HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: A Child’s First Book of American History
Author: Earl Schenck Miers
Illustrator: James Daugherty
Publisher: Beautiful Feet Books, republished 2013
Related website: http://bfbooks.com/ (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 7-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Miers, Earl Schenck. A Child’s First Book of American History (published in 1955 by The World Publishing Company; republished in 2013 by Beautiful Feet Books, 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401). Originally published as The Rainbow Book of American History in 1955 by the World Publishing Company, this book begins about A. D. (NOT C. E.) 1000 with the Viking Leif “the Lucky” Ericson, who almost certainly touched the coast of modern Canada, calling it Vineland. It continues with the ages of exploration, conquest, and colonization, through our nation’s independence, early growth, westward expansion, and Civil War, down to the time of World Wars I and II. However, it is not merely a dry, dusty recitation of people’s names, places, dates, and other purely factual information. Rather, following the narrative fashion in which history has been transmitted from generation to generation for thousands of years, it consists of fifty fascinating stories that focus on influential figures during a specific time period, such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Thomas Edison, and even Mark Twain, all of which showcase America’s uniqueness and greatness.
Each chapter ranges from five to ten pages and is inundated with attractive, eye-catching illustrations by James Daugherty, some single color but most full color, over 200 in all. Beautiful Feet Books has republished the volume as part of their homeschool history curriculum for primary and intermediate grades. Obviously it would serve not as a complete historical resource but as a good skeleton around which a year-long study of American history can easily be made. The family could read one chapter a week on Mondays, with a one week break in both winter and summer, and then use the rest of each week to dig deeper into the events of that particular time period. There are even discussions about the development of the McGuffey Readers, the Underground Railroad, whaling, the Pony Express, intercollegiate football, the “golden spike,” the automobile, the World Series of baseball, radio, and the airplane—something for nearly every interest.
One editorial note says, “Please remember this book was written in 1955 and though the tone of the book is respectful, the terminology is dated.” I interpret this to mean that the author, Earl Schenck Miers (1910-1972), truthfully told how things actually happened rather than presenting a “politically correct” version to keep from offending modern snowflakes and butterflies. Miers did not gloss over the blemishes of our nation’s past, but neither did he overemphasize them to the point of making America seem inherently evil. He was genuinely “fair and balanced.” And there is something else I liked. Cathy Duffy of 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum noted, “While it is not an overtly Christian book, it discusses religious events positively.” In fact, I deeply appreciate Miers’s closing observation. “The modern Viking, soaring through the clouds above America, sees everywhere the signs of the greatness of God. It is indeed the one truth in which we all believe. It is indeed our richest heritage.” I wish this were as true of America in 2017 as it was in 1955. We can hope and pray that it soon will be again.