cover image Pioneers


Martin W. Sandler. HarperCollins Publishers, $24.95 (93pp) ISBN 978-0-06-023023-4

Sandler ( The Story of American Photography ) orchestrates the debut of a Library of Congress line of American history books with panache, drawing on the Library's picture collections to augment lucid, age-appropriate text with a wealth of illustrations. Except for its awkward use of present and future tenses (``the outlaws will be killed or driven from the territory''), the prose nimbly sidesteps the numbing filmstrip-speak that can be the pitfall of historical nonfiction, even if the effect is a bit more sedate than Linda Granfield's Cowboy (Children's Forecasts, Dec. 6). Wonderful archival photographs help provide a window on the world of the cowboy, from the reality (hard, lonely, dangerous work) to the Hollywood myth, and of the pioneers who pushed west in search of a better life, settling the country along the way. Crisply written, beautifully designed and blessed with an abundance of art--from maps and lithographs to paintings, movie posters, handbills and song lyrics--these two volumes are a valuable addition to American history for the middle grades. Surprisingly--and disappointingly--no captions or endnotes identify the subjects, settings and sources of the pictures. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)