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Hey, History Isn’t Boring Anymore!

by Kelly Ann Butterbaugh, White Mane

Today there are a wealth of innovative resources, such as Joy Hakim’s award-winning 11-part series A History of US, to expand youngsters’ understanding of our nation’s past. Kelly Ann Butterbaugh’s Hey, History Isn’t Boring Anymore! is an activity-oriented supplement, targeted at elementary and middle school students, that offers a nontraditional approach. For example, it outlines some basic facts about key wartime figures, then asks kids to decide whether their own personalities are “more like Robert E. Lee or John Brown.” Games are included, too, such as “Civil War Trivia” and “Twenty Questions About the Civil War.”

But Butterbaugh’s approach brings to mind a few questions. Why, for example, is the “Letters to Home” chapter constructed around the “fictitious letters of a homesick soldier” instead of excerpting real letters, which could have been more moving as well as instructive (“Why did different soldiers spell things different ways?”). And why are no primary sources, or at least substantive quotes, provided? Seems like you should include the text of the Gettysburg Address if you’re going to refer to the lines written in Gettysburg—or at least provide a Web reference.

Butterbaugh has largely illustrated her budget paperback with reenactment photos. She also includes a useful “Educational Resources” section, which provides the longest list (21!) I’ve ever come across of different names for the Civil War.


Originally published in the February 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here