A lot of series attempt to bring history to life, but few succeed. Either the authors get bogged down in unnecessary details, or they focus too much on the "fun factor," or they just plain fail. TheIf You Were There books are notable for being both fun and educational, without being self-conscious in either respect.
Each book covers a period of United States history from a cultural perspective, showing kids what people ate, what they wore, how they built houses, the character and personality of famous figures, important political decisions and how they affected the nation, and much more. Text is readable and engaging, and where pertinent kids learn how the past has affected the present.
Several authors bring their particular expertise to the various titles, and a number of illustrators bring different periods to life with full-color artwork. Books cover topics as varied as the signing of the Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, Ellis Island, the sailing of the Mayflower, and traveling in a covered wagon.
These make wonderful supplements to a linear and comprehensive study of American history. TheIf You Were There series is particularly useful in a unit study context, since they focus on cultural history and other aspects of past eras that most books omit or pass over. Both for kids who love history and kids who don't, these are fun books that actually teach without boring anyone.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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