It Happened in America
EPUB EBook by Lila Perl
EBook DescriptionIn my quest to clear out as much bookshelf space as possible, I've found myself going through some books from childhood that I've held onto. It Happened in America EPUB EBook Of those, a few have proven to be surprisingly mature, considering the intended purpose and audience. What makes this book stand out is not it's length (~270 pages of text and photos) or apparent heft, but a combination of the tales that are told and the writing.
In an effort to include a story from all 50 states, it would have been very easy to slap together some of the most well- EPUBknown stories and deem the result completed. However, the author eschews that approach, instead seeking out stories that are lesser-known, that sit in the fringes of history or that, at best, are well-known regionally. Alaska contributes its well-known gold rush, but does it by focusing on the way a single woman opened up a pie store in one of the boomtowns. California ignores its own gold rush (and the resulting Donner Party) and substitutes another tale of survival in Death Valley. There are no stories of the Alamo in Texas, just stories about early cattle drives.
This style goes on and on. For each of the 1-2 well-known tales (Rosa Park and the bus, the sewing of the flag that inspired "The Star Spangled Banner"), there are 5 tales about items that are familiar but whose story have not been told (the 200-foot tall Ferris Wheel, the early days of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & download; Bailey Circus). Additionally, even though I consider a modest student history, I've never even heard of at least half the stories, like that of Asa Mercer transporting women from the East Coast to be wives on the sparsely-populated Pacific Northwest, of "Mother" Brown fighting for the rights of coalminers in West Virginia, or a guy transporting ice cut out of frozen Massachusetts ponds for transport around the world.
All of these stories would be a meaningless mash of mush if they weren't backed by superior storytelling. Fortunately, for the most part the author writes quite well. Through good timing, some unexpected protagonists, and a sense for knowing when to subvert expectations, the vast majority of stories prove sufficiently interesting as to let the story stand by itself and not be brought down by the typical haigography or glossing over that plagues writing aimed at young minds. Through the power of the written word, the people who inhabit these tales largely come across as...human, with alternate streaks of courage and cowardice, of honor and betrayal, of determination, broken spirits, and people who gambled much and in turn lived happily ever after, or had their lives ruined. There are the souls bravely trying to keep what little they have left (the Queen on Hawaii/Sitting Bull resisting the encroaching Americans), or struggling to attain what they've never experienced (Denmark Vesey's slave revolt, a massive stampede across Oklahoma looking to claim massive amounts of new land).
The author is to be commended for reaching beyond the main narratives of the stories and using them to expound on the surrounding situation - throwaway remarks that will go unnoticed by most of the audience, but otherwise will be astounding to a young mind. Scandinavian immigrants, lured to immigrate to America via voyages (in which they have to provide their own food for the 6+ weeks), learn that the "carriages" are wheelbarrows and the "houses" are dugouts made of logs. A person who stows away to America with the secret blueprints of England's amazing textile machine memorized in his head brings great prosperity to the newly-formed nation, but also unintentionally spurs on both the slave trade and child labor. Denmark Vesey wins his freedom through a combination of fortunate circumstances and sheer luck, but his inability to turn a blind eye to the ugly realities of the slave trade spur him, a free and educated black, to give his life planning a nationwide slave rebellion. Those who guide Arizona's camel train (yes, camels!) scatter as the nation takes up arms in the bloody Civil War, while the camels are shot or simply abandoned. The commanding general of the South opposes slavery, while a major general in the North firmly believes in it. The land being sought after in Oklahoma is only available because of another in a long series of broken Indian treaties. Mississippi mud pie, the otherwise luscious desert, got its name when it was noticed by a woman who had lost everything in another of Old Man's River's temperamental floods.
I rated this book a 4/5 because of unevenness of some of the stories. While most were fascinating or at least vaguely interesting, it was perhaps somewhat inevitable that there would be some duds in a field of 50 stories. For me, these tended to be the shortest, the ones that lacked a central character, strange twists, or an otherwise familiar topic. Regardless, the vast majority of what the author has to share is of very high quality.
Like this book? Read online this: Strange Stories from History for Young People, Exactly What Happened.
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