The first book I found in Chicago Review Press’s series of history books for kids was on Polar Explorers, and I was SO excited because we had just finished our Antarctica unit and I was obsessed with Shackleton. That one, however, I came across a little too late for our use. However, it led me to look into their other titles, and there were so many I want to read! Fortunately for me, they were kind enough to send me a review copy of Washington, DC, History for Kids by Richard Panchyk. I was particularly interested in this title because, of course, this is a presidential election year in the US.
Book Review: Washington, DC, History for Kids
The book has not disappointed at all. The information is presented in short anecdotes, a format that I have looked for in vain in many history books. The target audience is 9-12 year olds and I think this is just right for them. Some of the stories are gripping, like the story of the ship Pearl, full of runaway slaves and chased by a steamboat full of angry slave owners. Some of them are funny, like the first mayor who didn’t want to be mayor yet was pressed into doing it nine times. Panchyk does a great job of presenting an unbiased view, not presenting the city as “our hallowed national capital” or “bunch of dirty crooks”, although there are a few crooks and plenty of governmental drama…wait until you read how Pierre l’Enfant, city planner, lost his job! The book is full of great facts and stories that I didn’t know myself–I’d love to use such a resource with my kid, and it makes me excited to look at some of the other titles.
One tiny change I would have made would be to but the Native American history on the timeline and to possibly have more about it, if it is known, but I love that there is a timeline, since we plan for timelines to be central to our history teaching style.
All of the books in the series feature 21 activities, which is really what hooked my interest originally. I love to read, but for teaching I love to have something hands on for the kids to connect to.
Here’s a look at the activities in this book:
Archaeology in Your Backyard: I like this activity that takes you step by step through the meticulous process of an archaeological dig. Some parents may hesitate to have a 2’x2′, foot deep hole dug in their backyard even if is going to get filled back in. I’m curious how likely they are to find something.
City Layout Game: This is a fun activity imitating Pierre l’Enfant’s task, but I question using curling ribbon. The thing about curling ribbon is it’s curly. I’d use something more rigid.
Propose a Resolution: The instructions seemed a little unclear on this one, although I guess it is implied that you use the real resolution given as an example to draft your own. Not my favorite.
Create a Watermark: This one is SO cool! The only thing is that you have to buy a papermaking kit.
Then and Now Game: The only real lemon of an activity, you have to actually be in DC to do it!
Draw a Political Cartoon: I wish there had been several more examples given. There is only one.
Make a Cut and Cover Metro Tunnel: I like this because it merges history and science experiment, although I’d have to do some research to be able to explain it!
That’s just a handful of the included activities. I highly recommend this book!