November 18, 2017

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Symbols & Sites, Monuments & Movements: U.S. History | Series Made Simple Fall 2014

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SMS1411-BK-USHistoryHistory is over and done, and the facts never change. George Washington will always be the first president of the United States. The American Civil War will always take place from 1860–64. So why bother updating your collection? Here, the proof is in the purchase. Most of these series present people, places, and events in appealing, informative, and accessible ways, making the topic irresistible. Backed by solid research and bolstered by top-notch writing, these books offer material on symbols and sites, monuments and movements, for the youngest readers to the oldest.

Preschool to Grade 4

Fontes, Justine. The Pledge of Allegiance. ISBN 9780531215708; ISBN 9780531218433.

Herrington, Lisa M. The American Flag. ISBN 9780531215661; ISBN 9780531218396.

––––. The Bald Eagle. ISBN 9780531215647; ISBN 9780531218372.

––––. The Statue of Liberty. ISBN 9780531215654; ISBN 9780531218389.

––––. The White House. ISBN 9780531215678; ISBN 9780531218402.

Mattern, Joanne. Air Force One. ISBN 9780531215685; ISBN 9780531218419.

––––. Washington, DC ISBN 9780531215692; ISBN 9780531218426.

ea vol: 32p. (Rookie Read-About: American Symbols). chron. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Children’s Pr. 2014. lib. ed. $23. pap. $5.95.

K-Gr 2 –A clean, crisp design and a plain, accessible writing style characterize this series. Every feature is designed with the youngest readers in mind: books feature one short paragraph per page, printed in a large, sans serif font. For all its simplicity, the text is remarkably informative (“Lady Liberty stands 305 feet (93 meters) tall. That is as high as a 22-story building. At the time, it was the tallest statue in the world.”). Throughout each volume, blue-limned sidebars feature “Fun Facts” (“The White House is the only home of a country’s leader that is regularly open to the public.”). The illustrations are plentiful, colorful, and captioned. An ideal series for newly independent readers.

Graubart, Norman D. Beavers in American History. ISBN 9781477767535.

––––. Bison in American History. ISBN 9781477767573.

––––. Cattle in American History. ISBN 9781477767658.

––––. Horses in American History. ISBN 9781477767610.

––––. Mules in American History. ISBN 9781477767696.

––––. Whales in American History. ISBN 9781477767733.

ea vol: 24p. (How Animals Shaped History). glossary. index. maps. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $22.60.

Gr 3-5 –Concise and informative, these books examine why certain animals were—and still are—useful to people, be it for their strength, skins, or other bodily characteristics. The animals’ impact on trade and industry are covered, as are their natural habitats and life cycles, but above all, the titles establish links between these creatures and aspects of history (entry into the New World, westward expansion, the Gold Rush, the Industrial Revolution, and more). Colorful, well-curated illustrations consist of historic drawings and paintings and modern-day photographs. The maps depicting the natural range of the animals, then and now, are particularly informative, as they show at a glance how the animal populations have grown or diminished over the course of a couple of centuries (the few colorful dots that represent modern-day presence of bison in the United States and Canada is a striking contrast to the broad swath of color that represents the ubiquity of bison 100 years ago). A delightfully unique approach to history.

Hall, Brianna. Strike It Rich!: The Story of the California Gold Rush. ISBN 9781491401842.

Kravitz, Danny. Surviving the Journey: The Story of the Oregon Trail. ISBN 9781491401873.

Lewis, Norma. Connecting the Coasts: The Race to Build the Transcontinental Railroad. ISBN 9781491401866.

Micklos, John Jr. Discovering the West: The Expedition of Lewis and Clark. ISBN 9781491401859.

ea vol: 32p. (Adventures on the American Frontier). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 3-5 –Some of the most exciting, pivotal times in American history are explored in these titles. Each book begins with a hook—a lively anecdote or a climactic situation—to pull readers in. For instance, Discovering the West starts with the Lewis and Clark expedition 16 months into the journey, when the explorers were tired and near starving. The narrative then rewinds and explains how the group of disparate individuals found themselves in this predicament. The text brims with amazing bits of information that are worthy of any “Ripley’s” book: for instance, railroad workers were lowered in reed baskets to plant dynamite in the sides of mountains. Occasional sidebars offer “Fun Facts,” such as how, during the Gold Rush, stores sold “California gold grease,” a concoction that guaranteed that it would draw gold to those who rubbed it on their skin and rolled down the mountain. Solid entries that make history intriguing.

Rustad, Martha E.H. Can We Ring the Liberty Bell? ISBN 9781467721370; ISBN 9781467744676. LC 2013043419.

––––. Can You Sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”? ISBN 9781467721363; ISBN 9781467744690. LC 2013046479.

––––. Is a Bald Eagle Really Bald? ISBN 9781467721387; ISBN 9781467744669. LC 2013042059.

––––. What Is Inside the Lincoln Memorial? ISBN 9781467721356; ISBN 9781467744683. LC 2013037338.

––––. Why Are There Stripes on the American Flag? ISBN 9781467721400; ISBN 9781467744652. LC 2013034226.

––––. Why Is the Statue of Liberty Green? ISBN 9781467721394; ISBN 9781467744706. LC 2013034227.

ea vol: illus. by Kyle Poling. 24p. (Cloverleaf Books—Our American Symbols). ebook available. further reading. glossary. illus. index. websites. Millbrook. Nov. 2014. lib. ed. $23.93. pap. $6.95.

K-Gr 2 –These cheerful introductions to American Symbols are ideal for early elementary students. Each title operates on the premise that a group of children is learning about a symbol by participating in a class lesson or by going on a field trip to see the symbol itself. The storylike narrative is simple, engaging, and informative. The author pulls in images and comparisons that help the youngest elementary school students grasp new concepts (“‘What’s a symbol?’ Ethan asks. ‘A symbol is something that stands for something else,’ Mr. Gomez answers. ‘Like a green light means go!’ says Jolie.”). The bright, cartoon illustrations feature a variety of people: men, women, children, black, white, and Latino, and one character appears in a wheelchair. All in all, an appealing first look at American emblems.

Grades 5 & Up

Bailer, Darice. African-American Culture. ISBN 9781624031434; ISBN 9781629684611.

Latta, Susan M. Reconstruction Era. ISBN 9781624031472; ISBN 9781629684659.

Muldoon, Kathleen M. Jim Crow Era. ISBN 9781624031465; ISBN 9781629684642.

Rissman, Rebecca. Black Power Movement. ISBN 9781624031441; ISBN 9781629684628.

––––. Slavery in the United States. ISBN 9781624031489; ISBN 9781629684666.

Winter, Max. Civil Rights Movement. ISBN 9781624031458; ISBN 9781629684635.

ea vol: 48p. (African-American History). chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $32.79. ebk. $32.79.

Gr 4-6 –There are some admirable qualities to these titles—use of primary source documents, follow-up questions, and “Stop and Think” writing prompts. Unfortunately, negative characteristics mar the set as a whole. The illustrations are disappointing, with several employed more than once throughout the series. When depicting slaves, period drawings are used that do little to convey the actual conditions that were endured. With so many excellent photographs available, the use of these illustrations is puzzling. For the most part, the writing style is clear and straightforward. But African-American Culture lacks nuance and depth and fails to convey the harsh realities of slavery. For instance, in shedding light on the importance of hymns, the author makes the assertion that “the songs brought joy to African American who sang them.” Though technically true, this oversimplified explanation glosses over the horrors of slavery and neglects to mention the role of these songs in the Underground Railroad. Not recommended.

Bailey, Diane. The Emancipation Proclamation and the End of Slavery in America. ISBN 9781477777497.

––––. The NAACP. ISBN 9781477777473.

Bringle, Jennifer. The Civil Rights Act of 1964. ISBN 9781477777398.

Kamberg, Mary-Lane. Affirmative Action. ISBN 9781477777411.

Klein, Rebecca. School Integration. ISBN 9781477777435.

Staley, Erin. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired the World. ISBN 9781477777459.

ea vol: 80p. (A Celebration of the Civil Rights Movement). bibliog. chron. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen Young Adult. 2014. lib. ed. $33.25.

Gr 5-8 –This strong series prefaces its examination of one of the most pivotal movements in U.S. history with The Emancipation Proclamation volume. Subsequent volumes explore the extensive, often violent prejudices faced by African Americans in the years following the Civil War. Each title examines the issue at hand with concise, even-handed thoroughness. The series shows clearly some of the root causes of systemic segregation, such as the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case, Plessy v. Ferguson, wherein states were granted the authority to mandate separate facilities for black people and white people. For instance, in The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the author summarizes the issue succinctly: “The landmark legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or gender. It made racial segregation and other Jim Crow laws designed to prevent African Americans from voting illegal.” Great choices for most school and public libraries.

Cappacio, George. The Countryside in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128858.

––––. Religion in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128889.

––––. Schools in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128940.

Colligan, Louise. The City in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128827.

––––. Government in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128919.

Ellis, Carol. The Military in Colonial America. ISBN 9781627128971.

ea vol: 80p. (Life in Colonial America). further reading. glossary. index. reprods. Cavendish Square. 2014. lib. ed. $35.64.

Gr 6-8 –Thoroughly researched and expertly executed, this series describes in rich detail the lives of Native Americans, African Americans, and white settlers, including children, women, and criminals. The introductory material that prefaces each title is of particular value, as it demonstrates that the colonists were part of a larger world picture. For instance, Religion takes readers back to Jerusalem to chronicle the expansion of Protestantism and Catholicism there and abroad. The author gives an overarching explanation (“For nearly 1,500 years, the Roman Church dominated the spiritual life of Western Europe, and greatly influenced the art, customs, architecture, and belief systems of Western civilization.”) and then in the first chapter picks up with a brief description of the Protestant Reformation to explain how that movement led to the settlement of the eastern seaboard by Europeans. Content in each title incorporates quotes from period letters and journals as well as a plethora of well-chosen, colorful illustrations. Strong, attractive titles for those looking for more coverage of Colonial America.

Clark, Katie. The Lincoln Memorial: Myths, Legends, and Facts. ISBN 9781491402054.

Gunderson, Jessica. The Alamo: Myths, Legends, and Facts. ISBN 9781491402047.

––––. Mount Rushmore: Myths, Legends, and Facts. ISBN 9781491402030.

Murray, Robb. The Washington Monument: Myths, Legends, and Facts. ISBN 9781491402061.

ea vol: 32p. (Monumental History). further reading. glossary. index. photos. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 4-6 –This fascinating series delves into the shadows of some of America’s most iconic monuments to reveal the intrigue, conflict, and scandal that surrounded their construction. A host of design elements are sure to keep readers engaged. A handful of tantalizing questions such as “What do [the Lincoln Memorial’s] columns mean” and “Was [Mount Rushmore] sculpted by a man who valued democracy, or did he have a secret agenda?” introduces each title. Occasional sidebars grab readers’ attention with facts that have the aura of insider information—for instance, ways in which the finished Mount Rushmore sculptures differed from the original scale model. An expertly curated collection of photos, drawings, and ephemera round out each title with flair and substance. For instance, an early plan for the Lincoln Memorial depicts a ziggurat, a far cry from the columned temple so recognizable today. Concise but informative, this series is a valuable addition to most collections.

Ferry, Joseph. American Flag: The Story of Old Glory. ISBN 9781422231197; ISBN 9781422287422.

––––. Jefferson Memorial: A Monument to Greatness. ISBN 9781422231258; ISBN 9781422287484.

––––. The Star-Spangled Banner: Story of Our National Anthem. ISBN 9781422231326; ISBN 9781422287552.

––––. Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Remembering a Generation and a War. ISBN 9781422231364; ISBN 9781422287590.

Hahn, Laura. Mount Rushmore: Memorial to Our Greatest Presidents. ISBN 9781422231289; ISBN 9781422287514.

Kozleski, Lisa. The Pledge of Allegiance: Story of One Indivisible Nation. ISBN 9781422231319; ISBN 9781422287545.

Marcovitz, Hal. The Alamo: Symbol of Freedom. ISBN 9781422231180; ISBN 9781422287415.

––––. Bald Eagle: The Story of Our National Bird. ISBN 9781422231203; ISBN 9781422287439.

––––. Confederate Flag: Controversial Symbol of the South. ISBN 9781422231210; ISBN 9781422287446.

––––. The Declaration of Independence: Forming a New Nation. ISBN 9781422231227; ISBN 9781422287453.

––––. Ellis Island: The Story of a Gateway to America. ISBN 9781422231234; ISBN 9781422287460.

––––. Independence Hall: Birthplace of Freedom. ISBN 9781422231241; ISBN 9781422287477.

––––. Liberty Bell: Let Freedom Ring. ISBN 9781422231265; ISBN 9781422287491.

––––. Lincoln Memorial: Shrine to an American Hero. ISBN 9781422231272; ISBN 9781422287507.

––––. Rock ‘n’ Roll: Voice of American Youth. ISBN 9781422231296; ISBN 9781422287521.

––––. Statue of Liberty: A Beacon of Welcome and Hope. ISBN 9781422231302; ISBN 9781422287538.

––––. The U.S. Constitution: Government by the People. ISBN 9781422231333; ISBN 9781422287569.

––––. Uncle Sam: International Symbol of America. ISBN 9781422231357; ISBN 9781422287583.

––––. Washington Monument: Memorial to a Founding Father. ISBN 9781422231371; ISBN 9781422287606.

ea vol: 48p. (Patriotic Symbols of America). chron. further reading. glossary. illus. index. websites. Mason Crest. 2014. lib. ed. $20.95. ebk. $26.95.

Gr 4-8 –Going beyond pat descriptions of symbols, this series digs to the roots of America’s garden of emblems. For example, readers not only witness the evolution of the U.S. flag’s design over the years, but learn, too, why flags matter in the first place. In addition, children discover that while the Pledge of Allegiance is a cornerstone of American symbolism, pledges to the flag are relatively rare in the rest of the world. Throughout each title, “Vital Figure” sidebars feature key persons. In some instances, the person is well known, such as George Washington. Other times, the subject is less famous but no less important in his or her realm of influence (Alan Freed, unscrupulous but passionate promoter of rock ‘n’ roll). The concise, engaging writing is aptly accented by symbols that alert readers to special vocabulary words, ideas for research projects, and sidebars brimming with supplemental insights. While not outstanding, the illustrations are colorful and appropriate. A wide-ranging, appealing, and useful series.

Krumm, Brian. The Little Rock Nine: A Primary Source Exploration of the Battle for School Integration. ISBN 9781491402252.

Schwartz, Heather E. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Primary Source Exploration of the Landmark Legislation. ISBN 9781491402245.

––––. Freedom Riders: A Primary Source Exploration of the Struggle for Racial Justice. ISBN 9781491402221.

––––. The March on Washington: A Primary Source Exploration of the Pivotal Protest. ISBN 9781491402238.

ea vol: 32p. (We Shall Overcome). bibliog. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2014. lib. ed. $26.65.

Gr 6 Up –First-person accounts from white and African American activists, protesters, politicians, and eyewitnesses are woven into the text of this informative series on the civil rights movement. The quotes, borrowed from newspapers, government records, interviews, and speeches, reflect a variety of viewpoints. For example, there is the vehemently pro-segregationist Governor Wallace: “I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever,” as well as concerned college student and activist Diane Nash: “It was critical that the Freedom Ride not stop, that it be continued immediately.” The illustrations are revelatory and sometimes chilling. One 1957 photograph shows stone-faced National Guardsmen forming a barricade with their bodies to block black teens from going to school in Little Rock, AR, while another depicts a 1965 KKK nighttime rally in which hooded members congregate beneath a tall burning cross. An ideal purchase.


Convincing students that history is important can be a tricky task. Many write the subject off as dull and irrelevant. With these new, exciting series, emphasizing history’s importance gets easier. After all, who can resist a well-told chronicle about beavers or a gripping, first-person account of violence and injustice? Be sure to check out Powerkids’ unique “How Animals Shaped History,” Rosen’s moving “A Celebration of the Civil Rights Movement,” and Cavendish’s expansive “Life in Colonial America.” A great variety of events and people are represented in these books, many of which will make excellent additions to school and public libraries.

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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