A Look at Massachusetts and Its History

Disclosure: I was sent these books free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

This year and last year Hazel's social studies unit is on the history of Massachusetts. As a result I have been gathering all the books I can find with a connection to our home state. (The truth be told I'm gathering books about all the states so I can expand our knowledge on each of them, but more on that below.) We also spent time doing some of the historical things in our area and looking at some of our past adventures. So today I am going to share two books about famous Massachusetts residents and share some of our adventures. The first book is Imagine That! by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

This fun book is about how Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat. He was asked to write a book for beginning readers using a No-Nonsense List of words. He thought writing such an easy to read, short book would take no time at all, but it was harder than he thought. It took him over a year, but he created a well loved book using only 236 different words. One of his friend's challenged him to write a book using only 50 different words and he did: Green Eggs and Ham

This book shares many fun details about Dr. Seuss. Did you know he had a hat collection which he wore different ones for inspiration? The words of the book tend to have a Seussical feel to them as well. It is fun and interesting to read about this Massachusetts native. The Dr. Seuss Museum has opened in Springfield. We have not gotten there yet though. 

However we have visited the Make Way for Ducklings statues several times and happened to see the Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey Exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

We went to the MFA to celebrate Easter with my sister. She really wanted to see the Matisse exhibit and we happened upon this one. Hazel loved seeing it! Make Way for Ducklings is a family favorite too. Be sure to check out our review of a book on Emily Dickinson for another Massachusetts author. 

Of course Massachusetts is really known for its role in the American Revolution. Hazel is so interested in this time period. She has fallen in love with the Liberty Kids DVDs. This summer we were able to see two militia groups from the Revolution periods and the colonial periods. The first group (pictured above) was a colonial troop that reenacts a group from Salem. Did you know Salem was once the capital of Massachusetts? At least that is what the militia group told us. The time period they are dressed as is in the 1600's. 

There was also a group from Lexington reenacting a troop from the Revolutionary War. You can see the differences in their uniforms and their weapons. 

They even did some shooting for us.

It was so interesting to see and hear about this part of our state's history. A local library helped sponsor it at Saugus Iron Works Historical Site. We have seen an iron pour at the Iron Works as well. This year we also went back and Hazel got her junior ranger badge from there.

Now back to the Revolutionary War. This summer Hazel and I visited a few of the sites on the Freedom Trail. We toured the Old South Meeting House. One of the first things we saw there was a statue of Phillis Wheatley. 
Our second book is A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet by Kathryn Lasky and illustrations by Paul Lee. 

Phillis Wheatley was taken as a young child from her family and home in Africa. When the slave ship arrived in Boston she was sold to Susannah Wheatley. Susannah had been looking for an older girl to assist her around the house, but Phillis is what they had. Susannah named her after the slave ship she was brought on. Susannah saw quickly how intelligent her new slave was and decided to prove that black people could learn to read and write. Phillis learned quickly and began writing poetry. Susannah would have Phillis recite her poems for guests and would bring her to social engagements at other people's homes. Can you imagine being a slave who was put on show for all these people? Susannah wanted to get her poetry published, but American publishers would not touch a black woman's writing. However British publishers would. The books were sold in Britain and America. Phillis Wheatley is the first black American published author. The Wheatleys also granted Phillis her freedom, but she chose to stay on with John Wheatley even after Susannah's death. 

This book shares so much of Phillis Wheatley's story as well as details of how she may have felt. Her strength and courage to live the life she did is amazing. In a time when the land she was living was falling apart she found success and was able to cross many prejudices of the day. The book is full of information about what was happening in Boston and the world during her life as well as what was happening to Phillis. It is an easy read and is very informative. We really enjoyed it.

This summer we also tried to go to the Adams National Historical Park. Unfortunately we did not time it well and did not actually make it to the Adams homestead. We did however go to the United First Parish Church that is just a bit down and across the street from the National Park's Visitor Center. President John Adams gave the stones for this church to be built. He however never stepped into the church since he died before it was finished. He is however resting there with Abigail as well as President John Quincy Adams and Louise Catherine Adams (his wife). 

I did not take any photographs in the crypt, but in the sanctuary they have many plaques like the one above. They also have statues outside. Hazel posed with John Adams for me. 

Did you know John Adams pushed for the town he lived in to be named Quincy after his father-in-law? Others wanted to name it Hancock after John Hancock. Don't worry there is a town in Western Massachusetts named Hancock though and of course there is the Hancock building in Boston.

The Hancock building is the tall one in this photograph. We are at the Skywalk Observatory in the Prudential building. From the other side of the building we looked down on Fenway Park. We had my nephew with us and he was very excited to see Fenway.

For more ways we have looked at Massachusetts be sure to check out: the North Bridge, Wampanoag's Cranberry Day, Native Americans of Cape Cod and Massachusetts, the Freedom Trail, Emily Dickinson, Witch City (Salem), Metacomet (King Philip), Boston Tea Party, Make Way for Ducklings, Cranberries, Boston Marathon Bombing, the Wamponoag Tribe, Saugus Iron Works, Topsfield Fair, Gloucester, Drumlin Farms, Squanto, Pilgrims and Thanksgiving, and Wigwams.  

For more books and posts about the Revolutionary War check out Concord and the Minuteman National Park, Boston Tea Party, Benjamin Franklin (another Massachusetts native), Alexander Hamilton and for more about our presidents check out 50 Things You Should Know about American Presidents, Weird But True Know It All: US Presidents, President Lincoln, Presidents Day, George Washington (and info about the states), John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and I should mention the First Ladies as well. Oh and speaking of presidents, I should mention we went to the John F. Kennedy Museum in Hyannis this summer, too. We took my nephew with us.

As we have been looking at our state, we are hoping to encourage more people to look at their home states as well as the other states. I am trying to put together a state post card exchange. Are you able to join us?
Here are the states we still need!! Please join us!!