Enemy or Friend by Norma Jean Lutz is the 20th book in The American Adventure Series. The setting is Cincinnati in the 1840s. The issues at hand are the abolitionist movement against slavery and the expanded use of steam engines to mechanize factories. The character traits examined are judging others, submitting to authorities respectfully, and standing up for what you believe is right.
Fred's father has allowed him to build a steam engine in the basement of their furniture factory, and production has been at an all time high with the engine powering the lathes that were once manual. Fred enjoys the confidence his father has placed in him and takes his responsibility to maintain the safety of the steam engine seriously. When there's an accident in Fred's lab room of the factory basement, his father hires a new manager to oversee the steam engine Fred built, and to be his new boss.
Fred doesn't want to be at odds with his family, but he has a hard time biting his tongue and reconciling his father's decision to hire a pro-slavery man, who seems to be rather careless with the steam engine Fred designed and built. When things blow up, and they do, Fred and his father end up seeing eye to eye and Fred realizes he made a quick judgement without all the facts.
This was a great book to read to my boys, the youngest of whom is 6. We didn't find any questionable content, and the issues brought up are very easy for my kids to transfer to real-life scenarios. The example of serving others at the risk of personal health is also brought up as Fred's sister volunteers to help the doctor when cholera recurs. This series has been a fun way to get my children interested in American History while also talking through many difficult situations individuals and families can face in a lifetime.
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