Part of the "Chronicle of America" series, this title attempts to compress one hundred years of colonial history into a long picture book format. The author uses short paragraphs and inset boxes, and covers a new topic—such as education, religion, or farming—on each double- page layout, no doubt in an attempt to keep readers interested and encourage browsing through the text. The format's downside is that certain complex topics are given short shrift, and could lead to possible oversimplification or misinterpretation by young readers. In addition, certain "facts" seem overly dramatic and unsupported, such as statement about cannibalism on long sea voyages. The book benefits from the use of photographs from living history programs that bring immediacy to modern readers. Included are a short suggested reading list, web sites for further exploration and an index. 2000, Scholastic. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: Valerie O. Patterson
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Masoff invites readers to imagine what life was like in America in the 1600s. Following a discussion of how and why the settlers came, she covers life on board a ship crossing the Atlantic. She spares no details in describing the hardships that the colonists faced when they arrived, including lack of food and housing, improper clothing, and a mind-set that led to myriad difficulties and frequently death for newcomers. Colored sidebars offer interesting tidbits as well as activities to try. Historical footnotes in blue boxes delve into such topics as cannibalism in Jamestown. Red boxes suggest activities such as cloth dyeing, while "Surprising History" is introduced in parchment-colored boxes. Unfortunately, several sweeping generalizations mar an otherwise sound text. In a chapter on Native Americans, the author states that if they had banded together to fight the Europeans, "-America would never have been colonized." While discussing religion, she states improbably, "People did not miss church in the 1600s-EVER." The book ends with brief descriptions of several sites that can be visited today. While similar in scope to Betsy Maestro's The New Americans (Lothrop, 1998), Masoff's book is visually superior. Captivating, full-color photographs, often several to a page, depict scenes and reenactments from living-history museums. Both browsers and researchers will find this volume intriguing.- Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Imagine compressing one hundred years of American history into 48 pages! Imagine making history come alive with photographs of people dressed in period costumes, slipping in odd historical facts while debunking myths, tucking in colonial crafts kids can try at home, and providing a sympathetic narrator who attempts to present the point of view of European settlers, Native Americans, African slaves, and indentured servants. The author of this title and American Revolution, 1700-1800 (see above) in the "Chronicle of America" series, tries hard, but the snippets selected to add interest, the overly dramatic prose, lack of sources, and excessive compression of complex issues make this title less than successful. Each double-paged layout tackles a new topic. Those include the voyage, first Americans, food, clothing, shelter, education, warfare, illness, farming, crafts, and the like. Topics usually begin with questions in italics to stimulate reader interest. For example: "How would you feel if you sat down to a dinner of meat loaf with maggots?" An introductory paragraph or two follows with short discussions of related topics, three or four uncaptioned photographs of people and objects from America's Living History Museums, and a tan, blue, or red box with a "surprising history" snippet, or a colonial craft to try. Unsupported statistics abound, "In the early days of the European settlements, 80 percent of the people who came to Virginia died once they got there." Or, "It took 2500 trees to build a ship the size of the Mayflower." Or, "After months at sea with no fresh food, is it any wonder that some early settlers were forced to turn to cannibalism?" The glossy photos and breezytonewill appeal to young history enthusiasts, but caution should be exercised lest the reader come away with some very odd ideas about the past. The author concludes with a few titles for further reading, Web sites, picture credits, and an index. (Nonfiction. 10-12)