Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Day That Changed America: Gettysburg by Shelley Tanaka (Paintings by David Craig)

Published in 2003 by Hyperion Books for Children
Nonfiction / Informational Text

Shelley Tanaka's A Day That Changed America: Gettysburg teaches children about the Battle of Gettysburg, a pivotal moment during the Civil War, and the Gettysburg Address. Her series of books I Was There includes In The Time of Knights, Secrets of the Mummies, Graveyards of the Dinosaurs, On Board the Titanic, and Discovering the Iceman. Two other books she has written include The Disaster of the Hindenburg and Attack on Pearl Harbor.
Gettysburg Memorial Cemetery
Lincoln's speech at Gettysburg has become legendary and has come to be known as the speech that inspired the nation. Tanaka is an award winning children's author and editor.

David Craig, the illustrator for this book and professional artist depicting historical events and people, was
Battle of Gettysburg
also instrumental in creating a series of paintings commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of World War II. John Y. Simon, the historical consultant for Tanaka's book, is also an author and has written numerous books and articles on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. He serves on the executive committee of the Lincoln Form at Gettysburg and is also a professor of American history at Southern Illinois University--Carbondale (end dust jacket cover). Tanaka, along with Craig and Simon, have produced an excellent nonfiction book that accurately portrays the history of Gettysburg and the significance of the Gettysburg Address.

Although this book accurately portrays what led up to the Battle of Gettysburg, explains the significance of this moment in history, and provides a copy of the Gettysburg Address itself, my favorite part of the book is when Tanaka contrasts the two men who addressed the nation at the Gettysburg memorial after the nation began to realize the tremendous loss of life that occurred during the three-day battle:
Edward Everett and Abraham Lincoln could not have given more different speeches at Gettysburg. Everett spent a great deal of time writing his speech. In fact, the ceremony was delayed by four weeks because he needed more time to prepare it. His speech was two hours long, sometimes flowery, and full of names, facts, and historical references. His deep voice thundered over the crowd, and he waved his arms grandly as he recited the whole text from memory. It was an impressive performance.
Abraham Lincoln's speech was two minutes long. It was handwritten on two sheets of paper that he held in front of him while he read. Most of the words had only one syllable. He did not
The Gettysburg Address
have much time to prepare his speech, as he had only been asked to speak at the Gettysburg memorial a few weeks before the ceremony, but the ideas had been in his mind for some time. 
Edward Everett was a former president of Harvard--a man with a vast formal education. Abraham Lincoln had gone to school for less than one year. Yet both men were avid readers, and they both loved language. They borrowed phrases and drew on a wide knowledge of literature and history that went back to the ancient Greeks, the Bible, and Shakespeare.
Few speakers since have been able to match their eloquence. Some have called Lincoln the last president who could truly use words. In fact, no American president has written  his own speeches for fifty years (39).
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a simple, yet powerful speech that called on Americans to stand together at a difficult time in our nation's history, and that is exactly what his speech did. Lincoln inspired our nation to come together, to remember the sacrifice of those who died on the battlefield, and to move forward as a united people. Tanaka also includes a two-page map describing the Battle of Gettysburg in detail that is an excellent reference to what took place during the battle, a battle that claimed more than 50,000 lives.

I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy studying history and who believe it is important to teach children about how America became the nation it is today.

The Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg National Military Park
Meet Shelley Tanaka
Facts About Gettysburg

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