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The picture above is of a new book being brought out in nice time for Christmas and a classic piece of granny fodder.  “One Nation Under God: a book for little patriots” by Amelia Hamilton, is a first reader for children, and parents, to introduce them to the history of America and counting up to ten.  It seems aimed at children of 5 through 8 years old.  It has some nice cutesy pictures by illustrator Anthony Resto.  It’s getting a good review through the blogoshere especially among the more right wing and tea party blogs.  I expect it will do very well indeed.

I don’t want to come down all miserable and school marmish on something which is designed to encourage children to read and love books, or indeed to having parents reading to their children.  These are all good things, and to be encouraged.  It’s just I feel the book falls between two stools.  If you are teaching your child to count to ten then I would question that the child is really ready to start absorbing things like the three Branches of Government, the Seven rays on the Statue of Liberty, or the Ten Amendments to the Constitution.  Would a child still trying to work out if four comes before three or the other way round, appreciate such little ditties as the following?

  “The people can govern, that’s what Jefferson said.  We don’t need a king, we don’t need to be led.  Put America’s future in American’s hands, we can decide for ourselves in this wonderful land”

Equally would an older child appreciate the numbering approach or would he feel he’s being babied?  And, there lurks the unspoken question as why children of five do not already know their numbers to ten?  Would any child under eight appreciate that there are Five branches of the military? “Five Branches fight to keep us free, to protect us and our liberty”.

Certainly, the book is nicely presented, but just has a rather stolid, slightly old fashioned approach which gives it – to me – a ponderous feel.  It reminded me of those dreadful books produced in the fifties by the local Christian press, and given to me as a child by a well meaning neighbour at Christmas and birthdays, designed to instruct me about good little children giving up their place in queues in order to show that the last shall be first and the first last.

Now, lest you think I’m getting all pompous and British about it all, we too have, and still do, produce similar books.  The picture below is of “Little Arthur’s History of England by Maria, Lady Callcott ”.  It is the 1975 edition of the 1835 original so it clearly had a considerable and lasting influence.

Here is bit about the American War of Independence.

The chief man in America was General George Washington, one of the greatest men that ever lived.  He commanded the American army, and as he and his soldiers were fighting in their own land for their own freedom, and for their own wives and children, it was not wonderful that at last they beat out the English soldiers, who did not like to be sent so far from home to fight against men who spoke the same language with themselves”  

Which is remarkably generous I’m sure you would agree.

Finally the last book here is my favourite.  I feel it is a more successful attempt and came out in Britain a few years ago, aimed, like Little Patriots, at both adults reading to their children, and the children learning the history of their country.

Maybe the author could be moved to write an American version.

“A Rhyming History Of Britain 55 BC to AD 1966” by James Muirden was the surprise hit of Christmas 2003.  And it is simply a delight to read with children.

From Celts to Churchill, it relates
(With all the most important dates)
Our country’s convoluted course…
Why Richard hollered for a horse;
Why Eleanor was such a catch;
Why no one liked the Spanish Match;
The pros and cons of Laissez Faire;
Smart Georgian ladies’ underwear;
Why Charles the Second went to plays;
Why Queen Jane reigned for just nine days;
The causes of the Irish trouble;
The bursting of the South Sea Bubble;
That giant glasshouse in Hyde Park;
The First World War’s igniting spark…

Reliable as well as fun,
Here’s history for everyone

Copyright David Macadam 2011