"Mommy, I hope we can get all the books in their series..." my son said when he saw me working on this review of Heroes of History- George Washington by YWAM Publishing and the Digital Unit Study that goes along with the book "They are really good. The authors write so well. I like those stories so much."
And that, my friends, pretty much says it all. Our family, especially my oldest, just loves the YWAM Publishing Heroes of History books we have read so far and we all are eager to read more!
Why We Chose Heroes of History: George Washington
When I told my oldest son that we would be able to review another book and study guide from YWAM Publishing, he was thrilled. He just loved the John Adams we previously reviewed and has been eagerly awaiting a chance to read another book in the same series.When my son reviewed the long list of titles that were available to us for review, he saw many that he wanted us to read together, but, after being told he could pick only two possible choices he quickly narrowed his wish list down to include the then-current presidential candidate Ben Carson and our first American president George Washington.
Swept Up in Living History
What a pick the YWAM Publishing George Washington book was!
We happened to be outside enjoying a bit of early spring fever the day our 224-page soft cover copy of the book came in, and, although the book is geared for children 10 and up, we knew it would be find to read together with my younger children, too, just as we had with the John Adams one we had previously reviewed. In fact, when my younger two saw the book in my oldest's hands, they would have nothing other than us reading it together.
So, we grabbed blankets and sat in the early spring sunshine to begin journeying with George even if there were still bits of melting snow here and there about us.
After that, no day was complete until we’d read another portion of the book. At breakfast, lunch, or bedtime (and sometimes at all three!), my children eagerly listened to the life and times of George Washington unfold. (My oldest sometimes read ahead, too, I discovered!)
Between times, the children also sometimes commented on the front cover of the book, which provides gentle review of key historical events by the small illustrations included on on it. Between these, discussion, and the story itself, each of us became well-versed in the life and times of George Washington.
Indeed, we all enjoyed learning about George Washington and the time period in which he lived through this living history book! And, I do mean “we”. For, even I learned some new facts as we read together as a family.
I had not realized before that George Washington had been a key figure in beginning the French and Indian War. Nor did I realize that our first president had no biological children. Further, I found it interesting that, after serving as president, George Washington returned to a military post for a short period.
Indeed, each person in our family discovered new things as the story of George Washington's life and times unfolded for us and, often, even if we were busy and I only intended to read one chapter, we read more than one at a time, because I wanted to know what happened next as much as my children did.
Of course, not all of the history of George Washington's lice and era was new to my children and I, but the way Heroes in History authors Janet and Geoff Benge put it all together, just made everything come alive for us in fresh ways. Truly, their writing style was accessible and interesting,taking the book from being "just another non-fiction book" about our first president to being an engaging living history book that all three of my children and I would recommend.
A Digital Study Guide with Many Options
YWAM Publishing does not only publish fantastic living history books. They also offer comprehensive study guides to go along with them. We received one for the George Washington book that included two pdf downloads.
One of the pdfs is four pages long and includes:
- a fact sheet with illustration
- a time line
- and several maps.
The maps, especially, came in handy for us as we referenced places George lived and traveled during his lifetime.
The other pdf is 64 pages long and includes:
- key quotes, which we have put in a copywork binder for next year
- suggestions for a display area, which are meant for a classroom, but could be just as useful for a co-op or family to use
- questions for each chapter, based on vocabulary, facts, and basic comprehension, as well as ones that were open-ended, asking for an opinion or interpretation answers for all questions, except the open-ended one
- ideas and instructions for essays, creative writing projects, hands-on projects, and audio/visual projects
- ideas for community links
- mapping suggestions and challenges
- timeline activities
- related theme information
- ideas for a culminating event
- a complete list of books and resources
Truly, the digital study guide offers enough suggestions, information, and questions to make this book the center of any full-scale home, co-op, or classroom study. Or, as it did for my family, it can simply supplement the organic enjoyment of reading a well-written living history book together.
Truly, my children and I became so quickly swept up into the story of George Washington from the first day that we began reading it, that I ended up not wanting to slow us down with the formalities of unit-study like projects and tie-ins. Rather, I chose to let our experience be one of gentle time spent together reading and chatting.
Still, since I had the study guide - and since like the book it goes along with, it is well-written, I wanted to use at least a portion of it with my children now. So, in between our mini-marathons of simply reading the book aloud together, completely engaged by it, I chose to just look the study guide questions to see if any of the vocabulary, comprehension, or further thinking type questions were ones that I might weave into later discussions with my children.
Because my children are eager listeners with strong comprehension skills and a habit of asking questions often, they had naturally covered some of the vocabulary, comprehension, and interpretation that the study guide questions keyed into. However, I also found some points neither they nor I had brought up on our own when discussing the books. So, as we chatted about the book outside our reading times, for example in our minivan and elsewhere, I sometimes slipped in study guide questions. That way the questions were not "schooly", but a part of our natural discussions (even if prompted by my previous reading of the study guide!)
In The Children's Words
My five-year-old is my historical battle lover and also a child who likes to know what happened next, so his comments about the book came as little surprise to me. He said:
I liked it. The chapters ended with cliff hangers. There were a lot of battles. I like battles. I did not know George died from a cold.
My daughter, with two brothers to influence her, also likes battles to some degree, but typically cottons to relationships between characters and to the hows and whys of how those relationships develop. She particularly appreciated the opportunity we had to snuggle or sit close in our mom-child relationship while reading this book, as well the chance to learn more about George Washington, the person. She said:
I would recommend this book to others. It tells the details about George Washington more than some other books would. I was happy that we could read it very single night at bedtime, and I asked for it sometimes at other times.
I never knew that George Washington did not have kids of his own. He had step kids, and I thought it was kind of cool that he was asked to adopt other children that got so attached to him and his wife.
Before I read the story, I knew there was a legend about George Washington cutting down a cherry tree, that he fought in the Revolutionary War, that Lafayette was his friend, and that he was our first president. Now I know he was a surveyor, he almost died of frostbite, he was a good man, and he helped free our country. I can picture his life.
My oldest, who was the one who was so excited to read another book in the YWAM Publishing Heroes in History series and is the one who selected our review title loved this book as much as the John Adams one we read before. He sad:
It is a great book. It had lots of cliff hangers which I liked. They made me want to read the next chapters.
I learned that George Washington's brother gave him a lead gun when he was young. I also learned that George never had his own children. He had some children which were from his wife's past husband, and he had some he adopted from his family when their parents died. One of his adopted sons watched a battle in a coach and, then, died afterward of illness.
I particularly like this book series. I cannot explain why. I just like how they write. I like how they start at one point and then go back to tell the rest of the story. I like how they have extra details about the people they write about. I also like how their chapters are. They are not too long and not too short.
I think other people should read this book and the whole series.
I whole-heartedly agree with my son. If the George Washington book we've just read, and the John Adams one we read before, are strong measures to go by, the entire Heroes in History series is one that I would recommend reading. The books are not dry historical accounts nor exaggerated tales or simple recycling of canned information about historical figures. Rather, they present known facts and new ones in a living books format that engages readers, making history come alive. I cannot wait to read more in the series.