hy is it that adults think they are the only ones with opinions on the moments that shaped this nation's history? Just because kids often weren't the ones making the history doesn't mean it didn't affect them, or that they don't have their own views. This is the premise of Phillip Hoose's We Were There, Too! From a boy's sailing off on Columbus' ships in 1492, to a girl's fight for environmental justice in the 1990s, dozens of young people tell their versions of some of the most important events, as well as ideas on everyday life, in America. Some of the raconteurs tell of the dangers of fighting for freedom in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, at the Alamo and in both World Wars. Others regale the reader with triumphs over adversities, such as securing the right to vote for women, or for African Americans to attend the schools of their choice. Some youngsters relate the downright mundane, such as getting along during the Great Depression. In a section about life on the home-front during WWII, Hoose uses baseball as an example. In 1944, Jim Nuxall, age 15, became the youngest person to play major league baseball as he pitched for the Cincinnati Reds. That same year, Anna Mayer, also 15, took the field for the Kenosha Comets of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
There are several chapters dealing with newcomers to America during the periods of mass immigration: two Chinese boys traveling to San Francisco during the Gold Rush and more recently, a Cambodian refugee telling of the difficulties of adjusting to life in the U.
S. after growing up under the thumb of the Khmer Rouge. Hoose supplements the oral histories with background, sidebars and illustrations about the specific event or situation. He even answers the natural unasked questions: Whatever happened to Joe Nuxall, Anna Meyer and the rest of the contributors? If textbooks were more like We Were There, Too!, it is easy to imagine school kids relating to the lessons offered by their peers, making history interesting and appealing to young readers.
Ron Kaplan was there, too! when man landed on the moon. As a child, he watched the historic event on TV.