History has layers, like an onion: peel one off, and you suddenly have a slightly different perspective. Teaching young people about events in the past that shaped our world requires the exploration of various layers simply recounting an event isn't enough. Jim Murphy's <B>Inside the Alamo</B> does just that, going well beyond the average junior high textbook explanation of events that had broader implications for this country than were immediately obvious.
In the 1830s, the United States was straining at its boundaries. All but two of the 24 states were east of the Mississippi River, and people were flocking to the territories beyond. South and west, towards the Rio Grande, was an area claimed by Mexico, but under-populated at least until Americans began to immigrate. The expansion was rapid, and within a few years Americans outnumbered the Mexican residents of the area, thus setting in motion the events that culminated at the Alamo.
Murphy's book opens with the arrival of the army of Mexican general Santa Anna at the outskirts of the Alamo as he lays siege to its small band of defenders. Murphy details the personalities inside and outside the Alamo walls, the events that brought them there, and as the final battle begins, their eventual fates. He covers the major players: David Crockett, Jim Bowie and William Travis, all of whom died defending the fort, as well as Santa Anna, the general who was also Mexico's dictator, and Sam Houston, who would eventually defeat Santa Anna through a combination of luck and hubris. Murphy doesn't neglect the lesser-known actors in this drama either, from the woman who nursed Bowie to the black man who was Travis' slave. Thanks to these details, a full-bodied profile of the battle and its participants emerges.
Murphy's book is a treasure trove of illustrations, diagrams, maps and photos, and his direct prose is enlightening and entertaining. <B>Inside the Alamo</B> is a children's book that adult history buffs will enjoy even those who aren't from Texas.