cover image The Century for Young People

The Century for Young People

Jennifer Armstrong, Peter Jennings. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $29.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32708-4

With Armstrong's (In My Hands) help, news veterans Jennings and Brewster here smoothly adapt their bestselling tome for adults, The Century, for a younger audience. They offer young Americans a unique look at the past 100 years, via not only archival material but through the eyes of the people who lived through it. The volume combines the authors' affecting storytelling style with an exceedingly appealing design to draw readers into the major events that have shaped our nation (and often the world) in the 20th century. A clear chronology emerges in 12 concise chapters that explore events from the Wright Brothers' early flights to the world's devastating wars, to racial strife and the AIDS epidemic. Each chapter contains illuminating accounts in the words of ordinary people living in extraordinary times. Victor Reuther, a 1930s labor union organizer Ernest Michel, an Auschwitz survivor; and Inez Jessie Baskin, who sat at the front of a bus with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the end of the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, are examples of the myriad personalities that give voice to familiar textbook facts. Although the title implies a global approach to the century, many of the world events are limited to the situations that acted as catalysts to drive people to the U.S. from their native countries (e.g., the Russian Revolution, the chaos leading to WWI) or that affected America directly (such as the Vietnam War). What's most noteworthy here is the sense of immediacy the authors' approach offers: the reading experience is akin to peeking at hundreds of fascinating family trees and may well encourage youngsters to inquire about their own relatives' experiences. A bounty of excellent photographs (especially those taken at the turn of the century) accompanied by ample, detailed captions rounds out this essential addition to the family library. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)