Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride Offers
Extensive History Lesson
My children are all too young for serious history lessons. Especially the youngest, at 19 months. Like all of you, I still try to inject the older two (5 ½ and 4) with appropriately-sized bits of information whenever possible. Through walks around the monuments, trips to historical place and dozens of books in between, they’ve picked up an impressive amount of information. (Does knowing that Abraham Lincoln wore a top hat count? Sure!)
I expected Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride to fit alongside these trips of ours—to be nonfiction and educational, but geared to a young crowd. I was right about nonfiction and educational, but should have paid more attention to the target age group for the book: ages 5 to 8. There is a lot of information in the book. My daughter, Lorelei, has an impressive attention span and is an advanced reader, and she soaked it up. I was able to quiz her comprehension in a not-so-annoying way when today at the Air and Space Museum she overheard a girl tell a guide that she’d spent part of her winter break in Williamsburg.
“Mom! Williamsburg! Like in the book!”
I gave myself an imaginary gold star and patted her on the back. (Maybe I should have patted her on the back first, but…that gives you a glimpse into my self-inflated psyche.)
This book provided Lorelei her biggest, broadest dose of history to date. Ellis “packs up his trunk” and takes a trip to Williamsburg. He notices that instead of the normal 50 stars on the flag, there are just 13. He’s confused, but the guide soon explains they represent the 13 original colonies. As the horse trots along, pulling their buggy, Ellis magically visits each colony.
Each of the colonies gets just one or two stanzas of text, so Gingrich has to pull what she thinks is the most basic of facts for kids to know. Some stand out (Delaware has Mason and Dixon drawing their famous line; North Carolina holds the famous Blackbeard Pirate), but most are pretty bland (Connecticut shows farmers…farming and New Hampshire shows teachers…teaching).
The main thing that I found missing, that I think would have helped the book feel less disjointed: a map! Admittedly, I am a lover of maps and I think geography is incredibly important. I wish that, at the very least, there was a map of the colonies so that we could see Ellis’ path through them. At best, a map showing what the United States looked like then, versus now. The good news is that a map of the thirteen colonies is simply a click or two away, so you can provide your child this visual as they read this book if you think it’ll help (I think it will).
Susan Arciero’s illustrations also help the facts reach little minds. Ellis the elephant funnily blends into the pictures—the most amusing, for me: when Pocahontas rescues her friend Captain John Smith from certain peril. Ellis wears the headdresses just like the Native Americans behind him, as if no one notices that he has a trunk instead of a nose.
Gingrich’s ambition was admirable, and teaching very young kids about history is important and difficult. I’ve been a tough critic on this one! For my kindergartener, there was a good discussion about “life in the old days” after we read this book together. Those types of discussions and lessons are good and valuable, but I think Gingrich had higher hopes for specific history lessons. For me, she falls short on this one. Perhaps the answer is simply to read this book with the upper end of her target audience—the 7- to 8-year olds, rather than the 5-year olds.
Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride
By Callista Gingrich, Illustrated by Susan Arciero
Regnery Publishing www.regnery.com
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $11
|Easy to Read||3|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||4|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||4|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||no|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at