This book is #34 in The American Adventure Series. It follows along fictional families, but has them interact with and experience historical events. This book is set in Minneapolis, MN in the 1910s. Several topics of interest in the time frame that are covered include impoverished newsboys selling papers on street corners, women working in the suffrage movement, the beginnings of work unions forming and German Americans being mistreated as WWI began in Europe. The characters in the book wonder and wrestle with how to respond to the injustices around them without lowering themselves to being disrespectful or bitter.
Lydia struggles with the idea of needing to be "a lady" at all times and wishes she could have freedom to enjoy some activities that are typically reserved for boys in her era. She does get a chance to walk on stilts and eventually earns the privilege of helping her brothers on their newspaper routes, even though girls are not allowed to have routes of their own. Through the course of the book, she meets a unique lady in the suffrage movement who helps her to see that she can be both a respected lady and hope to enjoy a more adventurous lifestyle.
In terms of content, WWI is gently introduced in this book and chapter 10 does briefly discuss the fact that women and children are killed. Later in the book they are shocked to hear a ship went down which had children and infants on board. I don't want my boys to have a glorified idea of war, so I understand these inclusions and they were written mildly enough. There was, however, one paragraph I chose to paraphrase in a more mellow fashion for my young listeners. The writer describes a political cartoon (which we know can be crude in nature) in the following fashion, "A political cartoon pictured an evil-faced German soldier in a uniform with hate-filled, wild eyes and hideous fangs for teeth. On his bayonet were the doll-like bodies of children dripping in blood. Beneath the picture was the statement, 'Beware of the Huns.'" This paragraph seemed completely out of place in the book. Not because it was off-topic, the chapter was introducing the fact that the war was brutal and the Germans were being merciless on civilians at times, but because the author has written the entire rest of the book in a fashion that is absolutely acceptable to read with my 4-year-old present.
Thankfully, I am always in the habit of scanning a bit ahead as I am reading, so I caught sight of the words "dripping in blood" and paused a moment. This is what I told my kids, "The newspaper had a cartoon showing German soldiers killing innocent people who were not soldiers and were not involved in the war. It said, 'Beware of the Huns!'" I kept reading the remainder of the book without having to paraphrase any other areas. I wouldn't want to steer anyone away from the entire book by the above quotation, so here is another excerpt about the women's march to show the author's tone.
"Some people try to tell us that to march is unladyliike," Helen said, But that's what they used to say about women attending college. It simply isn't true anymore."
An excited tingle traveled up Lydia's back and made her shiver. This is exactly what she'd been trying to say- that she could do anything any boy could do. And that certainly included marching, demonstrating, and voting.
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