Explore 360° Pompeii With Extraordinary Book and CD

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© Image of The House of the Faun’s four-page spread courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series

Buried and Almost Forgotten

Pompeii and other nearby cities were buried under the rubble of Vesuvius for centuries, as olive groves and vineyards covered the cities below. In 1709 a well-digger discovered marble from a theater in Pompeii’s neighboring town of Herculaneum. Uncovering that treasure resulted in a series of more discoveries until Pompeii was excavated in 1748. The book covers both the before and after destruction eras.

“It was usual to have three couches in a dining room…Places on the couches were arranged by status. The most important guest was positioned on the left side of the central couch. The host reclined on the right side of the left-had couch. The couch on the right was for the lowest ranking guests. Diners leaned on their left elbows, eating with their right hands.”

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© Image of the bakery with its grinder courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series

A Fascinating Lesson in History, Culture and Architecture

Explore 360° Pompeii is a gem of a book, with pages of historical facts, illustrations and amazing photographs. Each spread includes a short introduction plus text boxes that make reading fun, perfect for the age group. Some of the pages open up to glorious four page spreads that are 38 inches wide! We learn about: how Vesuvius erupted; how the city was covered with ash and forgotten for centuries; how the city is laid out; the architecture of a wealthy Roman’s house; how the wealthy entertained and dined; details about treasures found in these homes; Roman gardens; the Forum or main square in Pompeii; bars where the poor ate and where gambling took place; how cloth was manufactured in fulleries; how bakeries were set up; public baths; toilets and water supply; theaters and gladiators. Some of the facts will absolutely astound you, and the way the Romans lived 19 centuries ago was impressive.

“The first stage in cleaning cloth was to soak it in urine. This was collected in pots, left in the street for passersby to pee into. The cloth was then washed and stamped on in bronze basins containing water and fullers earth, a clay that absorbed grease.”

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© Image of the exterior of the Palaestra Baths courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series

3D CD Tour Makes You Feel Like You’re Right There

DSC_0003After reading the book, pop the interactive CD into your computer for a fun and educational learning experience. What child wouldn’t love that? 3D model animations take you on a meticulously detailed tour of the ancient city Pompeii, making you feel as though you are right there. Use your mouse and arrows to view all around a room, up at the ceiling and down at the floor.  The sites featured here include the Forum, House of Faun, Baths, Amphitheater, Bar and Bakery.

“The grain was ground in tall mills made of volcanic stone. The upper stone would be turned by a pair of donkeys or mules, chained on each side. They wore blinkers over their eyes to prevent them from being distracted.”

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© Image of the interior of the Baths courtesy of Barron’s Educational Series

Why You Should Buy This Outstanding Book

As a former writer for luxury cruise lines, I did my fair share of reading about Pompeii. But it wasn’t until after reading Explore 360° Pompeii that I realized I didn’t have a true grasp on what it really looked like. The quality of the book alone, including its printing, photographs and drawings should be enough to make anyone want to buy it. The text is well written, fascinating and enlightening. Then add to that the phenomenal CD offering a mesmerizing 3D interactive experience that will capture any child’s attention, and you’ve got a wonderfully unique learning experience.  How the publisher can offer all this for a mere $18.99 retail price is beyond me. It’s so important that our children learn about geography and culture, and Explore 360° Pompeii is the perfect way to do that This is not your every day nonfiction book. Rather it is a book to be treasured and a testament to the quality and care that goes into Barron’s Educational titles to educate our children.

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Buy Explore 360° Pompeii here

About the Author

Peter Chrisp is a renowned author of history books for children. He has written over 80 books, many on the topics of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. He lives by the sea in Brighton, U.K.

Watch a video about Pompeii:

Also read:

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Check out other titles from Barron’s that will make your children smarter!

 

 

 

March Out to Change the World: Interview with “Factual” Author Russell Freedman

Image 1In November I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Because They Marched: The People’s Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America – one of the best written non-fiction children’s books I’ve ever read. It is the story of the infamous 1965 voting marches from Selma to Montgomery, AL led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Veteran children’s book author Russell Freedman not only knows how to hook readers, but he writes in such a way that they feel as though they are right there in the action. His talent to speak to a younger audience about a very sophisticated subject in such an understandable and fascinating way left me eager to ask him some questions about his outstanding work.

What inspired you to transition from a journalist to a children’s book author?

Some authors may know from the beginning that they want to write for children, but I’ve found that many of us come to this field after serving a writing apprenticeship elsewhere—after a period of experimentation and practice. You have to find your voice.

” I hadn’t expected to become a writer of factual books for young readers, but there I was. I had wandered into the field by chance, and I felt right at home. I couldn’t wait to get started on my next book. I had found my calling, and I never looked back.”

As a young man, I worked as an editor and reporter at the Associated Press. One morning I read a newspaper story about a sixteen-year-old boy who was blind. He had invented a Braille typewriter. That seemed remarkable, but as I read on I learned that another sixteen-year-old boy who was blind—Louis Braille—invented the Braille system itself as used today all over the world. That New York Times story inspired my first book, a collection of short biographies entitled Teenagers Who Made History, published in 1961 by Holiday House. The book received a starred review from School Library Journal and stayed in print for many years.

I hadn’t expected to become a writer of factual books for young readers, but there I was. I had wandered into the field by chance, and I felt right at home. I couldn’t wait to get started on my next book. I had found my calling, and I never looked back.

You certainly did indeed find your calling! I’ve read that you prefer being referred to as a “factual” author rather than a non-fiction author. Can you explain why?

Nonfiction is a negative term. It tells what a book is not. I prefer more informative and inviting terms such as history, biography, memoir, science, or even, factual.

I’ve often thought about how that term is so negative too. You are equally known for the photographs in your books as you are for your writing. What is the process you go through to obtain such outstanding images for your books?

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Images are an essential part of my books. I do my own picture research, select the images I want to include, and present them as a package to my editor and book designer, with whom I work closely. Each image is keyed to a specific section of the text. Ideally, that image should appear on the same double-page spread as its textual reference, so the reader’s eyes can move back and forth between the words and images. I also write the captions for those images.

Correlating the text to the images is a really important detail that is so often overlooked, and I suppose it takes a great deal of time to find and choose the right photos for the text.

Not long ago, picture research meant traveling to libraries, museums, and historical societies all over the country, putting your white-gloved hands in the files as you examined fading photographs and fragile transparencies. I often spent days at a time in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room of the Library of Congress, which later became one of the first institutions to digitize its picture collection. Today, most major collections are substantially digitized, and a researcher can access and order reproduction images from sources all over the world without leaving the computer.

For Because They Marched, I looked at hundreds of images on the websites of the Library of Congress, the Associated Press, and various photo agencies. My guiding principle, as always, was that the photos should reveal something that the text cannot express, while the text should say something that isn’t evident in the photos.

“I follow the rule I learned at the Associated Press: have at least three sources for each assertion. When I encounter different versions of the same event, or a lack of evidence, I suggest as much in my text.”

How do you handle the conflicting factual information you find to ensure your facts are accurate when writing a book?

I follow the rule I learned at the Associated Press: have at least three sources for each assertion. When I encounter different versions of the same event, or a lack of evidence, I suggest as much in my text. In Because They Marched, for example, why did the streetlights suddenly go out during the demonstration in Marion, Alabama, at which Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot, and what happened next? I wrote: “At that point, the street lights were either turned off or perhaps shot out. Troopers waded into the crowd, swinging their nightsticks as people trying to get away screamed and stumbled over one another. A crowd of white vigilantes attacked the reporters and smashed their cameras. No photographic record of the night survives.”

When I was writing my biography of Abraham Lincoln I came across the following anecdote: In 1862, while Lincoln was president, Image 2his 11-year-old son Willie died of a fever. Willie was the second son to be taken from the Lincolns. Mary was overcome by grief, and the president plunged into the deepest gloom he had ever known. Again and again, he shut himself in his room to weep alone. He was heard to say about Willie, “He was too good for this earth. It is hard, hard to have him die.”

© Copyright – Image courtesy of Russell Freedman

Lincoln_PhotobiographyNow all of that is in my book. In early drafts, I had also written that Lincoln twice had his son’s body exhumed, so he could gaze on Willie’s face again. I felt that the harrowing image of the grieving president looking into his son’s coffin was a powerful and unforgettable representation of Lincoln’s profound sorrow. And I thought it said something about Lincoln that could be expressed only by example.

And yet something about the story made me uneasy. My only source was a single biography published during the 1930s, and I felt I needed at least one additional source, and preferably more, for confirmation. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to drop the incident from my book. But the image still haunts me and I still wonder if it’s true.

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© Copyright – Image courtesy of Russell Freedman

The way you conveyed details of specific events in Because They Marched made me, as a reader, feel as though I were right there in the action. Is this something you set out to do in your writing?

Isn’t the goal of narrative history to immerse the reader in a certain time and place, to engage the reader as part of the action? I always imagine that I am an eye-witness to the events I’m describing. I try to bring those events to life on the page by focusing on specific, concrete details the reader can visualize, and on documented quotations—what people said or heard others say—which in factual writing take the place of dialogue in fiction. For Because They Marched I was able to draw on eye-witness, day-by-day press reports, and on interviews conducted over the years with dozens of marchers and demonstrators whose testimonies even decades later speak eloquently of the passions of the time.

“I write for myself and for other kids just like me. I write for Miss Tennessee Kent, the 5th-grade teacher who once encouraged me. And I write for my grown-up friends. If a book isn’t good enough for them, it isn’t good enough for kids, either.”

I so admire the way your writing inspires children to obtain the facts, think for themselves and draw their own conclusions. How do you manage to write on sophisticated, sensitive subjects like the voting marches without being preachy and without talking down to readers?

I’m often asked what age level I write for. To begin with, when I sit down at my writing desk, the reader looking over my shoulder is me. As Usrsula Nordstrom famously said, “I am a former child, and I haven’t forgotten a thing.” Anyone who writes for kids, whether fiction or nonfiction, is writing for the kid that still resides within that author. I write for myself and for other kids just like me. I write for Miss Tennessee Kent, the 5th-grade teacher who once encouraged me. And I write for my grown-up friends. If a book isn’t good enough for them, it isn’t good enough for kids, either. My books are aimed at anyone who can read at that level—all the way up to senility.

During that lengthy research process, were there any particular facts you uncovered about the march that truly surprised you?

snccbuttonWhen I first decided to write this book, I did not know that the Selma voting rights campaign originated with teenagers—high school and junior high students organized by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Their courageous demonstrations and sit-ins in the face of harsh police repression persuaded their parents and teachers to overcome their fears of retribution and join the fight. That was a welcome surprise that helped me frame my narrative with my core audience in mind.

On Bloody Sunday, who ordered the police to use tear gas and violence, and do you know if any children were injured that day?

According to Charles Fager’s, Selma 1965, Governor Wallace’s plan for stopping the march was presented at a meeting with Colonel Al Lingo: “Wallace’s scenario for stopping the march was laid out: its details are unclear (my emphasis) but there is every indication that he intended it to be carried out as peacefully as could be expected from the troopers.” (Fager p. 86) Wallace’s aides assured Mayor Smitherman that there would be no violence. However, public safety director Wilson Baker suspected that Lingo and Sheriff Jim Clark had plans of their own and that state troopers would turn the march into a bloodbath.

As the marchers approached, the troopers slipped gas masks over their faces. Some witnesses recalled seeing Sheriff Clark fingering a tear-gas canister while pacing up and down near the front lines. According to David Garrow’s Bearing the Cross, the troopers had been instructed “that tear gas would be used if the marchers refused to disperse.” (p. 398) It isn’t clear who issued those instructions, or who, if anyone, actually gave the order to use tear gas. As in so many similar situations, the first canister of tear gas may have been fired spontaneously as the troopers broke ranks and charged into the crowd of marchers. I chose to describe the confrontation from the point of view of the marchers, as they experienced it, and from the eyewitness accounts of the reporters.

Image of civil rights marchers in Selma on Bloody Sunday from the Library of Congress

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Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to a crowd on March 9, 1965, “Turnaround Tuesday” when marchers were instructed to follow a court order after “Bloody Sunday” to stop their march to Montgomery in fear of more violence. Image in the Public Domain.

I am quite fascinated by the events of Turnaround Tuesday and how Martin Luther King, Jr. agreed with the official from the Justice Department to limit the second march that day – up to the point of the bridge. Why do you suppose he chose not to tell the crowd first about the plan? I imagine the marchers were surprised, confused and disappointed when asked to turnaround.

Bloody_Sunday-officers_await_demonstratorsIf King had told the marchers ahead of time that he intended to turn them around after crossing the bridge, he might have been confronted with an angry rebellion. By waiting until they reached the troopers, then asking the marchers to kneel and pray, then unexpectedly wheeling around and starting back, he was able to defuse the situation on the spot and maintain control. I discuss his reasons for agreeing to the compromise on p. 51 of my book.

March 9, 1965 image of police turning marchers around on Turnaround Tuesday in the Public Domain

I was delighted that you included information in your Epilogue about the 2013 Supreme Court decision to release nine states from seeking federal approval before changing their election laws. Can you give our readers some examples of how this decision might adversely affect voting rights today?

The Supreme Court decision has already affected the vote in the 2014 Midterm Elections. Voter ID laws, enacted along partisan lines, discourage or disenfranchise vulnerable segments of the voting population—the elderly, the poor, and minorities. Obtaining a photo ID can, for some, be burdensome and expensive. Attorney General Eric Holder and others have compared the laws to a poll tax. According to one study, twenty-one million eligible voters in the U.S. do not have a government-issued photo ID.

“As they cheer the Selma marchers on page after page, I hope they will feel inspired to take up the banner themselves, to meet the challenges of their own generation and march out to change the world.”

Those are alarming statistics. What do you hope children take away most from reading Because They Marched?

I want my readers to understand why the voting rights campaign was necessary, how our country has changed as a result of the Voting Rights Act, and what they can do to safeguard our most precious right—the right to vote. As they cheer the Selma marchers on page after page, I hope they will feel inspired to take up the banner themselves, to meet the challenges of their own generation and march out to change the world.

If it were possible for you to ask MLK, Jr. a question, what would it be?

I might ask, what are the three most influential books you have ever read—not counting the Bible?

What writing project is next for you?

I’m just finishing a book about the White Rose student anti-Nazi resistance movement at Munich University during World War II. When I visited Munich University a few months ago, I was deeply moved by the memorial made of ceramic tiles depicting White Rose leaflets that appear to have been dropped onto the cobblestone pavement at the university entrance. At the moment, I’m starting a book about America’s Vietnam War.

Russell, thanks so much for answering my questions and enlightening our readers. Your outstanding book has educated me with fascinating details I would never have otherwise known. Surely there are many children who will be inspired to take a stand for what they believe in after reading Because They Marched and perhaps even be motivated to become writers some day too.  I so look forward to reading your next book and all that come after that.

Readers, you can buy Because They Marched here.

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Politics, Anything But Boring: Interview with Author Ronald Reis

RReisAuthor Ronald Reis has the rare talent of taking politics – what would normally be considered a boring subject to children – and turning into a fascinating read. His latest non-fiction book, US Congress for Kids is full of factual stories that read more like a compelling novel than a tedious textbook. His philosophy is that if kids can learn riveting details about what goes on behind the scenes in Congress, they’ll want to stay on top of what’s going on in our government and understand the importance of making their own voices heard. What I like best about Ron’s books is that they are just as beneficial for adults to read as they are for kids. US Congress for Kids is one of those great non-fiction books you simply just can’t put down, once you start reading it. And when you’re finished, you’ll be a whole lot more knowledgeable about how our laws are made.

Most books on the subject of politics and history for kids used in schools are quite dull, but US Congress for Kids, is anything but. How did you manage to keep what is normally learned by rote memorization, so fascinating?

To the extent that I was, possibly, able to do that, I try to remember it is all about people, all about their stories. You do not need to “manufacture” drama; there is plenty of that in an institution as diverse as the US Congress. I tried to look for stories that are engaging and exciting, yet illustrate a broader issue.

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Your description of how Congress is structured and what they do is the best explanation on the subject I’ve ever read. Did you find it challenging to write about that for a child audience, and do you think most American adults understand how Congress is structured?

A recent survey pointed out that nearly two-thirds of adult Americans (64 percent, to be exact) cannot even name the three branches of government (Executive Legislative and Judicial), let alone understand much about the US Congress. The turnout in the recent mid-term election was the lowest it has been since 1942.

It is always challenging to write for a younger audience because you know you have a limited amount of space to devote to a subject. That forces the writer to be concise and direct—to get to the point. With longer works, a writer can tend to go on and on, often losing the reader.

Watch this Politically-Challenged: Texas Tech Edition Video

What else do you think teachers can do to make the subjects of politics and history more interesting in school?

We often associate hands-on learning with technical subjects, though, of course, there is plenty of hands-on activity in the arts and sciences. We need more in the social sciences as well, especially at the Middle Grade level. Students need to learn about politics and history by doing politics and history. I hope that the activities I have furnished in the US Congress for Kids will help teachers provide that kind of learning.

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 Image of Congress from the Library of Congress

In the very beginning of the book, you discuss the beating of Representative Preston Brooks by Senator Charles Sumner over a slavery speech. Since that time have there been any other physical altercations between members of Congress?

Actually, soon after the 1856 incident you mentioned, on February 5, 1858, Congressman Laurence Keitt became engaged in a brawl on the House floor involving approximately 50 representatives. It ended only when a missed punch from one representative upended the hairpiece of another Congressman. When the latter accidentally replaced his wig on backwards, both sides erupted in spontaneous laughter, deflating the confrontation.

It is doubtful that the American people would tolerate their elected officials trading punches today. However, cussing out one another, from time to time, still occurs.

“It is doubtful that the American people would tolerate their elected officials trading punches today. However, cussing out one another, from time to time, still occurs.”

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 Image of Ronald Reis courtesy of the author

That story is hilarious! I would have loved to see that actually. Today, a majority of Americans see their Congress as dysfunctional, unwilling or incapable of “doing the nation’s” business. Have there been other times in US history where Americans felt the same way, and do you believe the Congress of today is indeed dysfunctional?

Unfortunately, America is becoming a divided nation. Conservatives in the Republican Party are becoming more conservative, moving to the right, and liberals in the Democratic Party are becoming more liberal, while moving father to the left. The same can be said of the Congress. Since Congress is a representative institution, it reflects the polarization going on in the country as a whole. There is little incentive to compromise on the issues, since both parties have retreated to their corners, so to speak.

A recent syndicated newspaper article written by Ronald Brownstein, entitled: “No Prosperity, no Peace,” makes it clear that it is all about economics. The median family income is lower today than it was in 2000. Americans are frustrated and angry; they feel exposed and vulnerable. According to Brownstein, ‘Economic stagnation means a continuation of gridlocked and zero-sum politics.’ Congress is us.

“Americans often say that divided government is what they want to keep the parties in check. Yet, under such circumstances, it is difficult for one party or the other to take responsibility, to be accountable.”

Can you give us an example of a President who has accomplished a great deal with a Congress that had a majority that was not his political party?

There wouldn’t be many, for sure. And, unfortunately, the future portends divided government. From 1896 to 1968, a 72-year period, the country provided one political party (Democrat or Republican) with unified control of the federal government—the White House, House, and Senate—in 58 of those years, 80 percent of the time. From 1968 to 2014 (a 46 year period) only 12 of those years (26 percent) saw unified control. Americans often say that divided government is what they want to keep the parties in check. Yet, under such circumstances, it is difficult for one party or the other to take responsibility, to be accountable.

“To impeach is to accuse, but it is not to convict. Hence the confusion, I believe.”

Why do you suppose the term, “impeached” is so widely misunderstood and exactly what does it mean?

My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (Eleventh Edition) defines impeach as “to bring an accusation against,” in other words, to accuse, or indict. But that same dictionary also goes on to say, “to remove from office, especially for misconduct.” Impeach does not do the latter. To impeach is to accuse, but it is not to convict. Hence the confusion, I believe.

For our purposes, only the US House of Representatives can impeach someone. If they do, then the Senate sits in judgment of that person, as in a court of law. If two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict, the person is removed from office. There is no appeal.

Aerial of the U.S. Capitol under restoration. The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the Federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall.

Image of Capitol Hill from Library of Congress

I love the fact that the activities in the book get kids involved in taking action in politics and get their voices heard. What would you say to a child (or adult) who thinks their vote will never count so there’s no reason to go to the polls?

For some time now we have heard, particularly for disenchanted voters and third party activists, that there is little, if any, differences between the two major political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans. I think the last few decades have shown view to be false. Today, Democrats and Republicans are far apart on the major issues. Which party wins an election counts. Furthermore, if we just look at how close some of our elections have been in the last few years, starting with the presidential election of 2000, we can see that everyone’s vote is critical.

I know all too well about that 2000 election mess firsthand, as I live in Broward County, FL. What advice do you have for others who wish to write a book about US history or politics for kids and keep it interesting and comprehensible?

Story! Story! Story! The book should tell the story of our history and political institutions. It is not always easy to do this, but I think, with lots of effort, we can get close.

“…a biography is not about a person’s life, but about a person’s story; a biography is not about what a person did, but who a person was.”

What writing project is next for you?

Henry_ford_1919My next book for the Chicago Review Press will be a biography of Henry Ford, to be published in the fall of 2015. In writing that book, I tried to remember that a biography is not about a person’s life, but about a person’s story; a biography is not about what a person did, but who a person was. I hope I have done that. In addition, the 21 activities for the Ford book will be most exciting, I believe, with all kinds of hands-on exercises for Middle Grade readers.

Portrait of Henry Ford (1919) from the Library of Congress

Ron, I feel a whole lot smarter since I’ve read US Congress for kids. I have so much respect for the important work you to – educating children in innovative and intriguing ways. I’m looking forward to reading your book about Henry Ford.

Readers, I highly recommend you get a copy of US Congress for Kids and while you’re at it, get Ron’s Christopher Columbus book too. Also, visit Ronald Reis’ website here.

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The US Congress for Kids: 225 Years of Lawmaking History

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US Congress for Kids: Over 200 Years of Lawmaking, Deal-Breaking, and Compromising

•    Targeted Audience:  Upper Elementary, Middle School (Ages 10 and Up)
•    Genre: Non-Fiction US History
•    Author: Ronald Reis
•    Publisher: Chicago Review Press
•    Publication Date: November 1, 2014
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 12 X 8
•    Printing: Black & White
•    Length: 144 Pages
•    Retail: $16.95
•    ISBN: 978-1613749777

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Be sure to enter for a chance to win our HUGE Thanksgiving Giveaway 2014. Ends November 17, 2014!

 

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Image of slave ship Credit: The Library of Congress

A Fascinating Front Row Seat in the Legislative Branch of the US Government

One of the most engaging of all the titles in the outstanding Chicago Review Press For Kids Series, US Congress for Kids provides readers with an overview of the US Legislative process, from the very first meeting of Congress in 1789 to laws created in 2014. On what typically is a rather confusing and dry subject, author Ronald Reis breaks everything down so that it is both completely comprehensible and at the same time fascinating.  In fact, the explanation of how the US Congress is organized and what its functions are, is the best written summary on the subject I’ve ever read, bar none. I’m sure there are as many adults who could benefit from reading this (as I did) as there are children. Photographs and historic drawings add to the learning experience.

A Lesson in History and Politics Minus the Rote Memorization

Fascinating quips about historical events that took place in the early days of Congress are presented, including many that revolved around the issue of slavery such as the “Crime Against Kansas” speech and William Slade’s Violation of the Gag Order in 1837. In addition to the inner workings of congress, there’s information on: Impeachment; Amendments to the Constitution such as Direct Election of Senators and the Women’s Right to Vote; laws on Immigration and American Citizenship; Congressional investigations such as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s accusations about government officials being members of the communist party; Civil Rights and Jim Crow Laws; and Campaigning for office. Throughout the book are offset boxes featuring key figures in Congress from Aaron Burr to Elizabeth Warren and other important and intriguing individuals in US lawmaking history.

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Image of Congress Credit: The Library of Congress

 21 Activities

You’ll love the activities in US Congress for Kids. They are original and interactive, actually encouraging readers to get involved in the political process. Among them are: finding their local US Representative and writing him or her a letter; writing their own one-minute speech; tracking a bill thorough congress; learning how to register to vote; and launching a petition action. There are some artistic activities too, like making a congressional medal of honor and a capitol dome from toothpicks and gumdrops.

What This Book Teaches

Readers get such a comprehensive and objective view of how the US Judicial System operates. They discover that despite all the political controversies that have arisen throughout history, our Congress works for our greater good. Learning about constitutional rights and how they are protected by law opens the door to understanding the importance of securing the freedoms upon which our great nation was based. There’s a tremendous amount of  important educational information in  US Congress for Kids, but the book is written in such a way that readers will not be overwhelmed by it. They will discover many new vocabulary words, and in the back of the book are an important Glossary of political terms and a list of Websites to Explore relating to the topic.

Aerial of the U.S. Capitol under restoration. The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the Federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall.

Image Credit: The Library of Congress

Why You Should Buy This Book

When I was in middle school, high school and even college, books and classes available to me on the US Government were so tedious and uninteresting, I was turned off by the subject completely. US Congress for Kids takes the bore out of history and politics and makes it a real page turner. It is apparent that a tremendous amount of work went into researching and writing this book, and that must be commended. Ronald Reis has a way of writing that is so engaging, the reader gets excited about the subject at hand. I read and reviewed Reis’ Christopher Columbus for Kids last year, and it too was a book I could not put down.

US Congress for Kids facilitates independent thinking and inspires readers to fight for all that is just. Understanding the basics of the way our government works from an early age empowers children to look forward to voting and taking action to do what they can to protect the freedoms set forth by the US Constitution. We need future politicians who will protect our rights!

About the Author

RReisRonald A. Reis is the author of numerous nonfiction books for kids and young adults, including Christopher Columbus and the Age of Exploration for Kids, with 21 Activities. His biography of Buffalo Bill Cody won the 2011 Spur Award for the best juvenile nonfiction biography about the west, from the Western Writers of America. He lives in Calabasas, California.

Further Learning

  1. Learn more about the three branches of government on Kids.Gov.
  2. Visit the Kid’s Wesbite for The Library of Congress.
  3. Watch live sessions of the House of Representatives online.
  4. Explore the National Museum of History’s Division of Political History.

Read my review of Christopher Columbus for Kids also by Ronald Reis and my interview with Ronald Reis. Check out other excellent titles in the Chicago Review Press for Kids Series.

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Because They Marched: The Fight for the Right to Vote 50 Years Ago

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Cover image courtesy of Holiday House

•    Targeted Audience: Upper Elementary, Middle School, High School (Ages 10 and Up)
•    Genre: Non-Fiction
•    Author: Russell Freedman
•    Publisher: Holiday House
•    Publication Date: September 15, 2014
•    Binding: Hard Cover
•    Dimensions: 11″ X 9″
•    Printing: Black and White Photographs
•    Length: 96 Pages
•    Retail: $20.00
•    ISBN: 978-0823429219

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The Jefferson Davis Highway

This past summer my daughter and I drove from our home in Miami, FL to Boulder, CO, where she is attending graduate school. Our route took us westbound from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama on the beautiful Jefferson Davis Highway, the very same (reverse) path of those who marched 50 miles in 1965 for the right to vote. We imagined what the streets must have looked liked back then with crowds marching and police following. Since then I have been eager to learn all I could about details of this important part of America’s Civil Rights movement. It’s only fitting on this election day to celebrate those Americans who had to fight for the right to vote . . .

“James Letherer, a one-legged amputee from Saginaw, Michigan, would walk the entire distance with the aid of crutches and the helping hands of fellow marchers. “

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Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking to a crowd on March 9, 1965, “Turnaround Tuesday” when marchers were instructed to follow a court order after “Bloody Sunday” to stop their march to Montgomery in fear of more violence. Image in the Public Domain.

The 50th Anniversary of the Alabama March

Because They Marched is a straightforward account of the events that took place January-March in 1965, leading up the Voting Rights Act of August 6 that same year. On January 2, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before a crowd of 700 in the Brown Chapel saying, “We must be ready to march. We must be ready to go to jail by the thousands…Our cry to the state of Alabama is a simple one. Give us the ballot.”By March 25, 1965 there were an estimated 25,000 demonstrators who crowded the streets in front of Alabama’s state capitol in Montgomery, including 300 who had marched the entire way from Selma.

The book is divided into eight chapters, which explain in detail the various meetings, marches and brutal events, including those of Bloody Sunday, that took place in in 1965 in segregated Alabama. Key civil rights activists, laws and crucial incidents fill the fascinating pages of the book, along with black and white photographs. There is an Epilogue in the back of the book explaining the 2013 Supreme Court ruling allowing legal changes to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There is also a helpful timeline and a bibliography.

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Image of the Brown Chapel in Selma Alabama where the civil rights marches began in the Public Domain

What This Book Teaches

The events that took place in Alabama in 1965 represent a turning point in civil rights in America. Children so often hear generalities about these events, but seldom do they learn the important, albeit unpleasant, details of what black Americans endured just to have the right to vote. Nor do they hear about the white people who stood with them to march in support of their freedoms. Despite the Fifteenth Amendment that passed in 1870, stating that no U.S. citizen would be denied the right to vote, Jim Crow Laws in the south prevented African Americans from doing just that.

Children will learn that the injustices that transpired during this fight for the right to vote, wasn’t all that long ago in history. Because They Marched helps them understand the courage both black and white citizens demonstrated and the great sacrifices they made in our country’s past that shaped the very rights they enjoy as citizens today. It makes them feel grateful for their freedoms and inspires them to stand up for what justices they believe in, no matter the adversities they may face. More importantly, what makes this book a true winner is that it teaches children that racism is wrong and should not be tolerated.
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Original image of the March from Selma to Montgomery from the Library of Congress now in the Public Domain. 

Why You Should Buy This Book

What impresses me most about Because They Marched is that author Russell Freedman does not sugarcoat the truth, nor does he talk down to the reader. The facts are fascinating, and although the realities of the inhumane brutalities that took place during the marches are difficult to read about, these are important truths in our nation’s history. Reading this book is a marvelous lesson in American history, and unless our children understand the mistakes of our past, they are sure to be repeated. Because They Marched opens the door to discussions about the injustices that remain today and gives rise to new ways of thinking about equality. It’s no secret that racism remains alive and well in various forms across our country, and books like these are what will encourage children to stand up for what is just and fair and speak out against what is not. Because They Marched should be read by every American child and be used in every age-appropriate classroom as an important teaching tool.

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About the Author

Rusell FreedmanRussell Freedman is well known for his riveting biographies and masterful accounts of the history of the United States. One of the most honored writers for children, his many awards include the Newbery Medal, three Newbery Honors, the Robert F. Sibert Award, a Sibert Honor, the Orbis Pictus Award, the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award, the National Humanities Medal, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for a “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” Russell Freedman lives in New York City and travels the globe to gather material for his works.

Further Learning

  1. Read the Educator’s Guide that comes with this book.
  2. Locate Selma and Montgomery on a map of the US.
  3. Read the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  4. Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights website.

Also check out this outstanding title:

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