by David C. King
Marilyn Courtot — Children’s Literature
American history can fill volumes, but this single volume offers a concise overview of most major events. The story actually goes back to about 1000 years to the first European explorer—Lief Eriksson's arrival in North America. It was almost 500 years before the Americas were discovered again and this time by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The layout of the book is enticing and the easy to read text, abundance of photographs and other illustrations will attract readers to nearly every spread. A very useful feature is the opening explanation describing how to use the book, which is really a guide to the spreads. The timelines that run along the bottom helps to put world events and the time period the spread relate to is clearly denoted. Each spread focuses on a theme or events that occurred during that time period. In addition to world events and what the US was doing at the time, readers will glean other interesting facts about prominent people, inventions and trends. There are definitions, references to related pages and in most of the chapters special feature spreads which can be recognized by their yellow border. For the period 1870-1901 a feature entitled Victorian America shows what life was like by depicting the interior of a home, describing the art and literature (Mark Twain, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Edith Wharton), the new forms of entertainment including the circus, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the Chicago Exposition and the Ferris Wheel as well as spectator sports such as baseball. The encyclopedia is quite up to date with a discussion of the 2000 presidential election, the terrorist attack on New York and references to Osama Bin Laden. The backmatter includes alisting of all the presidents, their terms state of birth, party and a small picture; information about the states including date that they joined the union, state tree, bird, flower, and nickname and important documents such as the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Gettysburg Address. There is an extensive index to facilitate research.