The cartoon approach helps refresh history and make it come alive. A good primer for students and a refresher course for...

THE GREAT AMERICAN DOCUMENTS

VOLUME 1: 1620-1830

An illustrated history of the early United States, narrated by Uncle Sam.

As the straightforward title suggests, there is nothing artistically radical or subversive here, just a straightforward account of the development of the United States, from the landing of the Pilgrims through the establishment of the colonies and to the issues of states’ rights and slavery that would split the nation in the Civil War (where Volume 2 will resume the narrative). The decision by children’s and young-adult book author Ashby (Young Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle, 2009) to focus on 20 documents might make the material seem dry, but the panels from Colón (Inner Sanctum: Tales of Horror, Mystery and Suspense, 2011, etc.) highlight how much discussion, debate, argument and even warfare went into each. Ashby also doesn’t limit the focus to the greatest hits—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution—but shows the importance of less-familiar writings such as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, “perhaps the most influential publication in American history.” Paine’s more obscure The American Crisis also receives its due. What the narrative makes plain is how much of what citizens take for granted was initially the source of so much controversy. Early on, “most Americans—even the Founding Fathers—still thought of themselves first and foremost as citizens of their home states, not the United States.” Among the colonists, religious freedom and even free speech were contentious issues rather than essential liberties; the decision to declare independence from England was by no means unanimous; and the balance between the state and federal governments remained precarious. The narrative doesn’t sugarcoat history, as it shows how the capitulation on the slavery issue, deemed necessary for these states to be united, made civil war inevitable and how the Indian Removal Act also betrayed the equality that was a founding principle.

The cartoon approach helps refresh history and make it come alive. A good primer for students and a refresher course for their parents.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9460-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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