Volume 3 Issue 7

The Link Librarian

By Gayla Thorsen

Okay all you history buffs out there, please raise your hand! Good, I see a few hands. Now for the rest of us who find history dull and boring, read on. I will include some ideas and resources to help you make history more interesting for yourself and your students.

First, one small note about this column. I recommend that the parent/guardian read the books suggested before handing them to their children. You must decide which books will be appropriate for your children.

Now, our history topic will be the Civil War period, 1861 - 1865. We’ll find books on famous people, famous places, slavery, and a group of people who traveled west during the Homestead Movement.

A few famous people you can get autobiographies on are Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass.

You know how boring and dry some autobiographies can be, so I was thrilled to find the book “Lincoln - A Photobiography” by Russell Freedman (Clarion, 1987). Just about every other page of this 150 page book has a picture. This reminds me of a family photo album. The account is very personable, showing some of the presidents wit and humor.

For example, during a political debate a rival called Mr. Lincoln “two-faced”. Lincoln replied that if he had another face, would he be wearing this one?

This book contains an index, quoted speeches and letters from Lincoln and more book references on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Also included are pictures of the various generals used in the Civil War. You can use this as a reference when reading “Across Five Aprils” by Irene Hunt. This story is about how the Civil War affects a farm boy in Illinois. We saw the video based on the book put out by Random House Video, Newberry Video collection. Their address is Random House School Division, 400 Hahn Road, Westminster, Maryland 21157. We borrowed it from the public school library.

You may want to do research on individual battles so here is a list of some of the battles mentioned in “Across Five Aprils”:
Attack on Form Sumter - April 1861
Battle of Pittsburg Landing - April 1862
Northern draft program - March 1863 (not a battle but important aspect of the war)
Battle of Chancellorsville - May 1863
Battle of Gettysburg - July 1863
Gettysburg Address - November 1863 (not a battle but important speech)
Amnesty Proclamation - December 1863 (another important document you can research)
Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address - January 1865 (important event)
Lincoln assassinated - April 1865 (this event affected the war as well)
Thirteenth Amendment - December 1865 ( Do you know what this says and who was affected?)

Next we have Harriet Tubman who helped many slaves on the Underground Railroad. A selection to choose about this great lady is “Picture Book of Harriet Tubman” by David A. Adler (Holiday House, 1992), “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky” by Faith Ringgold (Crown Publishers, 1992), “Go Free or Die: A Story About Harriet Tubman” by Jeri Ferris (Carols-Ruda, 1988), “If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine (Scholastic, 1993)

Frederick Douglass was instrumental in convincing President Lincoln to let African-Americans join the Army and fight for justice. He also promoted the importance of all former slaves to learn how to read and write.

Have you heard about the American Girls books published by the Pleasant Company? We used the six books based on the character named Addy.

The five other girls and time periods are: 1774 (Felicity - Colonial America), 1824 (Josephina - America’s Southwest Frontier), 1854 (Kirsten-Pioneer America),. 1904 (Samantha - America’s New Century), and 1944 (Molly - World War II America) Josephina’s books contain a Spanish index and is also available in Spanish print. The publishers put out teacher’s guides, craft books, cookbooks, paper dolls and theater kits for each girl.

You can request the Pleasant Company School and Library Catalog at Pleasant company Publication, P.O. Box 620991, Middleton, WI 53562-0991 or call 1-800-350-6555.

Two more sources for American Girl Books are Fun Books, 1688 Belhaven Woods Ct., Pasadena, MD 21122-3727 and Rainbow Resource Center, Rte. 1, Box 159A, 50 N. 500 East Rd., Toulon, IL 61483.

How about a history club? Let’s take for an example the Addy books from American Girls. Here’s how you could put one together.

First, decide how many people will be in the club. Depending on the size, you will need to share some of the costs if you don’t have the teacher’s guide. You should be able to locate the books at your local library. Pick one or two parents to be coordinators. Schedule when your club will meet, where, and what you will do. You might want to dress up as the character you are studying. When we studied Kirsten’s era, the girls wore prairie hats and aprons.

Here is a sample agenda based on Addy:
1) Take out the map from the teacher’s guide and the student worksheets (worksheets are photocopied ahead of time for each member). Students do map skills and discuss Addy’s world.
2) Read two or three short books from the Book list (in teacher’s guide) as a group, and watch any videos related to this time era.
3) For lunch break, club members cook a sample recipe from Addy’s cookbook or another recipe members found. On studying the Civil War, one family found a recipe the soldiers made called potato and bacon stew. Delicious!
4) After lunch it’s craft time. Each club member gets out their craft box (these are put together ahead of time). Everyone brought yarn this time and the instructions from Addy’s craft book to make yarn dolls.
5) Before breaking up, everyone decides when and where the next club meeting will be. And don’t forget to include field trips! There are many historical villages wherever you live that you can visit.

To add more crafts to your studies, get this catalog: Kits ‘n Kaboodles, 35819 Ramada Lane, Yucaipa, CA 92399. They carry quill-pen making kits, calligraphy, historic documents and maps, puzzles, cookbooks and other kits related to the Civil War.

Slavery. You could study this subject for a year and still not cover everything. For African American information, contact the National African American Museum Project, Smithsonian Institution, 900 Jefferson Drive, SW Room 1130, MRC 431, Washington, DC, 20560. You may want to request the free newsletter called “Young Orator” on your homeschool letterhead.

Did you know that the African slave trade was already over 100 years old when a Dutch ship landed 20 Africans at the Jamestown colony in 1619? Or that two of our presidents, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, owned slaves? These are some tidbits I picked up from reading “To Be A Slave” by Julius Lester (Dial, 1968, Scholastic, 1986). This book contains graphic details of slavery so may not be suitable for young ones.

There was a Society that took down the stories of thousands of African-Americans who escaped the South before the Civil War. Then these narratives were stored at the Archive of Folksong at the Library of Congress. According to the author, only two other books have been written based on these narratives and one is out of print. Imagine the wealth of historical information tucked away all these years!

For the younger student, read Deborah Harris’ book “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt” (Knopf, 1993). A young slave girl stitches a quilted map that guides her to freedom in the North. You can use this as a stepping stone for a quilt project - any size or style will do.

Other titles to look for are: “Pink and Say” by Patricia Polacco (Philomel, 1994), “Nettie’s Trip South” by Ann Turner (Macmillan, 19887), and more on the Civil War are “The Civil War Album” by Tom Robotham (Smithmark, 1992) and “Till Victory is Won: Black Soldiers in the Civil War” by Zak Mettger (Lodestar, 1994).

Go west, young man! That’s right, many freed slaves traveled west to settle and live. The Library of Congress has the African-American Mosaic on their web site: http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html.

Hundreds traveled to Kansas relying on “conductors” to make travel arrangements for them. Unfortunately, some of these “conductors” asked for money in advance and did not show up at the appointed departure time, leaving the travelers stranded at the docks and train stations.

Another problem they faced was that white landowners did not want to sell farmland to them. So one former slave, Benjamin Singleton, formed the Edgefield Real Estate and Homestead Association in Tennessee, which helped more than 20,000 African-Americans to reach Kansas between 1877 and 1879. WOW! And this is just one example of the many interesting true stories you will find on this web page.

Has anyone tried to trace the route of the Underground Railroad? Meet Anthony Cohen, an historian and author who decided to trace one possible route from Montgomery County, Maryland to Ontario, Canada. Read about this at the web site - http://www.ugrr.org/images/walkmap.jpg.

Did you know that "Little Women" is a story during the Civil War? Louisa May Alcott grew up during this time period so you may want to read this classic again.

The parents of the author of the "Little House" books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, were married the year before the Civil War started. "The World of Little House" by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson includes a time line from the 1860's to the 1950's. This 150-page book includes more details on the houses and daily life of the people in the 1800's. If you can't find this book locally, the Rainbow Resource Center catalog offers it.

Here are some resource catalogs you may want to send for that contain Civil War theme units, posters, puzzles, videos using primary documents, history time lines, books and period clothing books:

Instructional Fair - TS Denison, P. O. Box 1650, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49501, or call 1-800-443-2976. Ask for the 1998 Catalog, Pre-K through High School.

Knowledge Unlimited, Inc., P. O. Box 52, Madison, WI 53701-0052, or call 1-800-356-2303, or see the catalog online at www.thekustore.com.

Milliken Publishing Company, 1100 Research Blvd., P. O. Box 21579, St. Louis, MO 63132. Scholastic, Inc., 555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012-3999.

Dover Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY 11501-3582. Ask for Dover Children's Book Catalog.

Color Historic America, Inc., 3245 Chimney Point Drive, Cumming, GA 30131.

World Almanac Education, 15355 NEO Parkway, Cleveland, OH 44128. Ask for the "Across the Curriculum" catalog.

Family Research Council, 700 Thirteenth Street NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 2005. Request the "Let Freedom Ring - A Basic Outline of American History" booklet.

Now it's your turn! Did you read a great book you just have to tell us about? Or your children enjoyed reading a book they couldn't put down? Let me know.

Some future topics will be oceans, insects and math. What books have you found on these topics? If you are trying to find books on a topic you are studying, send that in, too!

You may send letters to me at: P. O. Box 173, Fort Kent Mills, ME 04744. Or write "Homeschool Librarian" in subject line for e-mail to: FLAIR79@Hotmail.com.

Happy reading!

Copyright © 2002 The LINK Homeschool Newspaper