Today, I’m excited to be a part of Growing Book by Book’s Booking Across the USA.
What is Booking Across the USA?
I’m glad you asked!
This event is compiled of bloggers, parents, homeschoolers, teachers, and book-lovers representing all 50 states. Once you’re done here, you can scroll down to the list at the bottom of this post and travel across the country, visiting sites and collecting books an activities focused on that particular blogger’s state.
When asked to participate, I immediately said yes, and then began searching my memory (and the internet) for picture books relating specifically to my state of Virginia.
I eventually returned to this book, one I used multiple times in my teaching days while studying state history with my 4th and 5th grade students.
written by Robin Friedman, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola
Houghton Mifflin, 2005
Four-year-old Lula McLean lived on a plantation overlooking Bull Run Creek. There her family grew wheat, corn, and oats. In July 1861, troops fighting in the newly begun Civil War arrived on the McLeans’ front lawn in Manassas, Virginia. The peaceful countryside where Lula often spent time playing with her favorite rag doll became a campsite full of cannon and trenches and tents.
Wilmer McLean decided to relocate his family to a tiny village called Appomattox Court House, away from the war and the troops. But a few years later, on April 9, 1865, as Lula played with her rag doll, two visitors in tall boots made their way into her house. Lula and her doll were about to become part of American history.
Robin Friedman and Claire A. Nivola reveal, through the story of Lula and her beloved doll, the story of a nineteenth-century family who saw the Civil War unfold before their very eyes.
Why I chose this book:
So here’s the thing: I grew up just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (a “Yankee”). Then I married someone who not only grew up right outside of Atlanta (a “Rebel”), but is a history buff. We now live the next town over from Manassas, Virginia (also known as Bull Run, for those of us who grew up north of the Mason Dixon line).
I’ve picked up alot of history since I first met my husband 12 years ago. But while he loves the tactics, and strategies, and the “numbers” of history, I prefer people’s stories.
And that’s exactly what The Silent Witness offers. Can you imagine poor Wilmer McLean? He relocates his family after the war literally arrives on his front lawn, so close that a stray cannonball actually explodes in a pot of stew cooking in the home. The town of Appomattox Court House is perfect…you know, until the war finds them there 4 years later. Finds, in fact, their front parlor, where the surrender was signed.
And poor Lula, who carries her ragdoll everywhere. Who is having a tea party in the parlor of her home when the soldiers arrive. Who fleas from the room, leaving her doll, only to find upon her return that her doll has been removed as a souvenir (along with several other items) by the soldiers.
(The doll floated around for several years, until 1992, when it was returned to the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park)
I love this kind of history. It’s so much more real for me than all the facts and figures and statistics I had to learn.
But facts and figures are important, too, and The Silent Witness has plenty of those. It’s a (very) brief history of the Civil War, including names like Sherman, Beauregard, Lincoln, and Lee; Fort Sumter, Manassas, Gettysburg, and Appomattox. The illustrations are a folksy style and, like the text, focus on the people of the story.
Okay, I’ve read it, now what do I do?
Some activity ideas:
- Make a n0-sew ragdoll of your own (I like this tutorial from Rhythm of the Home)
- Utilize your National Park Service. Okay, so if you’re in California, you’re probably not going to be able to hop in the car and visit Lula’s doll in person. But chances are, you have a National Park near you, and they are CHOCK FULL of history. My children are 3 (almost 4) and 1. They don’t get all that “history stuff” yet. But we have pictures of my oldest as young as six months visiting a National Park. (Full disclosure: we actually have a picture of her “visiting” one when I was pregnant with her, and almost a week overdue, but my expression in that one doesn’t actually promote visiting the park).
- Take a virtual field trip. You’re part of the country may be different, but it’s still a little cool here now. Not exactly hiking weather, at least not with 2 small children. So while you’re stuck inside, take a virtual field trip using the National Park Service’s Webrangers program. Search for activities by word, category, or ability level. Register (free!) and there’s access to even more.
And speaking of field trips… it’s time for me to say goodbye and send you off to the next stop on your 50-state journey.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Check out these other folks!
Alabama: Everyday Snapshots
Alaska: Little Wonders’ Days
Arizona: Simply Kinder
Arkansas: Homeschooling in Arkansas
Connecticut: The Teacher Park
Delaware: Mama Miss
Florida: Teaching Stars
Georgia: Fabulously First
Hawaii: Teaching With Style
Idaho: True Aim Education
Illinois: Growing Book by Book
Indiana: Teach Preschool
Kentucky: Chicken Babies
Louisiana: New Orleans Moms Blog
Maryland: Picture Books and Piourettes
Massachusetts: Mama Smiles
Michigan: Play DrMom
Minnesota: The Wise Owl Factory
Mississippi: Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk
Missouri- Ready. Set. Read!
Montana: The Honey Bunch
Nebraska: The Good Long Road
Nevada: Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy Crafts
New Hampshire: Elementary Matters
New Jersey: The Pleasantest Thing
New Mexico: Enchanted Homeschooling Mom
New York: What Do We Do All Day
North Carolina: Realistic Teacher Blog
North Dakota: ND HealthWorks
Oklahoma: Herding Kats in Kindergarten
Oregon: Journey of a Substitute Teacher
Pennsylvania: Land of Once Upon a Time
Rhode Island: Smiling in Second Grade
South Dakota: The Wise Owl Factory
Tennessee: No Monkey Business
Utah: Teach Beside Me
Vermont: Burlington Vt Moms Blog
Wisconsin: Reading Confetti
Wyoming: No Twiddle Twaddle