HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: James Watt
Author: Jeanette Covert Nolan
Illustrator: Grace Paull
Publisher: Row, Peterson and Company, 1953
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Nolan, Jeannette Covert. James Watt (published in 1953 by Row, Peterson and Company, Evanston, IL). This short (36-page) biography of James Watt begins with him at nine years old. Because of ill health, he had never been to school, but while his aunt supposed that he could not read or write, his mother responds, “Oh, yes, Jamie can both read and write. Very well too. I give him lessons every day.” James Watt was homeschooled up to age nine! James did go to school after that and then went on to overcome his sickness, the death of his mother, and his father’s financial reverses which kept him from going to college. After learning to be an instrument maker, he finally achieved his goal of inventing the first practical steam engine.
I was going to say that this book, one of a series of “Real People” biographies for young people prepared under the direction of Frances Cavanaugh, was like the excellent biographies that used to be used in schools when students actually studied about the men and women who made Western Civilization great, when, lo and behold, I found a website which said that “Real People” was a “Wonderful series of books used in the California school system back in the 1950s” (it said that James Watt was “Published by California State Department of Education, Sacramento, 1956,” which was probably a republication date). Unfortunately today, men like James Watt are relegated by the revisionist historians of the left to the status of “Dead white European males” who are blamed for all that is evil in the world. These books are out of print, but if you can find them used, they are really good.
Other “Real People” books include Peter the Great by Elizabeth Seeger; Akbar of India by Cornelia Spencer; Joan of Arc by Anne Emery; Johann Gutenberg by Elywn A. Smith; Frederick the Great by Margaret Leighton; Simon Bolivar, and Sun Yat Sen, both by Clara Ingram Judson; Captain James Cook by Armstrong Sperry (Newbery Medal winning author of one of my favorite books, Call It Courage); (Guglielmo) Marconi by Joseph Cottler; Benjamin Disraeli by Elizabeth L. Crandall; David Livingstone by Elizabeth Yates (another wonderful author who won a Newbery Medal for Amos Fortune, Free Man); and Prince Henry, and Roald Amundsen, both by Jeanette C. Nolan; as well as books on Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Queen Elizabeth, Ikhnaton of Egypt, Lafayette, Florence Nightingale, and perhaps others. Jeannette Nolan was also the author of books like The Gay Poet: the Story of Eugene Field (1940, back before the word “gay” was hijacked and burdened with its current meaning); George Rogers Clark: Soldier and Hero (1954); The Shot Heard Round the World: the Story of Lexington and Concord (1963); and Yankee Spy, Elizabeth Van Lew.