Betsy Ross's Star is the 8th title in Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon's Blast to the Past series. I previously reviewed Book 6: Ben Franklin's Fame. This series is about a group of four third graders who participate in an after school "History Club", organized by their teacher, Mr. C. Theirs is no ordinary history club, however. Mr. C. has a time machine, and every week he sends the kids on a different adventure. Their job is to chase after a woman named Babs Magee, who, using her own time machine, is out to steal a place in the history books from someone more deserving. The kids have to to stop Babs, and ensure that history stays the way it's supposed to. This is a fun, non-didactic way for early readers to get a dose of history. Says narrator Abigail:
"History Club is way better than art projects. Better than mini golf. Even better than eating pizza with sausage and extra cheese." (Page 1)
In Betsy Ross's Star the situation is a bit more murky than usual. Babs is out to take credit from Betsy Ross for sewing the first American flag. The trouble is, one of the four kids (Bo) has done his own research on Betsy Ross. Bo is convinced (as is apparently the case) that "There is NO proof that Betsy Ross sewed the first flag." Being a boy who deals in facts (he wears a t-shirt that bears the Joseph Addison quote: "Reading is the mind what exercise is the body"), Bo finds this quite bothersome.
As a result, the goals of the History Club are, for the first time, split. While some of the kids (Zach especially) want to go back and ensure Betsy Ross's place in history, Bo's goal is to find "the truth", even if he has to change history to do it. With their interests divided, the team has a much harder time than usual accomplishing their task. But they, especially Bo, do learn something unexpected.
Betsy Ross's Star is about much more than the facts surrounding the creation of the first American flag (though those are interesting, and include things I never knew). This book is about the power of teamwork, and about the difference between proven facts and things that we are willing to accept as part of our history. Pretty big lessons to find in an entertaining, illustrated chapter book aimed at second and third graders. There's a reason why this series won a Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine, and in this 8th title Deutsch and Cohon show that they are not resting on their laurels. I recommend this series for new readers, especially kids who are interested in facts.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.