CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 9 . . . . November 2, 2012
The Century For Young People, written by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster, is a three-part series capturing pivotal historical events impacting America's social, political and economical development from 1900 to 1999. Peter Jennings was born in Canada in 1938, but he built his career as a broadcast journalist in the United States with the ABC network, 1959-2005. Todd Brewster was an ABC editorial news producer, print journalist and author of the bestselling book, The Century, an adult book featuring America from 1900 to 1999 published for New Year 2000. Jennings and Brewster were teamed together for the ABC network's millennium special. During Jennings career, he developed sensitivity for young people's exposure and understanding of the news stories he presented and started to create program specials to answer children's questions about current events. Thus, it is not surprising that Jennings and Brewster join forces to co-author The Century For Young People volumes.
The books bring 100 years of American history to life through presenting the historical facts of the times and complementing these major events with the real life stories of ordinary people and telling how they were affected. Combining the historical events with personal stories makes history readable and relatable to a generation of young people who may not yet grasp the significance of history to their current situation and their future expectations.
The Century For Young People, Becoming Modern America: 1901-1936 introduces America at the beginning of the 20th century and pays tribute to the Wright Brothers' flight through the perspective of Mabel Griep, a neighbour and spectator. Technology was to play a large role in America's future. The turn of the century also brought an explosion of immigration, as told firsthand by Alfred Levitt, and all of this was occurring at a time when America was still adjusting to the end of slavery, as told by Marjorie Stewart Joyner. In this volume, people also share their stories about the impact of World War I, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, the Great Depression and the events leading into World War II.
The Century For Young People, Defining America: 1936-1961 carries readers into World War II with the stories of Bob Trout, an early news broadcaster, and Victor Reuther, a union organizer. The authors included stories from both those in Europe and America, therby giving different perspectives about World War II and making this series more valuable as a learning resource. The postwar years brought economic prosperity as described by Walter Girardin, a veteran returning home and making up for lost time, and Harriet Osborn who embraced the development of the American suburban lifestyle. The stories of Howard "Stretch" Johnson, who helped organize the black veterans' organization, and Inez Jessie Baskin, who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott, offered glimpses of the social change about to take place in America.
The Century For Young People, Changing America: 1961-1999 starts with the social changes in America due to the civil rights movement with John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Diane Nash tells her story as one of the student Freedom Riders against segregation. Marie Wilson's story reveals how the civil rights movement and women's movement both played a role in her life. The Gay Rights movement also started during this time. War continued to shape America. There was the Cold War, Vietnam, and Iran. The series closes by acknowledging the rapid pace of technological change and the power that it will have into the 21st century.
This series is written for the youth of the 21st century who may, or may not, remember the hype of New Years 2000, the dawn of a new century It can be assumed that New Years 1900 created similar enthusiasm for the future. The series is about America, but it includes a global view about the external influences on America during the 20th century and the role America played internally and internationally which shaped the nation.
The benefit of dividing the 20th century into three volumes is that it helps young readers and researchers to narrow in on their interest. The combination of the authors' narration and the personal stories brings the events of the century to life.
The three books are valuable educational resources and enjoyable reads.
Heidi Henkenhaf is an Auxiliary Reference Librarian and Children's Librarian at the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, BC.
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