COLONIAL TIMES, 1600-1700 by Joy Masoff


Age Range: 10 - 12
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Imagine compressing one hundred years of American history into 48 pages! Imagine making history come alive with photographs of people dressed in period costumes, slipping in odd historical facts while debunking myths, tucking in colonial crafts kids can try at home, and providing a sympathetic narrator who attempts to present the point of view of European settlers, Native Americans, African slaves, and indentured servants. The author of this title and American Revolution, 1700–1800 (see above) in the “Chronicle of America” series, tries hard, but the snippets selected to add interest, the overly dramatic prose, lack of sources, and excessive compression of complex issues make this title less than successful. Each double-paged layout tackles a new topic. Those include the voyage, first Americans, food, clothing, shelter, education, warfare, illness, farming, crafts, and the like. Topics usually begin with questions in italics to stimulate reader interest. For example: “How would you feel if you sat down to a dinner of meat loaf with maggots?” An introductory paragraph or two follows with short discussions of related topics, three or four uncaptioned photographs of people and objects from America’s Living History Museums, and a tan, blue, or red box with a “surprising history” snippet, or a colonial craft to try. Unsupported statistics abound, “In the early days of the European settlements, 80 percent of the people who came to Virginia died once they got there.” Or, “It took 2500 trees to build a ship the size of the Mayflower.” Or, “After months at sea with no fresh food, is it any wonder that some early settlers were forced to turn to cannibalism?” The glossy photos and breezy tone will appeal to young history enthusiasts, but caution should be exercised lest the reader come away with some very odd ideas about the past. The author concludes with a few titles for further reading, Web sites, picture credits, and an index. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-439-05107-X
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000


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