Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History

The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History

Jennifer Armstrong
Illustrator:  Roger Roth 
For ages 8 to 12
Random House, 2006   ISBN: 978-0375812569

America's four hundred year history is full of fascinating stories. Many of them are linked through time; connections are made between the past and the present, and these connections show us how one event in one time can change history at some point in the years ahead. For example, because the Spanish brought horses with them when they came to America, several Native American cultures were changed forever. 

In this collection of stories Jennifer Armstrong has brought together a wide variety of true tales from American history. The stories are divided into five chronologically arranged sections: "Settlement and Colonies," "A New Republic," "Expansion and Invention," "Becoming Modern," and "Brave New World." Some of the stories will be familiar, for example the story of Benjamin Franklin's experiments with electricity, which included flying a kite during a storm. Others will be quite new to readers. One of these is the story of the "Touchy Chef" who in 1853 invented potato chips because a patron in his restaurant kept on complaining that the French-fried potatoes were "Too thick. Not cooked enough."

At the end of every story Jennifer Armstrong includes notes which provide additional information about the proceeding story. Some also provide readers with references to other stories in the book, establishing links through time.

Even reluctant young historians will find it hard to resist these stories. Told in an engaging and often amusing fashion, readers will not only get a surprisingly vivid picture of American history, but they will also come to see how events in the past can affect events in the present and the future. Could it be that history is not just a list of dates and names of people and places? Could it be that our history is a guiding force in our lives, affecting our world around us?