Wednesday, July 1, 2009


By Chris Wilson

Publisher: Jake Lake Productions
Genre: American History

Format: Softcover
Edition: Special Edition
Pages: 96
Color: Color
ISBN-10: 978-1-894998-63-5

THE STORY OF AMERICA retells three different periods in American history. Chapter one, “The Man Who Discovered America”, is about Christopher Columbus’ sailing adventures to the Bahamas in search of a trade route to India. “The Birth of America” is about the circumstances leading up to and including the Declaration of Independence. The last chapter, “Paul Revere’s Ride,” illustrates the story of Paul Revere and the American colonists’ resistance of British tax and rule.

THE STORY OF AMERICA does not just recount the historical happenings of our great country, however. Reflective of the time the stories were originally published (1956), we are also privy to a healthy morality tale. Oftentimes, morality stories are trite and preachy, sending kids running the other way. Thankfully, THE STORY OF AMERICA does not have such a feel. Considering the tense political climate these days the lessons taught on page 51 might do us some good:

“And that is how the United States was born…. Men shall always be equal whether they are rich or poor. We shall help each other no matter where we come from. We shall not laugh at anyone because he is different. We shall all have equal rights to work and earn money. It is everybody’s job here in America to remember that we are all free and equal – that is why the United States came to be!”

Without a doubt, these stories are written from a singular perspective. Liberty and community are celebrated and credited with the success of American independence and promoted as the cornerstones of a democracy. It makes for great reading.

This Classics Illustrated book was originally written during the Silver Age of comics (1956-1970). The art is the same now as it was then. That can be a turn off for contemporary kids because they may not want to read their grandfather’s comics. I can relate to wrinkling my nose at old comic art in the past. (I am still prone to that if I am not careful.) If this is the case with students, then it will be up to the teacher to develop strong relationships with the students and encourage them to read these classic comics anyway. The students will be well served in the end, and if the teacher has done his or her job many students will read a book because it was highly recommended by a trusted teacher.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 8 and older

Many contemporary classrooms are taught in such a way as to promote social learning: group projects, discussion, sharing, collaboration and peer-to-peer instruction. These qualities are consistent with and connected to an underlying theme in this Classics Illustrated book, written during the days of my father’s youth.

I cannot shake the idea that this comic can help bridge a gap between two different times – sometimes seemingly two different worlds – and help our students rediscover the purpose of democracy beyond the sound bytes that bombard us today.

From an art appreciation perspective, the Classics Illustrated books give students a change to love and appreciate comics from another time.

I’d love to have a classroom set or an electronic copy of THE STORY OF AMERICA. It would make a wonderful edition to any democracy unit.

Highly Recommended
What’s not to like? THE STORY OF AMERICA is outstanding constructed and perfectly suited for the classroom, all without being trite. It’s already on my comic bookshelf in my classroom.

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