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Timeline Civil War: From Divided to United Review by Melissa Theberge

Play Bac Publishing
225 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014

A fold-out, full-color timeline of history is a magnificent way to offer a concise and exciting presentation of information. Timeline Civil War: From Divided to United offers an attractive and informative package for a student as young as elementary school age and right up through high school. Everyone in our home is drawn to it--from the adults down to the kindergartener.

As you fold open the cover flap, you can easily allow the accordion of pages to unfold, extending to about five feet in length. When extended, the entire timeline is visible over ten segments of pages, each about six inches wide. Made of a durable, glossy, flexible tagboard, this timeline book is eleven inches tall. It travels and stores well, and it has a book-like outer spine that measures about one-fourth of an inch, making it easy to find on a bookshelf.

There are two sides to the timeline, one presenting the actual timeline and the other revealing copious amounts of historical facts that are arranged topically. The inner side, which is visible when first opening the cover flap, is where the excitement begins. A quarter-inch thick red line runs horizontally from page to page with key words on it in yellow, indicating major events, such as "Underground Railroad," "Manassas," or "Lee Takes Command," making it possible to locate events and facts even if you are not sure of the year they occurred. These give an incredibly quick chronology that may direct a child's study time to the necessary facts. When there is a change in year along the timeline, the numerical year is placed in very large font so you can see the progression of time at a glance.

Each segment of the fold-out has a color-coded heading at the top indicating a portion of time in the war, such as "The Battle for the Capitals." Likewise, all captions and information in that section have the same color heading to help connect it to the overarching heading of the page. This is especially helpful when the timeline is laying flat and you can see multiple headings at once. The captions and information paragraphs always start with an important date, followed by the events from that date. The factual paragraphs are in a smaller font for space consideration but they are very readable. The language is concise and the vocabulary rich. Reading level is not specified but it seems accessible to mid-elementary age and up. It could certainly serve as a read-aloud with any age, thanks to the accompanying photos and other images.

Perhaps the most enticing feature of the timeline side is the organized collage of large full-color Civil War images and artwork, with smaller photos of people, important documents, or maps artfully placed over top. The images are relevant to the accompanying text on each page and are truly what makes us want to just sit and pore over all the information.

On the back side of the timeline are several large sections of text, with less background art to allow for more readable information. Large color-coordinated headings match the smaller paragraph headings, making it easy to quickly locate specific information. Topics covered on this side include "Americans at the Front," "Strange But True" (a series of unique and interesting facts related to the war), "Confederate Heroes" and "Union Heroes" (separated by a large United States map showing how the states divided), "The Home Front," "Inventions," and "A Soldier's Life."

From a "facts and details" point of view, this enticing fold-out book is as good as or better than traditional books we used during our recent study of the Civil War. What truly sets it apart is its ability to entice children with its hands-on feel. The five-foot timeline and large photos make it enjoyable to look at, and the small bite-size chunks of informative and brief paragraphs make it accessible to even a reluctant reader. The text blocks are not overwhelming, even on the back side of the timeline where text is prevalent. This format for learning seems to be the ideal mix of traditional reading and visual hands-on fun, and it allows for history to literally unfold in front of young learners.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2009