Building America Book Reviews

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Lane Education Service, December 2008

On Pennsylvania: William Penn and the City of Brotherly Love

William Penn was a Quaker whose father had made a loan to the king of England. In repayment for that loan, King Charles II of England gave Pennsylvania to William. It is thought that this was more than just a repayment of a loan; it was a means of getting rid of some of the Quakers. He wanted to get rid of some of them who were making trouble. His plan worked, many Quakers went to Pennsylvania. He did not count on Pennsylvania becoming so prosperous. This was just the beginning. William Penn would go on to contribute to both the Quakers who were seeking freedom from the King, and Pennsylvania belonged to him until the time of the Revolutionary War. This is a wonderful non-fictional biography of William Penn. The hard cover and string binding will ensure a long shelf life. I gave this book a rating of 5 and would recommend for all libraries serving elementary aged children.

VOYA, February 2008

On Life in Colonial America and Texas Joins the United States

These volumes supply short, concise overviews of the reality of life in colonial America. The naiveté, lack of planning, and preparation for their new life by the colonists is demonstrated repeatedly in Life in Colonial America. Hardships were common among the colonists, and they ranged from indentured servitude and lack of necessities to starvation and constant philosophical differences with the Native Americans. Out West, the Texans defended their differences against Spain and Mexico in the Battles of San Jacinto and the Alamo in Texas Joins the United States. The short-lived independent Republic of Texas grew in leaps and bounds despite constant raids and battles with Native American tribes, such as the Comanche, but after less than ten years, the flag of the Republic of Texas was lowered for the last time as Texas joined the United States under annexation in a document signed by President John Tyler just days prior to leaving office.

These series titles join others, including Colonial Virgina, Georgia: The Debtors Colony, Holidays and Celebrations in Colonial America, Jamestown: The First English Colony, and The Maryland Colony: Lord Batimore. Each volume offers insight into the disparate early development of colonial settlements, with full-color illustrations, maps, fact boxes, and an FYI section. The series covers important events and people throughout early America without sugar coating them, Women, Native Americans, and minorities are also acknowledged in their short, information-packed chapters that depict the difficult lives and hard times of colonial American history. The manageable size will make them less daunting for those students intimidated by the average history tome, and the material provides a great source for reports.

School Library Journal, February 2008

On Colonial Virginia, Life in Colonial America, and Texas Joins the United States

These three titles offer short overviews of their topics. Colonial America is the most engaging, opening with a story about trying to survive Jamestown’s “Starving Time.” By describing how the colonists ate snakes and rats, chewed shoe leather, and even resorted to cannibalism, this introduction succeeds in commanding attention. It is balanced in addressing issues related to Native Americans. The Virginia Indians receive the most attention but the status of the Native people in Pennsylvania and New England colonies is touched upon as well. Texas jumps into Texas history in the early 1800s, when settlers from America began venturing into the mostly uninhabited areas. Mexican president and military leader Santa Anna is featured prominently. Maps, photographs, and drawings add visual interest.

School Library Journal, February 2007

On Georgia: The Debtors Colony and Pennsylvania: William Penn and the City of Brotherly Love

These titles look at the disparate beginnings of Colonial settlements. The full-color historical reproductions add visual appeal. The authors of Georgia and Pennsylvania humanize facts by focusing on individuals who were pivotal to the development of their colonies-James Oglethorpe, who hoped for a way to improve the fortunes of London's poor, and William Penn, who wanted to base a government on his religious ideals. The impact of other European powers is also explored as Pennsylvania faced French attempts to gain land while Georgia was fighting off Spanish incursions. "FYI" pages present more details on important topics. Pennsylvania and Georgia are worthwhile offerings.

School Library Journal, November 2006

On Jamestown: The First English Colony

A well-researched, readable, no-frills introduction to the history of the first permanent English settlement in America, useful for reports. The facts are straightforward and chronologically presented, and the authors are careful to say what is unknown or conjecture. "FYInfo" pages present more details on topics such as The Virginia Company and Pocahontas. The Native American point of view is included but limited. The book design is utilitarian. This title is aimed at a slightly older audience than MaryLee Knowlton and Janet Riechecky's The Settling of Jamestown (Gareth Stevens, 2002), Elaine Landau's Explore Colonial Jamestown (Enslow, 2006), and Daniel Rosen's New Beginnings: Jamestown and the Virginia Colony, 1607-1699 (National Geographic, 2005).

Booklist, November 2006

On Holidays and Celebrations

In only 48 pages, this Building America series entry offers a fine overview of the holidays and festivities of the colonial period and provides a sense of the social and political atmosphere throughout the newly developed region. Readers will learn of antiquated celebrations such as Candlemas Day and Guy Fawkes Day and discover which holiday traditions have persisted since that time and which have altered over the years. Within the description of each holiday, which usually takes up less than one page, are references to the ways different ethnic or religious groups have contributed traditions based on their native cultures. Full-color illustrations and a single-page "FYI" article add to the content, which students are likely to find both easy to read and interesting. A glossary, a chronology, and a calendar of holidays are appended.

Booklist, October 2006

On Jamestown: The First English Colony

This title in the new Building America series ably depicts the hardships that the new colonists faced as they trekked across the Atlantic and began life in North America. From the start, the text makes clear that the settlers' naive idealism and lack of preparation accounted for much of their struggle to survive. Throughout, memorable individuals—among them, John Smith and Pocahontas (who was only about 11 when she saved Smith's life)—create authentic human drama and fascinating history. Each chapter moves chronologically through the seventeenth century and includes a single-page exposé on a person or event that further illuminates the main text. Numerous full-color illustrations enhance the appealing format, and back matter includes a chronology, a glossary, and a further-reading list. A well-presented slice of American history.