The Bookworm Sez 11-9-09
Boy, was Mom mad.
The other day, you left the house to go to school, and you forgot your lunch.
She probably wouldn’t have been so mad, except you forgot your homework the day before. And you didn’t remember your science project that week, nor your coat or your math book.
It’s easy to forget things; adults do it all the time. Sometimes, it’s just an accident but sometimes, it’s a shame to forget, as you’ll see when you read “109 Forgotten American Heroes (Plus Nine or So Villains)” by Chris Ying and Brian McMullen.
So why learn about a few people you’ve never heard of?
“Heroes are forgotten when we never get the chance to learn about them,” the authors of this book say in their introduction. “But then why are some heroes forgotten, when others are not?”
Sometimes, it’s because we don’t really know who they are. The first person to cross the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska was a hero, but his (or her) name was never recorded.
Sometimes, a person is a hero, even though it didn’t seem like it at the time. John Hanson was not only the first president of the U.S. (technically speaking), but he was also the first to declare “a national day of thanksgiving”. And then there was Henry Shoemaker, a man whose vote changed the look of our country.
Thomas Jefferson, a hero for several things, is in this book because he introduced mac and cheese to America. You’ll find the man who had the brilliant idea of holes in doughnuts (before him, doughnuts were mushy in the middle). And then there’s the guy who invented heroes – hero sandwiches, that is.
You’ll find the story of a slave who helped explore the Louisiana Purchase; a tale of a lost leg and the man who invented artificial limbs; the truth about why your computer keyboard has mixed-up letters; the story of a dirty rat who may have introduced giant rats to the southern U.S.; a cool chapter on an icy treat; and one about the guy who invented stoplights.
Read this book, and you’ll learn about forgotten Americans who weren’t even human!
I had mixed feelings about “109 Forgotten Americans.”
Yes, it’s a colorful book with fun-to-know information, but it was right on the edge of too-silly, with faux ads, mock newspaper pages, and fake sticker collections. This flippant style gave it more of a joke-book feel, instead of something at least semi-serious.
What’s worse – at least to my adult sensibilities – is that the editors seemed to be reaching for subject matter. For instance, to include the name “Bertha” as a Forgotten American Hero seemed to me to be a waste of information. I’m an animal lover, but I didn’t love seeing so many animals as heroes when there were more deserving humans.
Overall, I thought “109 Forgotten American Heroes” missed the mark. If your 10- to 14-year-old is a fervent history fan, he or she might get a kick out of it. For other kids, just forget it.