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Posted May 14, 2010
Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster adapted their #1 bestseller for young readers in this series of books. The three books are listed under the name The Century for Young People with the subheadings of: Becoming Modern America: 1901 - 1935, Defining America: 1936-1961, Changing America: 1961-1999.
Being a true history buff I was very excited to review this series of books. The twentieth century was arguably the most eventful time in history and I wanted to see how the authors would cut all the important events down into a manageable group for kids. These books take us on a journey through time and provide an excellent overview that will not tax young readers. Although this book barely scratches the surface of all the events that took place over the century, the authors do make the events come alive with personal accounts that relate the thoughts, actions and attitudes of ordinary men, women, and children that actually experienced the events at the time. You will read stories of the immigrant experience, the wars and injustices, the change in movies and sports, space exploration, bus boycotts, the New York Fair through the eyes of an electrician's daughter, the women's movement and much more. Readers can sit down and read the whole book or just read about a certain event. The books include a great index at the back to help kids use the books as a reference.
The global events are included only from the perspective of their impact on Americans. Also, there are some events covered which may be a little disturbing to younger children (that is why I increased the age recommendation to 10 and over). However, there is a lot to be learned from history and I believe that kids can understand the past better with books that make it come to life for them. Sometimes this means making wars, depression, revolution and communism come to life in a way that makes some kids a little uncomfortable. It can open their eyes to what society is capable of at its best and worst. But hopefully it will add meaning and help change the future with the lessons they will learn. As with all books, parents should be prepared to review the books with their children and discuss anything that makes them become confused or uncomfortable. I did not find the stories disturbing, but enlightening and I think you will too. As an example, the authors talk about the Martin Luther King assassination. Rather than focus just on the facts of the event, the authors chose to relate the reaction of Robert Kennedy at a campaign rally. After announcing that King had been killed, he told them, "You can be filled with bitterness, with hatred and a desire for revenge, "he said. "We can move in that direction as a country..Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did.to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed.with an effort to understand, with compassion and love." By highlighting important quotes like this, the authors make the stories more personal and also leave the readers with a sense of hope in the future and purpose for the events. The major themes of change and race will leave the reader with the feeling that one event or person can definitely make quite a difference on our lives. It is definitely worth reading all three books. It will make you look at the past, and the future, in a different way.