Although publishers could never have imagined the tragic events that spurred the patriotism sweeping America, they have conveniently packed a lot of US lore into their new releases.
What was it like to take part in the Boston Tea Party? Readers of Joining the Boston Tea Party (HarperCollins, $15.95) will find out. Award-winning author Diane Stanley adds a second installment to her Time-Traveling Twins series. Here, redheads Lenny and Liz visit their grandmother in anticipation of going back to 18th-century Boston (with the aid of a magic hat). Their adventure involves historic figures, old-fashioned clothes, and yester-year customs. Illustrator Holly Berry adds whimsy to the story with bright, cartoon-style illustrations. (Last year's "Roughing It on the Oregon Trail" is equally engaging.)
American literature is rich in tall tales - those greatly exaggerated stories of larger-than-life characters and heroic deeds. If these appeal to you, add Davy Crockett Saves the World (HarperCollins, $16.95), by Rosalyn Schanzer, to your reading list. Schanzer pairs Crockett with a cosmic visit from Halley's comet. In this original tale, the comet threatens to destroy the world, and the US president asks Crockett for assistance. After a meal of "pickled rattlesnake brains fried by lightening," his super-human strength helps to prevent the disaster. He also wins "purty" Sally Sugartree's heart. Bright, Disney-like illustrations give this frontier tale a modern look.
Books for Older Readers
The Pleasant Company has provided an ideal series for dark winter nights: History Mysteries. This line was introduced in 1999 and voted "favorite new series" by children's booksellers in a Publishers Weekly survey. The series introduces strong female characters that solve exciting mysteries at significant points in America's history.
One of this season's new additions is Mystery on Skull Island ($5.95 paperback), which takes place in 1724 in Charles Town, S.C. Twelve-year-old Rachel has come to live with her widowed father, and she and her new best friend, Sally, daughter of a tavern owner, wind up in an adventure involving shipping fortunes, pirates, and hidden treasure.
Shane (Houghton Mifflin, $22), by Jack Schaefer, has been on some schools' required reading lists for decades. Written in the 1940s, it's about the West in the late 1880s. …