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The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History Hardcover – August 22, 2006


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Alfed A. Knopf; 1st edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375812563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375812569
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.1 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4-7–This collection of lively tales demonstrates the broad base of individuals who make up our country and the slow accretion of incidents that create a heritage. Starting with the colony of Saint Caroline, founded by French Huguenots near what is today Jacksonville, FL, in 1565, the short tales proceed chronologically to the election of 2000. Along the way, readers move through sections entitled Settlement and Colonies (1565-1778), A New Republic (1791-1863), Expansion and Invention (1867-1899), Becoming Modern (1900-1945), and Brave New World (1946-2000). The tales are pulled from politics and government, social and religious life, recreation and science. Students will hear about personalities as various as John Chapman, Carrie Nation, Typhoid Mary, Babe Ruth, and Maya Lin. An excellent classroom resource, the stories are a perfect way to fill the odd three or four minutes, and the book's organizational structure ties in well with more comprehensive titles, such as Robert D. Johnston's The Making of America (National Geographic, 2002). The selections are cross-referenced into Story Arcs so that readers can follow historical threads, such as immigration or science and technology. The lively prose is matched by numerous soft color illustrations. A grand way to introduce children to the history of their country.–Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-7. This large, fully illustrated compendium features 100 stories, familiar and lesser known, drawn from America's past and arranged in chronological order. Armstrong occasionally stretches the meaning of the subtitle--asserting, for example, in the section on John Henry that "sometimes legends tell truth as well as facts." But a majority of the narratives fall comfortably within history as most middle-school teachers would define it. With 26 of the first 55 stories set in the northeastern states, readers may begin to suspect a certain regional bias; however, Armstrong restores the balance to some extent in the latter part of the book. Thanks to writing that is consistently good and sometimes excellent, the tales will certainly hold readers' attention, and brightening nearly every page are lively drawings enhanced by watercolor washes. Entertaining for reading aloud but also great as independent reading for young history buffs. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

I have read all of these stories to my 7, 9, and 12 year old girls at night and they love them.
Andrea Tomlinson
The book was written primarily for children and young adults, but the stories are so well written that even adults enjoy them.
KH
I couldn't wait for the kids to finish, I had to read it myself after they all left for the day.
LynnD Hering

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

67 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Chris Barton on August 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jennifer Armstrong and illustrator Roger Roth's new book makes me feel dang near obsolete. Since I got hold of a copy, it has ignited in my seven-year-old a history-loving fire much stronger than anything I've managed to spark in the past couple of years of trying.

The premise of "The American Story" is simple: 400-odd years of U.S. history told through 100 stories (starting with the founding of what became St. Augustine, Florida) spread out over 358 pages. Armstrong mostly sticks to the "true tales" promised on the cover, though she does include the legend of John Henry as well as the commonly told story of the creation of the potato chip, only to dismiss that telling as hooey.

What she doesn't do is stick to the stories readers might expect. There's no Christopher Columbus and no 9/11, as she ends her narrative with an optimistic take on the 2000 election. In between, there's no Gettysburg Address, Black Tuesday, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, March on Washington, Lee Harvey Oswald, or Space Shuttle disaster.

Instead, Armstrong offers a magnificent mish-mash of stories both familiar and obscure. (Nobody in my house had ever heard of Boston's Great Molasses Flood of 1919, but we're glad we have now.) She connects them throughout with often surprising post-story notes glancing backwards or ahead, such as the one tying Jonas Salk's polio vaccine back to Pocahontas' death from smallpox. The ethnic and cultural balance she brings to the proceedings is eye-opening as well.

As big an undertaking as this was for Armstrong (she gets bonus points for writing the first children's book -- as far as I know -- to identify Mark Felt as Deep Throat), Roth had his work cut out for him, too.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By E. Hanson on September 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I can't think of a better way to introduce young people to history's pleasures and their country's past than to read this engrossing book. History is best when it's not a dry exercise in recounting dates and names but when it becomes a living art that tells us something about the past and about ourselves, about what it means to be human in a way that we recognize as part of our own lives. Armstrong's narratives, drawn from all periods of American history, are full of facts, yes, but it is what the author does with these realities that lifts this book to the level of art. This brilliant writer has the ability to bring to life stories as familiar as that of Benjamin Franklin and as little known as the invention of the potato chip (what's more American that that?) with a narrative verve and sense of detail that makes history exciting for children and really kindles their imaginations.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By I. Burcham on November 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this as a gift for a 7-year old, but I read some of the stories to test out the book. Great for all ages. A lot of "I didn't know that". Good idea to learn history by learning important events such as the Great Chicago Fire, the hunt for fossils, the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and even a story about the real Johnny Appleseed. A very good gift for a student.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By KBR on March 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
After looking for a good overview of American history, I thought I had found one in this book. However, one of the first stories I happened to turn to detailed how Sacheen Littlefeather declined Marlon Brando's Academy Award on his behalf and the story came with a wildly inaccurate postscript, saying Sacheen Littlefeather was actually a "Mexican actress." Not only is this patently false, it could have easily been verified with a couple of phone calls -- Sacheen Littlefeather is still alive, for pete's sake. If the writer was this sloppy with facts that could so easily be verified, what else in this book is wrong?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Danielle Rosendahl on March 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read a review of this book and that's why I bought it. I thought it would be good for my 8 and 12 year olds to learn about American History in a fun, interesting story format. The stories are a little over my 8 year old's head, but are perfect for a 10 year old. My 12 year old isn't as interested as I was hoping he would be, but with all his other homework, I can't complain. He has shown interest in reading some of the stories, and I hope to continue reading them to my 8 year old.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with 8-12 year olds.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Todd Carlsen on June 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Both of my daughters (ages 9 and 12) very much like this book and read it frequently. It is medium-large in size (368 pages) and contains many engaging stories from American history. It is well written and the story selection is good. They love to read it in the car, at bed time, and other times of the day for a quick read. Since the book is broken into many short stories, the book is easy to browse when one's curiosity necessitates.

We own both Jennifer Armstrong's "The American Stories: 100 True Tales from American History" - this book - and William Bennett's "Children's Book of America" and we easily prefer Armstrong's "The American Story." "The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History" is over three times larger than Bennett's book, and I did not like some of the content in Bennett's book. I asked my bright nine-year-old child why she likes "The American Story" more and she said, "It has more stories. It doesn't explain too many details. It just tells you."

To adults the stories can seem too basic and the writing too simple. However, the excellent writing is what makes the stories so readable for children. Give it to a child and watch that child become engaged. Set it by a bedside and it will be read. Along the way, your child will learn some of the most interesting stories in American history.

So I would recommend "The American Story" to readers age 7 to 13, depending on the child's reading level. A bright 13 might find the writing style too basic. For learning historical facts, my older daughter, who reads at a tenth-grade level, told me that she also likes "Don't Know Much About American History" by Kenneth Davis and "The Making of America" by Robert Johnson (with a foreward by First Lady Laura Bush).

Every child should have a great collection of books, and this book belongs in that collection.
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