We are resuming our study of American history finally. We’ll be diving into a lot of good fiction that will cover the Civil War, Western expansion and general American nostalgia. First up, I’ve been convinced we have to read Farmer Boy. Longtime readers of this blog may remember that I’m not much of a Little House lover, but we’re going to give it a shot.
However, we began by reading the first few chapters in Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson.
The book covers the arrival of the first Africans in America through the Civil Rights movement and I’m sure we’ll return to it and read the subsequent chapters as well as we reach the topics. It’s a well-designed book, with illustrations worthy of the National Portrait Gallery, which is no surprise since the author’s background is as an illustrator. The text, while still a history book, is in the voice of an African-American storyteller, including some dialect and many personal references. The strong voice appealed to me as an innovative technique in a children’s history book and I was thrilled that it was narrative instead of blurby, but I wasn’t sure how well it would work with my kids. After reading the preface, we talked a little bit about voice and the style of the book before reading on. Quickly, I realized it was perfectly suited for young audiences. Mushroom and BalletBoy immediately gravitated to the storyteller’s personal details, especially the grandfather called “Pap” in the first chapter on slavery. These aspects of the narrative grounded the story in reality for them.
I strongly recommend this book for any family with elementary school children who are studying American history or simply for anyone who wants a resource to explore African-American history. It’s not a terribly in depth resource, but it gives such a good overview in such a compelling way.