format of allowing children to choose a path and follow it through the story making choices and following those outcomes.

Three original paths are provided to the reader, the daughter of a colonial militia captain, a young Connecticut Patriot who chooses to fight, and a loyalist who sides with Great Britain.

The girl is presented with original choices of following her father to war to care for him or staying with her mother to care for the family. That original choice provides the next choices available to the reader. The young Connecticut Patriot must choose between joining the Continental Army or going to sea and becoming a privateer. The loyalist lives near Charleston, South Carolina. He is presented with the options of staying on his father's plantation or joining his Uncle's business in Charleston. Once the reader chooses the character to follow, additional choices are presented and the reader follows the path that these choices create.

Years ago, we tried to create these types of scenarios manually for history units and it was a great deal of work. I think this book would work wonderfully as an independent book for parents who want their children to understand the different perspectives and choices people made during the Revolution. I think homeschooling parents would also find it an asset for their educational purposes. However, I also think this book has specific applications in the classroom or group setting. This book would be a great choice for a cross unit literature circle. It would make a great gateway to discussing cause and effect, choices and consequences of choices. Children could meet in-group with students that represented all three paths and meet with students from their own paths to discuss the various choices and consequences.

This is not a book that will teach children important dates and times. However, it does add a layer of perspective that is often lacking in the books that do teach those concepts. This helps kids to look at how people approached the event from an individual life experience, not a homogenous group. History books often group people without teaching children that even in groups of people those people are individuals, not identical clones.

After previewing the library copy, this book made it to my Christmas giving list for this year.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Dreadful, Smelly, Colonies

I came across the Fact Finders Disgusting History series and decided to preview The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies: The Disgusting Details About Life in Colonial America (Disgusting History)prior to purchasing it. It sounded like it would be similar to the You Wouldn't Want series in providing an entertaining but informative look at American history for children. However, I have bought on impulse and been disappointed with the outcomes. This would have been a good impulse purchase.

Unlike the You Wouldn't Want series, this book uses more realistic drawings and photographs to illustrate the topic. While the title is designed to be shocking, the information is accurate and factual. The first section of the book discusses the shelters that were built when settlers arrived in the various areas of the country and why those shelters were chosen. The author discusses topics like disease, insects in your food, and the building of privies for bathrooms.

The book also addresses indentured servants and the fact that slaves originally could purchase their freedom until laws were changed that took away that possibility. This is an area not often discussed in history texts for children, which made it an interesting choice to add to my purchases for Christmas.

Challenges with diseases, travel, and the relationship with Native populations are not ignored in this book. For a short book that could pass as a picture book from the outside, it covers a good deal of historical information in an appealing format for children. While I passed on it when purchasing some other books, I will be adding this to my list of Colonial History books to pick up for Christmas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Inside Story

The Sisters Grimm: Book Eight: The Inside Story moves the story beyond the Everafter War as we left off with the Master having fled into the Book of Everafter. The Sisters Grimm realize they do not have time to wait for Granny Relda and the rest of the family and dive in after him.

The premise of this story was an interesting one. I was looking forward to seeing the kids chase the Master through the pages of children's literature to rescue their baby brother. Unfortunately, this story was not as well executed as previous efforts. Buckley's strength has been his ability to blend multiple characters from children's literature with humor and an integrated plot to hold the reader's interest. In this latest novel, it almost seemed as if Buckley was trying to cram as many character and story references into the story with little interest in plot or humor that was a strength of his previous novels.

The main source of humor in this book is Puck constantly teasing Sabrina about their future marriage after Sabrina finally tells him about her trip to the future. While this is cute, it is not nearly as amusing as the stories provided in previous novels.

The last two books in this series have turned darker. The resolution to the Master's plan leaves the girls with gaining one relative while losing another. The next novel is rumored to be released in May of 2012. I hope Buckley finds a way to advance his plot and return to the humor of his previous stories.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

You Wouldn't Want to be an American Colonist

You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Colonist!is the first book in this series I've read that was not written by Peter Cook. This book focuses on the Virginian settlements of Roanoke and Jamestown. While Cook provides the reader with an identity, Ms. Morley does not continue this tradition. However, she does provide readers with the interesting tidbits and travel tips I enjoyed from Cook's books in the series.

I haven't found many resources for young readers on the Virginian colonies. This book is accessible for young readers and will appeal to intermediate readers with the humor and cartoons.

I have decided that I will be purchasing this book along with You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower!: A Trip That Took Entirely Too Long and You Wouldn't Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party!: Wharf Water Tea You'd Rather Not Drinkas gifts for a younger family member. I think these books will be great additions to the history library I have been building for the family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Everafter War

The Sisters Grimm: Book Seven: The Everafter War takes a slightly different direction than the previous novels. Charming is determined to defeat the Red Hand's army and as the title states the book focuses on the war of the Everafters.

The previous novel ends with a cliffhanger. This novel picks up with the cliffhanger teasing readers with a revelation about the identity of the master only to hold off revealing the information until the very end.

While this book advances the plot of the series, the seriousness of the plot removes much of the humor found in the previous novels. The Everafters face losing one of their beloved characters close to the Grimms.

All is not easy for Sabrina and her parents. Her dream since the series began is to have her parents back. While her parents are back, they are not the parents she remembers and the children are not the children her parents left in New York. The conflicts only create more frustration for Sabrina with life in Ferryport landing.

I will admit to being surprised when the Master's identity was revealed. I had a different suspect in mind. It did create an interesting set up for The Sisters Grimm: Book Eight: The Inside Story. I am impressed that Buckley has managed to maintain the quality of the series over length of this series.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Canobie Lake Park Screemfest

Canobie Lake Park is extending the park season with a haunted park that will run weekends Fridays-Sundays during October. You can check the schedule here for dates and hours as they vary.

General admission is $27.99. The website lists locations where one can find a $4 coupon. Check the details as there are restriction on using the coupon on Saturdays.

AAA's website is no longer listing a discount for Canobie Lake so I suspect that the discount was only good for the traditional season. I will look for it again next spring and post the details. They are however offering discounts for Six Flags Of New England's Fright Fest.

While most of the park is focused on older children and adults, the park has transformed Kiddie Land into Pumpkin Palace for the entertainment of the younger crowd. Guests are not allowed to wear costumes in the park. Those who wish can purchase a Monster 'b Gone Necklace to avoid hauntings from park personnel.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tales from the Hood

The Sisters Grimm: Book Six: Tales from the Hood made me laugh right from the start. Mr. Canis is on trial for his crimes and Granny must find a lawyer to defend him. Michael Buckley brings in another character from classic literature by introducing the Sherwood Group. Yes, Robin Hood has become a civil attorney dedicated to attacking corporations. After some urging, he agrees to take on the Sherriff of Nottingham and takes the case.

As the book continues, we learn more of the background of Mr. Canis, the wolf and a woodcutter. We also learn that there is a connection between Red Riding Hood and Mr. Canis that the fairy tale does not hint as the future of Mr. Canis hangs in the balance. We learn more about what Charming has been up to while undercover at the Red Hand.

The story has a cliffhanger as the identity of the master is about to be announced as the story concludes.

I already have requests from adults and children to put this series on my Christmas purchase list.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Marlborough Haunted House Food Drive

If you are looking for a fun Halloween event for your family the Levy Family and the Marlborough Lions Club are hosting an outdoor Haunted House display every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in October from 6-10PM. Visitors are asked to donate non-perishable food or personal care items as the price of admission. The Haunted House can be found at 61 O'Grady Road in Marlborough, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower

You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower!: A Trip That Took Entirely Too Longis part of a history series published by Scholastic. I wrote about You Wouldn't Want to Be at the Boston Tea Party!: Wharf Water Tea, You'd Rather Not Drink in a previous blog. While the series has different authors, Peter Cook wrote both these.

This story also uses cartoons and humor to introduce children to the story of the Pilgrim's journey to the New World. As in the previous story, the reader is provided with an identity to help engage with the story. In this case, the readers are told they are a girl making the trip with her parents and brother.

I was impressed that the author attempted to provide historical accuracy. He used the word separatists as the name the Pilgrims were more commonly known as for their religious beliefs. The information on the voyage and life in the colonies is more detailed then some of the picture books available for children.

I have another book to preview before making my purchasing choices for Christmas. So far, I think these books will be on my Christmas list.