Author Ellen Jackson turns back the pages of history again, with a fabulous new book that kids will eat up -- much as kids in the 14th century ate their herring pie!
Jackson has painstakingly researched the centuries to create little composite vignettes that relate how a boy or girl might have lived at the turn of each century during this millenium. From John, son of Stephen, a ten-year-old peasant boy who lived in the year 1000 (who owns nothing but the clothes on his back, clothes that used to belong to his grandfather!), to John Stevenson, a ten-year-old California boy who is about to celebrate the arrival of January 1, 2000 -- Jackson has created ten highly interesting character sketches that will captivate, and sometimes amaze, young readers!
Older elementary and middle school youngsters will enjoy traveling back in time as they read Turn of the Century. Younger students will enjoy having the book read to them.
Illustrator Jan Davey Ellis has created active and interesting watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations that complement perfectly Jackson's vignettes. Students will love hunting the illustrations for the details of children's lives described in the text. Take, for example, the illustrations that accompany the story of Annabelle Hugh, an eight-year-old daughter of an earl in London at the turn of the seventeenth century As Annabelle plays upon her lute, her father sports on his head a paste of garlic, honey, and wormwood created by his barber to remedy baldness. While the paste works its magic, the barber pulls a tooth from Annabelle's brother's mouth -- a common practice at a time when barbers often doubled as dentists. Facts like those learned in text and illustration are just the kind of information that might motivate students to learn more!
Each spread in Turn of the Century highlights life in a milestone year. Jackson introduces students to Eleanor, a nine-year-old lady (in the year 1100), who already knows who her future husband will be; Alice, a ten-year-old chambermaid (1400), eats with her fingers, because that's the way most people ate then; and Roger Dabbs, a seven-year-old Massachusetts boy (1700), spends much of his time in school perfecting his penmanship skills because good penmanship is of utmost importance in a time when most business records, letters, and reports are handwritten.
Accompanying each spread is a fact box, which provides students with additional information and insight into life in another time. For example, the facts that accompany the story of John, the ten-year-old peasant boy, include:
Jackson doesn't miss an occasional opportunity to gross kids out either -- because most kids love that stuff! For instance, a cat has just caught a rat on board the boat where Samuel Brewster is a ship's boy in 1500. Young Samuel gives the front part of the rat to the cat to eat. He roasts the rat's backside over a small flame to supplement his own meager diet! It's an image (an image Ellis has captured) that will leave a vivid impression -- in a book full of vivid impressions!
All of Jackson's children in Turn of the Century live either in England or America. The ten brief stories set the stage for readers to compare their own lives with those of children of 100, 200, 300, etc., years ago. Children will enjoy reading about the striking differences between themselves and children of years ago -- and searching for the similarities they share!
Creative teachers will find many ways to extend Turn of the Century into all areas of the curriculum.
Together, activities such as those and the information gleaned from Turn of the Century will help bring history to life in the classroom. What a great learning experience as your students' interest and excitement builds toward the eve of a new millenium!
Turn of the Century is published by Charlesbridge Publishing (1998). The book is available in many bookstores. If you can't find a copy, ask your local bookseller to order one for you or contact the publisher at
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Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World