Monday, August 20, 2012

Which Way to the Wild West?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About America's Westward Expansion

by Steve Sheinkin
illustrated by Tim Robinson
Roaring Brook Press | 2009

Steve Sheinkin is a former textbook writer and he struggled with all the rules and regulations in this country about what is "appropriate history" for a textbook and what is deemed too "controversial" or too "risque" for the schoolchildren of the United States to know about. So he "secretly stashed away all the stories [he] wasn't allowed to use in textbooks" and started writing his own books about the fun side of history. And let this reviewer say, they are super fun, super interesting, and really well written.

Last year, Sheinkin received a Boston Globe Horn Book Award for his book The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery. I, like most other people educated in the public school system (and one Brady Bunch episode), only knew of Arnold as a traitor. But Sheinkin's gloriously well-researched text enlightened me about his amazing Revolutionary War hero past (before he became a traitor). So interesting how history remembers people.

To get to the book in the title of this post, Sheinkin has written a few books just as well-written as the Arnold book about Westward Expansion, the American Revolution, and the Civil War, all with fantastic titles that are meant to lure in middle-grade and high school readers to make history fun again. Check them out,  use them in your classroom, spend some time learning some little-known parts of history right alongside your child, or niece, or grandkid.

And then you'll know the story about how Paul Revere needed to borrow his assistant's girlfriend's underwear in order to row across the bay to get on his horse to warn folks the British were coming. Curious about what I'm talking about? Read Sheinkin!

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