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The Year of the Horseless Carriage, 1801 Review by Kendra Fletcher

Genevieve Foster
Beautiful Feet Books

We home educators owe a debt of gratitude to publishers like Beautiful Feet Books, who have brought back books lost in the mainstream of modern fast-food-like children's literature.

Genevieve Foster's timeless books are treasures among children's history books, and I find myself enjoying them as much as my children do. Foster presents information in a fast-paced way that doesn't compromise the information itself. Nothing is dumbed down or made less significant than it really was, and children gain a realistic perspective of the time periods Ms. Foster covers.

In The Year of the Horseless Carriage, 1801, Ms. Foster presents side-by-side narratives of important historical events that took place at the dawn of the nineteenth century, such as Richard Trevithick's steam engine on wheels, Robert Fulton's famous steamboat voyage on the Hudson River in 1807, and the run of George Stephenson's locomotive on a railroad in England in 1814.

She paints an accurate picture of that tyrant Napoleon, a fast and engaging account of the Louisiana Purchase, and a sad but highly interesting narrative of the life of Haitian freedom fighter Toussaint L'Ouverture. Thomas Jefferson is here, as are Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea.

About halfway through the book, I turned the page to find a chapter covering Beethoven--and this after several chapters of war and political strife. What a delightful surprise! Ms. Foster knew how to write for children, how to keep their interest while at the same time presenting history in a horizontal way that illustrates profoundly how these events occurred concurrently. I don't know about you, but this isn't the way I was taught history. Boy, do I wish it was!

Genevieve Foster certainly accomplished what she set out to do: "History is drama . . . with men and nations as the actors. Why not present it with all the players who belong together on the stage at once rather than only one character on the stage at a time?"

Adding to the charm of Foster's narrative story telling are her charming drawings, at once cartoonish and serious. Hand-drawn maps accompany several stories where appropriate, and there are even some re-drawn political cartoons of the time period. These are a wonderful way to break up the story and to cement certain facts and ideas into a child's mind.

I'm not kidding when I say that I sat up late one night finishing the book. As an educated adult, I know I can tackle far more academic history tomes, but none are half so enjoyable as The Year of the Horseless Carriage, 1801.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2009