An anthology of 39 excerpts from previously published autobiographies and journals, arranged to give readers a taste of what McCullough calls the ""American cult of childhood."" What we get are alternating tastes of fascination--and boredom. Some of the memoirs are by notables: Benjamin Franklin, Davy Crockett, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and Eudora Welty. Many of these are pleasant enough reminiscences: Franklin displayed early ""bookish inclinations."" Crockett tussled with one of the bigger boys at school. Mencken grew from a chubby baby to a skinny boy who developed a fondness for a favorite aunt's homemade doughnuts. Other stories are heartbreaking: Maya Angelou's rape at the age of eight; Gloria Steinem's early years taking care of a severly depressed mother. There are stories by lesser-known Americans--those who grew up with Indian tribes, those who grew up as Japanese-Americans, those who grew up trying to help support their families. Two of the best are by two women who were little girls marching with Martin Luther King in Selma. On the whole, a collection that is less than some of its parts.