I knew I was going to spend most of today driving around in my car, which meant precious little time for reading, so I carefully saved a skinny little book from my shelves for this day. The American Girl series of books sound like an awful idea -- there is an expensive doll designed, complete with expensive accessories, clothes, and whatnot, and each doll gets a series of books about that girl's life.
However, the books are actually quite decent early readers. Meet Samantha by Susan S. Adler follows the story of a rich orphan living with her grandmother and a bunch of servants. She's friends with the cook, the seamstress, and the naughty boy next door, and struggles to live up to her grandmother's standards of behavior and proficiency in womanly arts like sewing and music. See how we've just learned what family life was like among the elite in the early 1900's? Samantha then befriends the young girl working next door, so we find out what life was like for the less wealthy, and then she sneaks out to visit her seamstress at home, so we also find out how things were different for African Americans.
Although the writing clearly follows a plan, the words themselves are friendly and flow easily, without condescension or an overly didactic feel. As an adult, I do have a constant sense of "I see what you've done here" but I bet kids would enjoy it as a read aloud or an easy chapter book.
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