Monday, August 22, 2011

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak

Somewhere in the archives of this blog is a list of picture books to support Virginia’s Sixth Grade Social Studies curriculum. Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak will now be included. I LOVE this book nominated for a 2012 Virginia Readers Choice Award for elementary school students. Admittedly, I’m a social studies geek and partial to American Colonial history…..but even so, this book has much to offer kids from ages eight to ninety-eight.

Ethan is the printer’s newspaper boy sent out for deliveries of an important notice for Boston colonists on December 16, 1773. In the endpapers of the book, we see that he sets out at 5:30 am and doesn’t finish his duties until 9:00 pm when at the last of several meetings of the  he week, he is caught up in the Boston Tea Party.

What is lovely about this beautifully illustrated book are the many layers of information. Each stop on Ethan’s delivery route describes a different person that lived and worked in 1773 Boston. As the work of each man, woman, free person and slave are described, their attitude toward patriotic rebellion is related so that not only does the overall message of the book describe a historic event but it provides an complex understanding from multiple perspectives. The final words of the story, “WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW?” lead the reader to question where this event led the American colonists. Brilliant! A short and age appropriate Historical Notes section gives the curious and more advanced readers additional facts and information. Also, brilliant.

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak reminds me very much of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, the 2007 Newberry Award winner and reads equally well. I’m not certain that every elementary school child would pick this book up for reading entertainment….since it is school related. However, it’s a tremendously entertaining way of learning history that I hope teachers will include in their classrooms.

If I were teaching colonial history to young children, I would ask small groups act out Ethan’s delivery of notices throughout Boston as well as the Tea Party itself. Children will get a flavor for how ancestors felt at the time of this critical event in our nation’s history. Colonial Voices would be a super addition to middle school and even high school library for low readers or new to English readers who need to catch up on American history in a short amount of time before taking those stressful state tests. Much can be explained about America’s rebellion of British colonial rule through the incident of Boston’s Tea Party.

There are some excellent sources on the web to find out more about this book and its author, Kay Winters, who has written many great picture books for children. Have fun with this one. I sure have!

Animated book chat/review for children of Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak

Author Kay Winters website, The Magic of Story, includes information about the author and all of her books. A kid and grown up friendly site:

Winters, K. Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak. New York: Dutton Children’s Books. 2008. Print.

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