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The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    Stories for young and old

    In this impressive volume, Jennifer Armstrong presents a mini-course in American history so engaging that young and old readers will want to curl up with it. She has carefully selected one hundred stories that address a broad list of historical themes, among them the violent conflict between Native peoples and European colonists, the struggle for independence, the heartbreak of slavery, the advent of the transportation and industrial revolutions, and the fight for women¿s suffrage. These themes and others are addressed through familiar stories (which bear repeating), as well as through stories unfamiliar to most young readers, including the building of the uranium pile in the Manhattan Project, the radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds program, the flood of molasses through the streets of Boston, and the murders committed by Lizzie Borden. I was surprised, and pleased, to read so many story topics from the last half century that are touchstones of our times, namely the Bay of Pigs, the Riggs-King tennis match, the George Foreman-Muhammad Ali fight, and the 2000 election. Armstrong cleverly adds a ¿Note¿ at the end of each chapter which provides much-needed context or reveals the story¿s impact on American history. I found myself looking forward to the Notes. My children loved the book too. Roger Roth¿s lively illustrations (which convey the emotion of the story without bogging down in excessive detail) caught the attention of my eight-year-old son. When he saw the illustrations of the slave Henry Brown popping out of a wooden crate in which he had shipped himself to freedom and of Henry David Thoreau sitting in jail, my son wanted to read about these men. With his curiosity satisfied, he continued until he had absorbed a dozen or more stories, hooked by Armstrong¿s lively prose. She put the ¿story¿ in ¿history¿ and my son soaked it up. The story selection was what attracted my other son, aged ten. After sitting with the book for an hour, he announced: ¿This was good. I hadn¿t heard a lot of the stories before. None were boring. Besides, they make good points, and the points are clear. All the writing is clear.¿ He praised the stories¿ brevity: ¿They were short, but you don¿t miss out on a lot either.¿ Brevity became a problem for him only once, in the St. Valentine¿s Day massacre story, there were too many characters and not enough background for him to understand the event. Telling a short story clearly must have been a special challenge for the author, one which, with very few exceptions, she met superbly.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 4, 2010

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    Posted July 26, 2009

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