HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Kentucky Adventures
Author: Amy Barkman
Illustrator: Malinda A. Raines
Publisher: Next Step Books, 2014
Related website: http://www.NextStepBooks.org (publisher)
Language level: 1
(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)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Barkman, Amy. Kentucky Adventures (published in 2014 by Next Step Books, P. O. Box 7027, West Valley City, UT 84170). Ten year old Mary Beth Thompson lives in Danville, KY, with her parents and older brother David. Her best friend is Christy Lane, and David’s best friend is Sidney (known as Slicker) Bell. The four children volunteer at an archaeological dig in their hometown. To keep the work from becoming tedious and boring, supervisor Cliff Niquette suggests that they play the “What if?” game, so Mary Beth imagines that she is a Paleo-Indian girl named Ke from around 10,000 B.C. Then on a trip by the three families to Cumberland Gap, Slicker meets a Shawnee imagines that he is an Indian boy named Bear Paw in 1777. Next, when the families visit Fort Harrod, Christy imagines that she is a girl named Rebecca who has moved with her family from Pennsylvania to Kentucky in 1784 and whose father is missing.
Finally, at the Independence Day celebration on Constitution Square in Danville, each of the kids goes to a different historic building and imagines what it would be like to have lived at various times in Kentucky’s history, especially as they relate to slavery. But are all these adventures only imaginary, or are they something else? I picked this book up this past summer while at a family reunion in Natural Bridge State Resort Park near Slade, KY. Author Amy Barkman, who lives in Danville, KY, and is an avid reader of historical fiction, does a wonderful job of blending fictional characters with real historical events and persons. She was the volunteer coordinator of an archeological dig at Danville in 1986 which forms the background for this story.
Kentucky Adventures, which has no objectionable elements in it, includes a section in the back with facts on the history of Kentucky and some discussion questions on the adventures. The characters are quite realistic, and the settings are very memorable. It is fascinating reading for anyone but would be especially useful to students, whether in public, private, or home school, who are studying Kentucky history. The past is always a lot more interesting when you get to know about the people who lived it, such as the great Shawnee Chief Cornstalk, Bathsheba Lincoln, Ann Lindsay McGinty, Jane Coomes, David Rice, and James G. Birney. Books like this one help to make history come alive for children. It certainly gets a “high five” from me.