Monday, May 6, 2013

Joining the Boston Tea Party

Joining the Boston Tea Party (The Time-Traveling Twins)is part of the Time Traveling Twins series.

I liked the book because it provides picture book readers with a fantasy connection to history that the Magic Treehouse series provide to chapter book readers. The concept is much simpler, but the readers are younger. Grandma has a magic hat that allows the children and Grandma to travel to historic time periods. In this book, the children arrive in Boston and actually participate in the Boston Tea Party.

Two criticisms I have read of the book are that the brother calls his sister a dummy and that the children don't tell their grandmother they are going to the Tea Party with a relative because they believe their Grandmother would not let them go. I certainly don't approve of children calling each other names. However, having four brothers this struck me as fairly realistic behavior between brothers and sisters. I must say sometimes that the relationships between book brothers and sisters seem overly pleasant to be believable. As with all things, parents can choose how to address this issue. Some will choose to censor the book; others may use it as a teachable moment, asking their children if it is OK for him to say that to his sister. I think the second is likely to be more effective.

The second criticism is the children defying Grandmother. Again, this struck me as realistic. Given a chance to head off with a historical figure and experience the Boston Tea Party as a child, I too would not have told my Grandmother and risked her anger later. As a child, I would not have processed or thought through the dangers involved in this activity. Ultimately, experience and my parents’ interventions got through to me and I learned about cause and effect, dangerous choices, and consequences. That is what makes this moment in the book a teachable one. What a great time to discuss the risks and dangers that the children did not think about and why talking with their Grandmother would have been the right choice. I think it is important to try to put a little reality into children's books. If we only ever write a cleansed version where children are all well behaved, do the right thing, and never defy authority, it is hard to teach kids the reasons why we want them to behave.

One of the reasons I like this book for discussing the Boston Tea Party is that it makes the topic approachable for young readers. The issues of the tension in Boston, the tax on tea, and the disguises used by the Sons of Liberty are all addressed in age appropriate terms. The cartoon illustrations and the thought bubbles will grab children’s attention as they read the text that provides most of the factual information about the topic.

I picked up the three titles in this series for a younger relative's birthday. I love finding picture books that are accurate, make American history approachable and fun.

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