Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Review: 100 People Who Changed America

A Fair Trade Book

Title: 100 People Who Changed America
       
Author: Scholastic Books staff, primarily Russell Freedman

More about Russell Freedman and his work: http://www.ric.edu/astal/authors/russellfreedman.html
       
Date: 2004
       
Publisher: Scholastic
       
ISBN: 0-439-70999-7
       
Length: 64 pages
       
Illustrations: lots of graphics, black-and-white photos
       
Quote: “The photos and facts included on these pages are snapshot invitations for you to explore more about an individual’s life.”
       
Russell Freedman, who wrote Lincoln, a Photobiography, wrote several of the mini-biographies in this book.
       
The best and worst thing about a book like this is the selection of subjects, so here are the people Freedman thinks children should read about: Bill Gates, William Randolph Hearst, John Jay, Juliette Gordon Low, Thurgood Marshall, Sandra Day O’Connor, John D. Rockefeller, Muriel Siebert, Madam C.J. Walker, Oprah Winfrey, Benjamin Banneker, Alexanderr Graham Bell, Clarence Birdseye, Nolan Bushnell, Willis Haviland Carrier, George Washington Carver, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin, Milton Hershey, Steve Jobs, Maya Lin, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Elisha Otis, Noah Webster, Eli Whitney, Frank Lloyd Wright, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Mary McLeod Bethune, Jimmy Carterr, Cesar Chavez, Shirley Chisholm, Frederrick Douglarss, Thomas Jefferson, Helen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Wilma Mankiller, Rosa Parks, Alice Paul, Pocahontas, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor, Franklin, and Theodore Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, George Washington, Maya Angelou, Chuck Berry, Margaret Bourke-White, Emily Dickinson, W.E.B. DuBois, Ella Fitzgerald, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Martha Graham, D.W. Griffith, Jim Henson, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, “Jelly Roll” Morton, Georgia O’Keeffe, Elvis Presley, Norman Rockwell, Steven Spielberg, Mark Twain, Andy Warrhol, Walt Whitman, Neil Armstrong, Clara Barton, Rachel Carson, William Clark (why not Meriwether Lewis?), Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Robert Goddard, Mae Jemison, Charles Lindbergh, Sally Ride, Sacajawea,Jonas Salk, James Watson, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Billie Jean King, Bruce Lee, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Tiger Woods, and Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
       
Obviously, parents who may have thought they could trust Scholastic to pick good role models for children may have some doubts about this list. According to page 41 “Jelly Roll” Morton “worked as gambler, pool shark, and comedian.” There are things about Morton that children might be encouraged to admire and emulate, but do you really want your kids thinking of “gambler” and “pool shark” as career options?
       
So, this is a book parents need to share with their children. Parents may meet some interesting historical figures whose names they didn’t know. (Did you guess that your air conditioner was named after a man? Did you realize that “Carrier” is a family name? Did you ever wonder who invented air conditioning?) Parents will also think of well-known Americans who might be better role models than the characters discussed in this book—what’s Morton doing in here anyway? Maybe Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were more controversial? If so, why isn’t Marian Anderson mentioned?

Even the facts in this book are not beyond questioning. According to 100 People Who Changed America, Abraham Lincoln was still the tallest President we’d ever elected. That was probably true when Freedman started writing Lincoln, a Photobiography, but it ceased to be true in 1992; Lincoln was 6’4”; Bill Clinton was 6’5”. This kind of thing does not make the book useless. In fact, some children may be attracted to the idea that they need to check and correct a Real Book...but parents should be aware that it is that sort of book.

Scholastic Books tend to be widely distributed, so this one's unlikely to reach the collector price range for a while. As a Fair Trade Book, it will cost $5 + $5 for shipping. (Shipping prices consolidate for as many items as fit into one package.) You can find better prices online, but I'm not aware that any other seller that distributes secondhand books pays royalties to living authors. If you e-mail salolianigodagewi @ yahoo that you want to buy this book here, Freedman or a charity of his choice will receive $1 out of your total cost of $10.