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Colonial America

Arato, Rona Story Voyages Through History 1750–1899
Gr. 4–6  96 pp.  Owlkids

Illustrated by Ben Shannon. On an American Day series. Nine chronological sections provide snapshots of life in early America. Short fictional narratives are followed by historical information illuminating the issues raised in the tales, from religious freedom to slavery to children’s rights. The narratives can be stilted, but they’re a good hook for reluctant readers. Cartoon illustrations accompany the stories; archival photographs, illustrations, and maps are included in the history sections.
Subjects: North America; Cartoons and comics; History, American—Colonial life; History, American—Frontier and pioneer life

Asselin, Kristine Carlson The Real Story About Government and Politics in Colonial America
Gr. 4–6  32 pp.  Capstone

Raum, Elizabeth The Scoop on Clothes, Homes, and Daily Life in Colonial America
Gr. 4–6  32 pp.  Capstone

Fact Finders: Life in the American Colonies series. Simple page structure and straightforward language make these books accessible to young audiences curious about life during colonial times. Topics such as underwear and witch trials will interest reluctant readers. Photos, illustrations, maps, and accompanying captions enhance understanding. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.
Subjects: North America; Government; Politics; Clothing; Dwellings; Transportation; History, American—Colonial life

Becoming Ben FranklinFreedman, Russell Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty
Middle school, high school  86 pp.  Holiday

Franklin’s belief in an independent and united Colonial government, and his diplomatic efforts leading to that ideal, are emphasized. With impeccable sourcing and deep research, Freedman enhances his narrative by quoting liberally from Franklin’s autobiography and respected scholars; the author’s modern, accessible language provides context for and serves as a bridge to Franklin’s own (often arcane) exposition. Archival photographs appear on every page. Timeline. Bib., ind.
Subjects: Individual biographies; Franklin, Benjamin; History, American—Colonial life; Scientists; Inventions and inventors

McNamara, Margaret George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale
Gr. K–3  40 pp.  Random/Schwartz & Wade

Illustrated by Barry Blitt. McNamara debunks the cherry tree fable plus other myths, intermingling them with real facts to imagine Washington’s seventh birthday. Boxed notes distinguish truth from fancy, as does George’s page-long first-person concluding note, which also summarizes his later life. Blitt’s energetic, lighthearted pen and watercolor art, in colonial blues and browns, is evocative of the period while augmenting the text’s humor.
Subjects: Picture books; Biographies; Birthdays; Presidents—United States; Washington, George; History, American—Colonial life; Holidays—Presidents’ Day

Schanzer, Rosalyn Witches!: The Absolutely True Story of Disaster in Salem
Gr. 4–6  144 pp.  National Geographic

Schanzer (How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark) turns her attention to the Salem Witch Trials to powerful effect. Her small book, complete with scratchboard illustrations and vivid red accents, recounts the horrors of the witch-hunting hysteria. Good organization and effective illustrations are helpful for keeping the complex material manageable for the audience. Bib., ind.
Subjects: North America; Witches and witchcraft; Salem (MA); Puritans

From the October 2013 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.



  1. Love these titles! A great selection. I’d also add Lois Huey’s new title Ick! Yuck! Eew!: Our Gross American History (Millbrook) for lots of gross facts about Colonial hygiene.

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