Dear America vs. My Name is America

Posted on August 30, 2012. Filed under: Boys' Books, Girls' Books, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , |

In general, I am against contract-written series. Both of these series fit the ticket. On the other hand, they both help teach kids about American History, and they are immensely popular. So, I’d like to share my opinions and favorite titles.

The two series are from the same publisher. They are all in diary or journal format. Dear America books are narrated by girls, My Name is America by boys. I recommend My Name is America to anyone who is more interested in history that cheap plot. Indeed, the My Name is America books have plot, but more historical fact. Dear America books are rarely set in wartime, whereas I have found three My Name is America books with 18-year-old boys fighting. One is in WW1 (haven’t read), one in WW2 (read, liked) , and one is in Vietnam (haven’t finished). There are numerous other books set anywhere from the Revolution to the Westward Expansion. Take one example– two pioneer stories, on the Oregon Trail. The girls’ version was mopey. Think– “Three oxen died today. When crossing a river, the Henderson wagon tipped over and their five little boys were swept away. Later, Mrs. Smith threw herself off a cliff out of grief for her little girl, who died of eating poison berries. Why did we ever decide to leave our home in Missouri for the harsh and cruel prairie?” The boys’ version has more of the American spirit. After losing his whole family when their wagon tipped over, he finds a way to keep going. Think– “The oxen are getting bad feet. So we treated them with a great amount of wax. It sure is hot out here with no water for miles. My wool shirt nearly smothers me, but it’s better to sweat that to burn from being in the sun.” Also, the boys’ books focus on the reality of the day, instead of magically having a sense of the future.

I have a few titles from the Dear America series to recommend. Sorry, I can’t post the boys’ ones now– I only have one checked out right now and I haven’t finished reading it. They are: I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly (set right after the Civil War), West To a Land of Plenty (the story of an Italian immigrant turned pioneer), A Journey to the New World (a pilgrim on the Mayflower), and Dreams in the Golden Country (a turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrant). These are good, un-sappy stories set in interesting times. Sorry about the lack of My Name is America books– I’ll have a list posted by the end of next week.

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