Tuesday, January 13, 2015

History for kids

Historiann launches a discussion at her blog about books about history as gifts for kids, particularly girl kids. I'm a bit staggered by her correspondent who says how hard this is. I would have thought that in our culture, particularly given the renaissance in books for children that has been afoot the last few decades, any historically literate reader could build great toppling piles of appropriate choices. As indeed most of the commentators do.

Also I'm less surprised, but struck as usual, by the Planet America assumptions even these culturally sensitive and no doubt widely travelled commentators take for granted.  None of them comes up with a non-American title or topic!

I found it pretty easy to come up with a shelf of Canadian titles: Anne or anything by Lucy Maud, the recent Hello Canada and Our Canadian Girl series, anything by Kit Pearson, Shantymen of Cache Creek or the other novels in the Bains series by my friend Bill Freeman, Paul Yee's Tales from Gold Mountain, Afua Cooper's Angelique, and anything by Janet Lunn (not least The Story of Canada I got to write with her). That last seems to be the one nonfiction that comes quickly to mind, but in fact there have been floods of finely written and often beautifully illustrated "information books" on Canadian historical subjects. Here's a pretty terrific list of a hundred Canadian books for kids with quite a bit of historically linked content.

But young Canadian kids (and their parents) I have know are surely exposed as well to many of the American titles in the Historiann lists, and to Little Women and many more American historically-themed books, plus global stories like the Royal Diaries and Cue for Treason, and the Rosemary Sutcliffe novels, and The Diary of Anne Frank, and didn't some guy write a short history of the world just for kids? (And this other guy, E.H. Gombrich wrote A Little History of the World.) Well, it's too easy to list the output of non-American titles -- can American readers really be so sheltered from all these?  I don't think so....

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