CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 18. . . .January 11, 2013
Explore the Wild West! With 25 Great Projects.
Anita Yasuda. Illustrated by Alex Kim.
White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press, 2012.
92 pp. pbk., $13.95.
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Suzanne Pierson.
The Daily Schedule
After an early breakfast of cornmeal mush, johnnycakes, or cold biscuits, as well as coffee and bacon, the wagons headed out. Each day a different family led the way. Wagon trains took a break called a "nooning" about midday. While the oxen rested, pioneers enjoyed a cold meal of beans or bacon. Children gathered buffalo chips or cow manure to use for fuel on the evening campfire.
Canadian born and educated author Anita Yasuda has collaborated with illustrator Alex Kim to create a resource that, despite being focussed on the expansion of the American West, may earn a place in your library if you are looking for a very well designed, user-friendly book about pioneer life and settlement of the west for young students. Measurements are given in imperial and metric, and many of the pioneer experiences are similar regardless of which side of the border you are on.
In addition to a table of contents, glossary, list of resources that includes books and websites, and an index, Explore the Wild West! includes many design elements that will help readers find and comprehend the information presented.
Words to Know boxes explain words that are printed in bold in the text. For example: "buffalo chip: a bison dropping that could be burned." These words and definitions are compiled in the glossary at the back of the book for easy reference later.
Did you know? boxes highlight additional information. For example:
In 1847, Henderson Luelling brought the first fruit trees west from Iowa to Oregon by wagon. Three years later, his brother Seth started a fruit tree nursery where he grew the large, black, sweet cherries called Bing cherries. He named this type of cherry after Ah Bing, the Chinese foreman who helped run the nursery. Today, more Bing cherries are grown in the United States than any other type of cherry.
Explore the Wild West! includes 25 easy pioneer and settler related activities on the Make Your Own or Learn to Play pages. Some involve using an Exacto knife or an iron with supervision, but all are completed with easily obtainable materials. One of the most memorable activities is sure to be the Make Your Own Sheriff's Office made from logs of Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows, chocolate icing and licorice.
Another feature is the Presenting boxes which highlight American personalities in the history of the west. Canadian students will recognize some of the names, for example, Annie Oakley and Crazy Horse. (My 11-year-old grandson knows some details of Crazy Horse's role in history.)
The roles played in the development of the west by men and women from several different cultures are included. One chapter, "Native People in the West," focusses on the effect of settlement on Native Americans. In addition to details of the resulting conflict, the chapter also includes information about clothing, shelter, transportation, food and children's games.
In the chapter, "Cowboys," Yasuda explains that cowboys "were young men from different backgrounds. Some were Mexican and others Native American. Many were recent immigrant who came from all over the world." The author also notes that some were African Americans, and "some cowboys were girls!"
Unfortunately, no Canadian examples were added to the content to make it more relevant to Canadian students. For example, the chapter on "Native People in the West" includes the statement: "The Great Plains is a huge area of grassy land in the middle of North America." The accompanying map cuts off The Great Plain at the Canada/US border. The map shows Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, but The Great Plains ends at both the north and south borders.
Explore the Wild West! is a well-written and well-designed resource worth consideration depending on your needs. Without the inclusion of a few Canadian examples and references, however, I cannot Highly Recommend this book. Perhaps the publisher will consider a revised version with some recognition of the similarities between the history of the settlement of the West in the United States and Canada.
Suzanne Pierson is a retired teacher-librarian, currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.
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