American Tales: Stories of America's Past for the Young People of Today

American Tales: Stories of America's Past for the Young People of Today

by David Turnoy


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American history can be confusing—and there’s so much of it to learn! What if you had a guide to show you the important points firsthand? A small group of intermediate students is lucky enough to have the chance to travel back in time with their history teacher to see where America started and how it developed. In each new set of experiences, they meet a child their own age who guides them through key events.

The students begin in the time of Columbus and then witness the American Revolution and the founding of the nation. They travel through the tumultuous times of the Civil War and through the turmoil of Reconstruction. They see history on a grand scale but also through the eyes of those experiencing the expansion of American power, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.

In order to understand where we are now, the students come face-to-face with the horrors of racism and the sad story of Native Americans who lost their land. They also learn how a number of myths and legends about the American Revolution are not always exactly accurate but that the real facts may actually be more inspiring. As you travel with these students and learn from the past, you can use the knowledge you gain to help in creating a better future.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491727812
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/27/2014
Pages: 218
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

American Tales

Stories of America's Past for the Young People of Today

By David Turnoy

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2014 David Turnoy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-2781-2


Exploring American History: Our First Time Travel Trip

"Does anyone know what Social Studies we learn about in this year's class?" asked Mr. B, more formally known as Mr. Bernstein. So far it had been a pretty good first day of school. Mr. B seemed pretty cool, and our class had done a number of fun activities.

Logan raised his hand. "I know," he answered eagerly. "My sister was in your class two years ago, and I remember she studied US history."

"That's right," replied Mr. B.

Another hand shot up. "But Mr. B," complained Emma, "that means we have to learn about old dead people and things that happened way before we were born. I want to learn about stuff today."

"A good point," responded Mr. B, showing he was open to complaints without getting all bent out of shape about it. "Can anyone respond to Emma's statement?"

A few seconds passed. Then Angela raised her hand. "Well, I think that the way things are today didn't just happen by itself. I mean, didn't events in the past cause our world today?"

"I think you're on to something, Angela," replied Mr. B with just the hint of a smile. "Can you or anyone else give us an example of how some event in the past might have caused something today?"

A longer silence this time; many of the kids seemed to be thinking hard. Surprisingly, I saw myself raising my hand. "Yes, Nathan," called Mr. B.

"I think this might be what you are talking about," I started. "My grandfather fought in the Vietnam War. He told me that thousands of young men were being drafted into the army to fight in that war."

"What is drafted ?" asked Melanie, a puzzled look on her face.

"Nathan, do you know what that means?" prompted Mr. B.

"I think it means that the government forced them to join the army."

"Right," replied Mr. B. "Go on."

"So anyway, my grandfather was one of the people drafted into the army. He didn't get killed, but he did get shot, and he has a limp today because of his wound. He told me that some of the other guys he knew did get killed over there."

"All right, OK, so your grandfather fought in Vietnam," interrupted Zach. "So did mine. So what?"

"Well, what I was about to say, if I hadn't been interrupted," I replied, "was that up until that war, you could only vote if you were 21 years old or older. But a whole bunch of the guys being drafted were as young as 18, and lots of them were getting killed. People started saying that if you were old enough to die for your country, you should be old enough to vote. So the age to vote was lowered from 21 to 18."

"Excellent example," complimented Mr. B. "Nathan is right, the reason the voting age today is 18 is because 18-year-olds were being killed in Vietnam. So just think of that, in several years every one of you will be old enough to vote."

A bunch of the kids started shouting "Woohoo!" and "Yay!" Zach yelled, "Yeah, we'll vote to have recess all day at school!"

Once the noise died down, Mr. B said, "The point is that something in the past took place that affects the way things are today. So if we study the past, we can actually learn about our world today." He glanced at the clock. "Oh, look at the time. Time to line up for recess!"

* * *

When I got home that afternoon, I handed all my school papers to my mom. She started glancing at them, especially the flyer about enrichment classes. I got myself a snack and sat down across from her.

"So, Nathan, what do you think about your first day of school?" asked my mom.

"It was pretty good. A lot of my friends are in my class," I replied.

"And what about your new teacher?" she followed up.

"Oh, he's all right," I answered. "He actually got me to participate in a history discussion. I talked about Grandpa Joe and his time in Vietnam."

"Interesting. Listen, it says here in the enrichment flyer that Mr. Bernstein is teaching an after-school class on American history. It says he has a surprise way to help students really understand and experience US history. Would you be interested?"

"What day is it on?" I asked hesitantly. I was willing to consider the enrichment class, but not if I had to miss soccer practice.

"It's on Thursday, so you don't have to worry about missing soccer practice, Mr. Beckham," my mom kidded me with a big smile on her face. "It'll start next week."

"OK, sounds good," I answered.

* * *

For the next week and a half, things started to settle into the usual school routine. I took the bus to school with my friends, and we got to sit in the back seat because we were now the oldest kids in the school. Class with Mr. B was going fine, my soccer team won its first game, and I'd even made a few new friends. But what would happen that Thursday after school in Mr. B's first enrichment class was anything but routine.

Mr. B read the names of the students in the after-school class: "Angela, Emma, Logan, Melanie, Nathan, Zach. Looks like everybody's here."

"Wow, pretty small class, right Mr. B?" questioned Melanie.

"Yes, it had to be a small number because our special vehicle doesn't hold more than seven people."

"What do you mean by special vehicle?" Angela spoke up.

"There's no vehicle," grumbled Zach. "We're not going anywhere; I don't even want to be here as it is. I'm only here because my parents made me."

I raised my hand. "Mr. B, the enrichment flyer said something about a surprise way to help students really understand and experience US history. Does the vehicle you just mentioned have something to do with this?"

"Nathan, you're on the right track, as usual," replied Mr. B. "Have you noticed how many of the students fight over who gets to sit on the couch for reading? Well, it turns out this couch is even more special; it has the ability to travel back in time."

"No way!" exclaimed Zach.

"Then Mr. B, how do we get back to the present?" asked Emma, a bit of a worried look on her face.

"Each of you will carry a piece of the couch's fabric in your pocket," replied Mr. B as he started to pass out pieces of cloth to us that were the same color as the couch. "When it is time to return, simply pull this piece out of your pocket while sitting on the couch, and we will land right back here in the classroom."

"I have a question," began Logan. "Will time work the same way in the past as it does here? What I mean is, will we only spend one hour in the past each time because our class here in the present lasts only one hour?"

"Excellent question, Logan," responded Mr. B. "Actually, each class will only last one hour in the present, as you say. But we can stay in the past as long as we want, and it will still last only an hour in the present. We can even move from one day to the next, or one year to the next, or even one place to another, simply by getting on the couch, at which point I will announce when and where we are headed next. Pretty amazing, right?"

"Ooh, wow, sweet!" came the kids' reactions.

"So are we going to get going already?" demanded Zach.

"We're almost ready to go," announced Mr. B. "But first I want to talk about one more item. You may have noticed that each of you looks different from each other; perhaps you've never really thought about this before. When you look around at the other kids, do you see different colors, or do you just see other kids?"

"I just see other kids," answered Melanie. "But now that you mention it, we do each look a bit different from each other."

"That's because your ancestors all come from different parts of the world," responded Mr. B. "In each area of the world, people's features adapted to their environment. For instance, in East Asian areas, people developed an eye covering to protect them from strong winds. As a result, while it looks like they have what some people call slanted eyes, actually they have a little more skin covering their eyes."

"And my ancestors developed dark skin to protect them from the hot conditions of Africa," I added.

"That's right," agreed Mr. B. "You all come from different backgrounds, and as a result your families all have different histories. Do you think that any of that history will affect the way you respond to the history we see in our travels?"

"Well, sure," stated Angela. "For instance, my ancestors lived in California hundreds of years ago. At one point that was part of Spain, later part of Mexico, and finally part of the United States. The United States got California in 1848 at the end of what most Americans call the Mexican War. When members of my family talk about this event, they don't call it the Mexican War; their ancestors were Mexican, so they look at it more as an attack by America. Much of their land was taken away, and they went from being Mexican citizens to being foreigners in America, even though they still lived in the same place. So instead of thinking that this was a great victory for America, my relatives consider it an invasion."

"But if the United States didn't fight Mexico, then California would still be part of Mexico and not part of our country," observed Logan. "Would you want that?"

"That's not the point, Logan," responded Emma. "I am part Native American, and the same thing happened to my ancestors. White people from the United States invaded our lands and put us on reservations."

"I think the point Mr. B was trying to make is that we are going to think and act differently depending on our background," added Melanie. "Logan, you are a white American; some people refer to this as European American. You are not going to react to the taking of Angela's ancestors' land or Emma's ancestors' land the same way they react; your ancestors weren't victims of this same kind of behavior."

"How do you know?" asked Zach. "Logan's ancestors were Irish, and I happen to know that the Irish were pretty badly treated by the British in Ireland and by many Americans once they got here. Melanie, you're Chinese American or Asian American, and your ancestors didn't have it so easy, I think we will find out. And heck, I'm Jewish, and there were six million of us killed during World War II, and thousands of us have been discriminated against in the United States. Lots of groups of people have suffered bad treatment."

Finally I said, "Again, the point is that each of us is going to see things through our own unique eyes. As you know, I am African American. When we look at slavery and segregation, because my ancestors suffered through this, I will probably have a more personal reaction. That doesn't mean that the rest of you can't understand or be sympathetic."

"Thank you all for your thoughtful statements," Mr. B concluded. "Many groups of people have suffered poor treatment in American history. Members of each group will see events through their own individual lenses, perhaps seeing prejudice where no one else sees it because their family background makes them more sensitive to it. Just wanted you to be aware that not all of you will experience each thing we see in the same way."

"The word prejudice you just mentioned?" began Angela. "I've heard the word before, but I am not sure what it means."

I quickly raised my hand. "It means judging someone without really knowing the person," I stated. "For instance, if you were to think that I was a bad person simply on the basis of my dark skin, that would be an example of prejudice."

"Good explanation, Nathan," complimented Mr. B.

"Fine, we get it," stated Zach impatiently. "When are we finally going to go somewhere?"

"Let's decide where we want to go today," announced Mr. B. "Next week we will start with explorers coming to America and the interaction between them and the Native Americans already living here. But today we will take a short trip just so you can get used to our method of travel. Would anyone like to suggest a destination? Perhaps an event that would be fun?"

"Could I suggest that we travel back to see the first landing of Americans on the moon?" asked Emma.

"That sounds like fun," added Logan. "Can we, Mr. B?"

"I don't see why not. Everyone needs to come sit on our big couch. I'll sit on the arm on this end. Zach, you can sit on the other arm, and I need the rest of you to squeeze onto the main part of the couch. Hold on tight and close your eyes. We're heading for America in 1969."

Suddenly the room went dark. We all closed our eyes. Were we really going to travel through time and space?

* * *

"How is everyone doing?" asked Mr. B.

"Fine, fine," muttered Logan.

"Hey, this isn't much of a ride," moaned Zach.

We actually didn't feel anything unusual. All of us were simply sitting in our seats just like we had been before everything went dark.

"Well, you're not really supposed to experience anything unusual as we travel to our destination," answered Mr. B. "Let me tell you about where we are going. We will land just outside a house in San Jose, California, on July 20, 1969. Inside, the people are watching the moon landing on TV."

"Cool!" exclaimed Angela. "They were able to show this on TV way back then?"

"It wasn't that long ago," Mr. B replied with a smile. "The astronauts brought along TV cameras. OK, here we are. Let's get off the couch."

The house we had arrived at was all on one level, and the outside was covered in beige stucco. Most of the houses on the block looked pretty similar. They all had small front lawns and very few trees. We went up to the front door and knocked. A girl about our age answered the door and said, "Mr. B, you're here again with another group of students."

"That's right, Shelly," answered Mr. B. "They always seem to want to watch the moon landing."

"Do you two know each other?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," replied Mr. B. "I've taken other groups of students here. In fact, in each place we will travel to, there will usually be a child about your age who knows me and who will be your guide. Everybody meet Shelly."

"Hi, Shelly," said all of us students together.

"Hi, gang," she responded. "Come on in."

We all entered the house. After walking through the small entryway, we turned left to the living room where Shelly's family was crowding around the TV. There weren't enough chairs, most of the seats already being occupied, so most of us sat on the wall-to-wall carpeting, a bright orange.

"We just got our first color TV," announced Shelly's older brother Bill. "Won't you look at that great picture?"

We all tried hard to suppress a giggle, as the TV screen was maybe one sixth the size of the TVs we have.

"So what's happening?" asked Melanie.

"One of the astronauts, Neil Armstrong, is about to land on the moon," answered Shelly.

"Wow, this is really cool!" I couldn't help expressing myself.

"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," we heard from the TV. The TV announcer explained that this was Neil Armstrong making the first statement by a human on the moon.

"Wow," sighed Emma. "My parents told me that they watched this when they were little kids. Now we are getting to experience it, too."

"Anyone hungry?" asked Shelly. "We have hamburgers, hot dogs, and watermelon out in the backyard."

"Oh, yeah!" shouted Zach. "Let's go, everybody."

So we went out into Shelly's backyard and enjoyed a late 1960's barbecue. Everyone filled up on tasty food, and then finally it was time for us to go.

"Thank you, Shelly," said Mr. B, wiping the last of the watermelon juice off his chin. "We appreciate your hospitality."

"Yes, thank you," added several of the students.

"My pleasure," replied Shelly. "It's always fun to meet a new group of students."

"OK, everyone, let's get on the couch," announced Mr. B.

"Yes, and don't forget to pull out your piece of fabric," reminded Emma.

We all got on the couch, pulled out our fabric, closed our eyes, and away we went.

* * *

The next thing we knew, we were back in our classroom.

"Well, what did you think?" asked Mr. B.

"That was awesome!" roared Logan.

"Amazing!" added Melanie.

"I wouldn't have imagined that history was this much fun," observed Angela.

"So next week we will go further back in time," stated Mr. B.

"Will we be watching on a TV like we did today?" asked Zach.

"No, silly, they didn't have TVs way back in history," blurted Emma.

"Emma is right, we will not be watching on TV but will be right where the action is. This was a short trip today, so we just went back to watch on TV, which did exist in 1969. Next week we will go back to the Caribbean of the 1490's. See you then."


Explorers and Native Americans: Columbus and His Victims

The next week when it was time for our history enrichment class after school, all six of us students showed up on time, but there was no Mr. B.

"Where is our teacher?" asked Emma.

"I got here first," answered Logan, "and he told me to tell everyone to just relax for a couple of minutes. He said something about needing to make a quick phone call."

"OK, everyone, then I'll be the teacher for now," offered Zach, a note of mischief in his voice. "The first thing I want everyone to do is to fold paper airplanes."


Excerpted from American Tales by David Turnoy. Copyright © 2014 David Turnoy. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction for Teachers and Parents, ix,
Chapter 1 Exploring American History: Our First Time Travel Trip, 1,
Chapter 2 Explorers and Native Americans: Columbus and His Victims, 11,
Chapter 3 Colonial America: Racism and Prejudice, 31,
Chapter 4 The American Revolution: Was It Worth the Cost?, 47,
Chapter 5 The Writing of the Constitution: Liberty and Justice For All?, 73,
Chapter 6 Women in Early America: Equal Rights?, 91,
Chapter 7 Indian Removal: The Trail of Tears, 105,
Chapter 8 The "Mexican War": Manifest Destiny, 117,
Chapter 9 Approaching the Civil War: Slavery, Abolition, and the Underground Railroad, 131,
Chapter 10 The Civil War: America is Torn Apart, 155,
Chapter 11 Reconstruction: What Did the Civil War Accomplish?, 171,
Afterward: Final Thoughts, 189,
Bibliography, 195,

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