Recognizing that history is more interesting when learned through stories than through textbooks, Susan Kilbride has written two historical novels for American History as the beginning of a series.
Our America…. the Pilgrim Adventure and Our America…. The King Philip’s War Adventure both feature twins Finn and Ginny who travel through time to experience life with the Pilgrims in the 1620s and again with the colonists in New England in the 1670s. As with other time travel stories, the reader must set aside scientific skepticism and just enjoy the story. Finn and Ginny are somehow recognized and accepted by their own ancestors when they arrive back in time, so in each case, they enter right into life in each time period and stay for a protracted period of time. They experience the realities and hardships along with their historical front seat view of events. Refreshingly, these books portray both Finn’s experiences as a boy and Ginny’s as a girl rather than treating them gender neutrally since the reality is that in those times boys and girls actually experienced life quite differently.
Kilbride clearly has done a great deal of research. She actually introduces into the stories some of her own relatives whom she discovered through genealogical research. She populates her stories with a broad range of people who actually lived rather than the handful of the most famous people that children meet in most textbooks. While Kilbride has invented the dialogue of the story, the events and characters aside from Finn and Ginny are real. Her historical notes at the end of the books add even more information for those who are interested.
Each book is only about 130 pages in length and the reading level is appropriate for about fourth grade and up. You do need to be cautious about the content since this is realistic history. Parents should pre-read the books before giving them to younger students to make sure the content is appropriate for them.
While the books are relatively easy to read, they are very well written. I was surprised to find myself enjoying reading these books more than most historical fiction for this level.
On her website, Kilbride adds free “unit study” activities to accompany each book that include crafts, recipes, and games.
Even with the activities these books comprise only a part of an American History course. On her website, Kilbride has lists of recommended historical fiction by time period that you might use if you want to incorporate these two books along and/or others for a real books approach to Early American History or other time periods.
Books are available in print or ebook formats.
Note: A third volume, The Salem Adventure is also available as of July 2013.