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Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory (Icons of America) Hardcover – July 14, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Perceptive and original."—Alison Lurie, New York Review of Books
(Alison Lurie New York Review of Books 2008-12-04)

"A remarkable history of one room schools and about their place in our collective memory."—John L. Rury, University of Kansas

(John L. Rury)

"This beautifully written book makes a unique and original contribution not only to the history of American education, specifically, but to American social history, writ large."—Jeffrey Mirel, University of Michigan

(Jeffrey Mirel)

"One of America's most thoughtful historians, Jonathan Zimmerman is also one of the most innovative, as he shows in this remarkable new study of a universally recognized but—until now—incompletely understood educational icon.
Thoroughly researched and crisply written, Zimmerman's account of the little red schoolhouse's past, actual and
remembered, is authoritative, nuanced, and full of surprises. Small Wonder makes a big contribution to the
interpretation of American culture."—Charles Lane, author of The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre,
The Supreme Court and The Betrayal of Reconstruction
(Charles Lane)

“Readers will enjoy this unique look at how the little red schoolhouse came to be our foremost symbol of education.  Each chapter is filled with thought provoking perspectives and information.”—Mark Dewalt, author of Amish Education in the United States and Canada
(Mark Dewalt)

“Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor at New York University, sets out to tell ‘how—and why—the little red schoolhouse became an American icon.’ Mr. Zimmerman proves a thoughtful and entertaining teacher.”—Bill Kauffman, Wall Street Journal
(Bill Kauffman Wall Street Journal 2009-06-30)

Received a Special Citation for the 2010 Book Awards, given by the Colonial Dames of America
(Special Citation Colonial Dames of America 2010-04-12)

"Small Wonder is a perfect book for stimulating discussion in educational history and philosophy classes. It is full of lively anecdotes and raises basic questions about how to create a community of learners."--Polly Welts Kaufman, Journal of American History
(Polly Welts Kaufman Journal of American History)

"Historians will read Small Wonders with profit, but the book is aimed at the general public. Zimmerman writes with a light touch; his prose will carry readers along quickly. This is a charming book, though serious and scholarly, with only 184 pages of text and appropriately garnished with thirteen illustrations."—Christopher Collier, Journal of Social History
(Christopher Collier Journal of Social History)

About the Author

Jonathan Zimmerman is professor of education and history, New York University. His previous books include Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century and Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools. He lives in Narberth, PA.


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Product Details

  • Series: Icons of America
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (July 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300123264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300123265
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,073,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Had seen the author on C SPAN and having personal experience with more than one such schoolhouse I was interested in reading more about one room school houses. I should note that we have used one room school houses as have family members in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, eastern Washington, Alaska and here in northern California in the past ten years and for decades before.

The book is a Readers Digest type book on the subject and lacked the in depth study of one room school houses that anyone who have used one, would have loved to read about. In fact the author seems to have picked a select few schools to study and these had little in common with most of what we have experienced. And the book isn't that long, and can easily be read in an afternoon.

Will also note that one room school houses past and present, here in the west, are much different from those in the east, from what friends/family members have shared with me. Again this is all first hand information. Here in the west our remote one room school houses often double as gatherings for Protestant religious services, 4 H meetings, quilting circles. Very much a wild west, independent thinking way of life.

Am searching for a more in depth book on the subject of one room school houses. Especially one on the schools from South Dakota westward. Both of my Grandmothers taught in one room school houses in Montana as did two of my Aunts. And these were married women. And the schools ran year round based on crops that needed planting, harvesting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is wonderful novella 0f 233 pp with large type and small pages which can easily be read in two evenings. The author goes to great length to discuss the nostalgic elements and separate them from the realities of what came to be known as the little red school house although only about 2% were ever really painted red, with the vast majority being white or light gray, and many built of logs, sod, adobe, and planks that were NEVER painted at all. This book should appeal to any who might be of demographic old enough to remember such a structure to those lighthearted enough to want to believe in its virtues, whether real or imagined. It is very easy to read and it is obvious the author is well versed in the subject. Just buy it and expect to spend a couple of fun filled evenings enjoying it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great account of the image of the "little red schoolhouse" in all its permutations throughout American history. One of the lessons of this book, I think, is not so much about the status of education in America, but rather it is more an observation of how important, iconic landmarks of American life get tossed and turned and used by both sides of any argument about America. For anyone interested in American iconography as well as education, this book is a great, short and quick read.

I would also like to praise the series in which this book appears. The Yale series, "Icons of America," is filled with fascinating topics that inform our history. I read the work on Joe DiMaggio (although I never really liked the guy) and thought it was a wonderful meditation on the Yankee Clipper and made me understand him just a bit better. This book on the little red schoolhouse has a similar mission; it is a fine book from an even finer series. I recommend both the book and the "Icons of America" series from which it springs.
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