The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History

( 3 )


Do you know America? No, I mean, do you REALLY know America? Would you recognize John Adams in a lineup? Can you identify any presidents between Lincoln and Roosevelt?

Hmmm. I thought so.

Well, you really need this book.

Not only will it improve your sorry historical knowledge, it will crack you up, and give you material to throw your teachers off-balance for entire class ...

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The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History

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Do you know America? No, I mean, do you REALLY know America? Would you recognize John Adams in a lineup? Can you identify any presidents between Lincoln and Roosevelt?

Hmmm. I thought so.

Well, you really need this book.

Not only will it improve your sorry historical knowledge, it will crack you up, and give you material to throw your teachers off-balance for entire class periods. Identify their lies! Point out their half-truths! And possibly, just possibly, gain some extra credit for yourself.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Christopher Columbus discovered America. The colonists started the Revolutionary War because they wanted independence. Cowboys frequently had shoot-outs with outlaws in the Wild West. That is history, right? Not quite, says The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History. This book makes debunking common assumptions about our nation's past and presenting new tidbits of information in engaging and humorous ways its goal. For the most part, it succeeds. Covering the history of this land from the early European explorers to the present day, it gives the basic facts of the major events. When the facts disagree with what is generally accepted or taught, the Guide points that out and it fills in many interesting details along the way. Theodore Roosevelt not only took on the robber barons and took an active role in conservation, but he also read two or three books and drank about a gallon of coffee per day! The Smart Aleck's do not shy away from the more gruesome details of everyday life, like the lack of bathing and toilets. They insert humor into many of the discussions, making history that much more entertaining without getting in the way of the information. Each chapter ends with a test review, mimicking the questions in most textbooks. While this is entertaining and informative, it is much easier to read in small doses or as a supplement to other reading about specific points of history. The chapters are uneven in length and in time covered. Some recurring jokes retain their ability to amuse while others wear out. The sense of humor in general will probably be more fitting for the older end of the suggested age range. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In the style of acclaimed writers Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) and Steven Colbert (The Colbert Report), this witty, comedic, and appealing volume abandons the world of historical dates and battles to fill in some of the gaps in young Americans' knowledge of their country's history. Readers learn of General Washington's rebellion against the "basic rules of boating safety" as well as encounter James K. Polk's mullet ("Business up front, party in the back, baby.") while benefiting greatly from the book's efficient presentation of pivotal themes and events such as the American Revolution, Civil War, and Civil Rights Movement. This clever and informative work follows a chronological arrangement from early exploration to the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009. Each chapter concludes with a "Some of the Stuff We Missed" section, essay questions such as "Who was the bigger jerk, Hitler or Stalin?"; vocabulary words; and multiple choice "End-of-Chapter Questions" that range from "What do you think happened to those Croatoan guys—and what gave you that idea?" to "What Civil War guy had the best nickname?" Small black-and-white photos and reproductions appear throughout. The companion Web site contains supplemental information, links to relevant documents and other sites, and "Assignment Alerts!" for further exploration. This informal approach is sure to appeal to even the most reluctant of readers.—Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL
Kirkus Reviews
Written by "a bunch of comedians who snuck into being historians through the back door," this irreverent guide to American history takes readers from the earliest days of settlement to the presidency of Barack Obama. Students are encouraged to be smart alecks and not listen to anything teachers or historians say about history, since they are "probably wrong about lots of stuff." Why readers should listen to the Smart Aleck Staff instead isn't answered, except that their volume is more fun to read than a typical textbook. The flippant tone, mock quiz and essay questions and silly categories of information-such as "Stupid Hats from History" and "The Puritans: Boring Guys with Exciting Sex Lives"-are sure to appeal to the surliest of high-school students. Numerous sidebars, reproductions of paintings, engravings and photographs and even a recipe for making mustard gas keep the text from becoming dull, and students may find that they have learned a lot of history along the way. They just won't know if the Smart Alecks have been as wrong about lots of stuff as the teachers and historians they disparage, as they are far too cool to include anything like, say, a bibliography. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)
VOYA - Debbie Wenk
The false disclaimer at the beginning of this book states that it is a work of fiction, and it is coincidental if there is any resemblance to actual people, places, or incidents. With tongue firmly in cheek, the author presents American history in an interesting and entertaining fashion. The basic facts and information of this country's history are all here—but the telling is certainly anything but basic. The first chapter deals with the discovery and exploration of the American continent. Subsequent chapters proceed chronologically through to the election of President Obama. Like any history text, each chapter ends with a set of questions. The questions are primarily asked in jest—"What kind of poison gas was common in the war [WWI]? A. Mustard B. Ketchup C. Onion . . ." There is a final exam because the "No Reader Left Behind Act" requires it. The title proclaims the tone of the writing—it is full of humor, sarcasm, and smart-alecky asides. If read aloud, it would be like listening to a favorite storyteller. Although history purists might have a problem with this presentation, the book could be a tremendously useful tool for the adventurous teacher wishing to capture students' attention and perhaps foster some lively debate. Teen readers with even a slight interest in history would find something to enjoy and it should be an easy sell for librarians when asked to book talk nonfiction. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385736503
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 12/22/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 200,878
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Selzer is the author of How to Get Suspended and Influence People. He grew up in the suburbs of Des Moines and now lives in downtown Chicago, where he can write in a different coffee shop every day without even leaving his neighborhood. In addition to his work as a tour guide and assistant ghostbuster (really), he moonlights as a rock star. Check him out on the Web at

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Earliest American Settlers: Brave, Bold, and Rich In Minerals 4

Chapter 2 The Colonists are Revolting 30

Chapter 3 A Nation Declines to Bathe 62

Chapter 4 The civil war: America's Changing Body 95

Chapter 5 The Gilded age (Or, Screw the Poor!) 132

Chapter 6 World war I: "The War to End All Wars" 163

Chapter 7 The Roaring Twenties 180

Chapter 8 The Depressing Thirties 199

Chapter 9 World war II (Out of...?) 214

Chapter 10 1947-89: The "We Didn't Start the Fire" Era 238

Chapter 11 And on into the future 308

The End 321

Index 323

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Recommended Very Good

    Tired of all those boring text books? Read the Smart Aleck's Guide to American History. This book goes through the American history remembering all the presidents good, bad, and forgotten. It tells about other very important events and people in American history. It starts out around the time that Christopher Columbus so called "discovered" America and goes on through the American history. A very good way to learn about U.S. history and other things in the United States past without being bored to death and makes learning about it fun with jokes and humor. I thought it was a good fun book especially for kids that are sick of learning from text books. That seem to say the same thing over and that take a year to finish. This isn't one of those old boring text books plus it makes you laugh while you learn about true facts and other things and some major events occurring with the U.S. involved.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 26, 2014

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    Posted May 27, 2012

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