Monday, March 1, 2010

History & Culture: The Progressive Era (1890-1913)

I Go with My Family to Grandma's by Riki Levinson, illustrated by Diane Goode. This fun little story follows five girls from five boroughs who travel to Grandma's by all different routes. First Daughter enjoyed finding the girls in each group picture. First Son was not entirely interested. (I have a soft spot in my heart for New York stories.)

Stagecoach Sal by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Casron Ellis. I thought First Son would love this book, as a "bad guy" features prominently, and there's even a snake. He was not all that interested, though. He and First Daughter mostly paid attention when I sang the lyrics to the folk songs (and I was pleased there was only one tune I didn't know). The illustrations are fine, but they are not really my preferred style.

Adele & Simon in America by Barbara McClintock. We have been enjoying both of the Adele and Simon books. They show the children wandering Paris or all across the United States, with Simon losing something on each page. My two love finding all the things he has lost (and some are not so easy to spot) and the illustrations are wonderful. Descriptions in the back explain each of the pictures and place the cities and places.

Helen Keller by David A. Adler is one of his early readers. I thought the story of Helen Keller would fascinate the kids, but neither of them were very impressed. I suppose they may be too young to understand the concept of deafness or blindness, especially since the closest they've come to such things would be the Signing Time videos.

Lucy's Summer written by Donald Hall, illustrated by Michael McCurdy. I love this story and Lucy's Christmas, in which Mr. Hall shares some of the stories of his mother's youth. They give a wonderful glimpse into an earlier time.

Least of All by Carol Purdy, illustrated by Tim Arnold. I've mentioned this book before and I still absolutely love it. First Son was a little more interested now that he can read himself and a little baffled, I think, at the adults in the story who cannot.

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest, illustrated by P.J. Lynch, is another of my favorite stories. Courageous Jessie leaves her grandmother and her tiny village to live with a woman she's never met in New York City. She works diligently for years to earn enough money to bring her grandmother to America, enjoying her new home and (presumably) not experiencing some of the terrible hardships of new immigrants. (We sometimes read about death in our picture books, or at least encounter it, but I do try to shield my little ones from too much suffering. They are still quite young for such realities.)

A Picture Book of George Washington Carver is one of David Adler's many picture book biographies, this one illustrated by Dan Brown. First Daughter was not interested at all. First Son was only mildly interested, and then really only because George Washington Carver invented peanut butter (one of his most absolutely favorite things). Even so, he announced proudly to Kansas Dad that George Washington invented peanut butter. I was a little worried about discussing race relations, but First Son just accepted it. (We'll be talking much more about race later, of course, as we read about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr..)

My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, is a bright little story of a young girl's dream to see the world and how instead she taught generations of children at a local school and sent them out to the world instead. It's based on the true story of the author's great aunt. I enjoyed reading about how Arizona made a difference to her students without doing anything "great" after reading about George Washington Carver's amazing achievements.

Hattie and the Wild Waves: A Story From Brooklyn written and illustrated by Barbara Cooney is another of my favorites. The children have never been too interested in this particular book, however, and it certainly doesn't compare with Miss Rumphius. I liked including it with our history and culture books as a bit of a juxtaposition with stories like Jessie's above, as there were also some affluent immigrant families. And then, there's my thing for New York stories.

We'll be reading more about life just before the Great Depression in March. Suggestions welcome as I'm stretching what I've found so far to fill our days.


  1. Imagine my surprise at having illustrated Stagecoach Sal. I think you mean Carson Ellis.

    Caron Ellis
    but not an illustrator

  2. Caron, thank you! I have corrected the mistake.

    Though you never know, perhaps you have another career as an illustrator awaiting you in the future. We're reading a book about pottery this week and it's definitely appealing to the kids.


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