Book: The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History
Author: Adam Selzer et al
Source: Local Library
What’s there to summarize? It’s American history. We know all this stuff. Columbus discovered, the sons of liberty rebelled, there were some wars. Oh, and some guys got elected. Nothing new here people, move along.
Except this is history with all the snark included. In addition to bringing the mockery to such ripe topics as the Puritans (“stupid hats of history”) and the Industrial Revolution (“Rich Industrial Jerks”), Selzer and co talk about the stickier bits of American history, the nasty stuff that we’d really rather sweep under the rug. Special kudos for the way they discuss the slave question way earlier than most history books. They also don’t pussyfoot around with apologies. In the Civil War section, they basically come out and say, “Dude, it was about slavery,” and boldly invite the pissed-off reader letters defending the South.
I generally don’t write about nonfiction on this blog, because I don’t read much nonfiction, and also because I’m more comfortable examining fiction. But I picked this up after a considerable reading slump, and found that I wasn’t able to put it down. Wha?! It’s not like the plot was a surprise to me. But the delivery kept me glued to the page.
Although Selzer and Co. cover some dark and complicated periods of
history that kids generally don't encounter until high school, I'm going
to say that it would probably work well for middle schoolers as well,
for two reasons. One, the clear way they explain the events and what led
up to them will lead kids through unfamiliar territory. Also the
irreverent, entertaining style will keep their attention. This is a rare combination, an entertaining and tongue-in-cheek history book that also takes a more nuanced look at American history than most of what’s written for kids and teens. Loved it.