This book is #35 in The American Adventure Series. This book is set in Minneapolis, MN in 1916-1917 just as "The Great War" (which is what WWI was called at the time) was heating up. The story follows fictional families, but has them interact with and experience historical events. Some of the historical occurrences include the disagreements in America regarding whether or not the US should join the conflict, German U-boats blowing merchant vessels out of the water, young men joining the American Field Ambulance and other volunteer groups supporting the war effort, the declaration of war on Germany and the discrimination German Americans became subject to as our country organized for the war effort.
The author did a wonderful job of developing the friendship between Edie and Nell, as well as marking the importance and connection between Carl and his mentor, Truman. Reading about the beginning of WWI through the perspective of a German family who does not condone the actions of Germany gives a depth of consideration to the news and events that unfold. The father is a stable, grounding character who is not easily shaken and offers wisdom in times of stress and concern. My children and I appreciate that the books in this series often move on with characters from a previous book, so we feel we know them when we are just starting the first chapter. They have simply aged and will face new experiences. Not every book follows the same family as generations need to pass considering the time span, but the authors have done well to connect the books so they flow well, while still providing enough background and depth that anyone could pick up a book from the middle of the series and read it independently with no trouble at all. Despite the heavy topic of looming and declaring war, there is humor dispersed throughout the book to lighten the mood. The young children being babysat provide a vehicle for comedic relief as well as a good dose of reality- it is harder than one might imagine to keep toddlers and preschoolers safe, clean and under control.
This is a great book to spark an interest in either American or World history for elementary students. My 4-10 year old boys all listen and enjoy it. In terms of content for sensitive/young kiddos, page 121 had a description of a magazine illustration which says, "she came across an illustration of a gigantic ugly brute with a glassy stare, a spiked helmet, and a bloody knife in his hand. Beneath his thunderous stride, tiny civilians were being crushed and destroyed. The caption read, Germany, the Bully of Europe." I simply omitted the phrase "and a bloody knife in his hand" as it was bedtime and I didn't want to leave such imagery in my sensitive and young ones' minds and we passed right on by the rest without a furled brow.
To see more reviews that are part of this series click here.