Having been a full time participant in this Encounters and Exchanges TAH Grant for the last three years I read some really excellent historical books. As mentioned in previous posts, I was indeed a History major in college (Ten years out this June- yikes!) As an elementary school teacher, I feel pretty far removed from my in depth study of history. Participating in the grant, and especially in the book clubs all three years, has really helped me to gain much knowledge that I happily bring back directly to my students.
I haven't found all of the books chosen for book club easy to read. Some of them were difficult due to the content of the book, and some were more difficult because of the style of the author.
In the elementary book club we read the excellent book Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. I had heard about this book several years ago, in fact I believe the author may have spoken at the Parker Middle School in Reading within the last two years. I wish now that I had gone to see him speak.I was pleased to find that Mayflower had very interesting content and a narrative kind of style to the text. Mayflower goes far beyond the traditional "Pilgrim" stories of natives and thanksgiving. Philbrick begins his study with the people that most Americans know as Pilgrims, but who most often referred to themselves as Separatists and their humble beginnings in Scrooby, England. He gave very interesting details of the group's travails to Leiden in the Netherlands.
The part of this book that I found the most interesting was background information about Squanto. The basic story being that he was kidnapped by European fishermen who were visiting the coast of New England. He made his way from Spain to London, and eventually back to New England. ( I love sharing with the kids that, "he got a ride home"!) Philbrick sheds light on Squanto, and perhaps his ulterior motives to assisting the Separatists. There was a great deal of discussion about how helping the Pilgrims, ultimately would help Squanto.
Apparently, Nathaniel Philbrick is not a historian. To be honest, I may have enjoyed it this book more because of this. The books is written more as a narrative, and I really enjoyed the "story" feel to this. I love anecdotes, and I enjoy teaching the kids about "the smaller stories" in history (the people behind the people).
I think that any teacher of Social Studies, at any level, would really enjoy this book and find that it adds something to their teaching.