cover image America Alive

America Alive

Ian Schoenherr, Jean Karl. Philomel Books, $22.95 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22013-5

``This is a history of the United States, but it is not a complete history,'' writes Karl in the foreword to this breathless romp, which travels from prehistoric times right on up through the 1990s. Indeed, the author synthesizes a great deal of information, and relays it in even, almost conversational tones. On the other hand, her inevitably brief discussions can verge on the superficial; and the focus switches between the general and the specific in necessarily subjective fashion. For example, a few sentences about the Bicentennial (``This made everyone feel good about themselves and the nation'') precedes a paragraph about the Carter administration and the growth of multinational corporations (``This was nice for the world.... But it sometimes meant the loss of jobs for people in the United States''). Many will forgive Karl these lapses, however, because of the text's vigor and overall balance. She instills pride in the nation's accomplishments, but she does not gloss over injustices, scandals and controversies. The art is disappointingly static and the tones muddy, but it is plentiful, with at least two illustrations on every spread: historical figures and prototypical characters (e.g., ``Flapper'') stand frozen in the margins, while the various vignettes are far too broadly rendered to illuminate the particular events they are meant to depict. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)