Scholastic Books has long been known for their popular childrens books like The Animorphs and the Baby-sitter’s Club. In 1996, Scholastic published a set of “historical fiction” books called Dear America and published them until 2004. Scholastic has just announced, however, that the series will be revived in late 2010.
With 36 books published so far, different authors tell fictional stories based on historical fact about interesting periods of US history. The books are all written as if they are the surviving journal of a real girl who lived and experienced the time period of the book.
The books are geared toward readers in grades 4-8 and sometimes the subjects, such as racism, slavery, immigration and the story of the Titanic, are serious. The books are useful in getting young people interested in US history, but parents should remember that though the books are based on history, they are really fiction and may not be totally accurate history-wise.
Children can read historical notes and view actual pictures of the events in the story in a special section at the back of each book. The books have a short story on the back cover that introduces the topic. The titles of the books — The Great Railroad Race: The Diary of Libby West, The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung, A Chinese Miner, and A Coal Miner’s Bride: The Diary of Anetka Kaminska, all describe the girl of the story.
Many topics are covered including the Salem Witch Trials, the California Gold rush, and World Wars 1 and 2. The books are so popular with parents and children alike that you can go to the scholastic website at: http://www.scholastic.com/dearamerica/ and read a synopsis of each of the books, print out bookmarks and paper dolls and download unit study guides. You can even join a Dear America club if you like.
This series for girls has been so successful that scholastic started a series for older boys called My Name is America. Many of the boy’s diaries are those kept by young soldiers during the different American wars, and are primarily aimed at older boys in grades 7-10.