The girls and I finished reading Lincoln’s Legacy, the first in the “Blast to the Past” series, last night. Overall, it was a good read-aloud for basic American history information. It gave them some basic history about Lincoln, the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation and they enjoyed it.
The basic premise is that 4 kids (or 5? they’re not well developed as characters) have to go back in time to convince a burned out, depressed Lincoln not to resign as president and that he must issue the Emancipation Proclamation. They have to search for him in 1862 Washington DC, deal with various characters from that time, and try to encourage Lincoln to keep going so history is not changed.
The writing is very basic and it’s not a book I particularly enjoyed reading. In all honesty, I found it dull! I love children’s books, but only ones that are well written. This is a step down from the Magic Treehouse series, which is not saying a lot in terms of quality writing.
It also glossed over a lot of important parts of history, maybe to keep from offending anybody or maybe to keep it basic for young kids. For instance, the book kept talking about Lincoln needing to issue the Emancipation Proclamation to free the southern slaves. Victoria finally asked why it kept saying southern slaves instead of all slaves. I had to stop reading and go into how the EP only freed the slaves in the south and why. (There are some good explanations written for kids about the issue here and here.) I’m not sure if the author didn’t know how to explain Lincoln’s legal reason for only freeing the southern slaves or if she thought it was too complicated or unimportant, but it put me on the spot to have to fill in the gaps that she left open. There is a bit of a historic epilogue at the end that we didn’t get to last night, so it’s possible that she’ll go into it there. Still, many readers aren’t going to read the wordy historical afterthought, and I’d like to see it dealt with in the book itself.
That said, the kids liked the book and always asked for me to keep reading. It was a good way to make history and historical characters come alive. I think they do have a clearer image of who Lincoln was and what Washington DC was like in that time period thanks to this book.
Next in the series is a book about Disney. I’m pretty annoyed that in all of American history, this guy rated second, but they like the series and so I’ll go with it. I like Walt Disney just fine, I’m just not sure he’s that crucial to American history.
We found the series in the library and I recommend you do the same. They’re worth checking out, despite my nitpicking.