“From Sea to Shining Sea” is organized into several main sections, the first being “In the Beginning.” If you have ever been interested in the creation myths and religious beliefs of Native Americans then this is a good place to start. Nine traditional Native American tales and songs show how Raven brings fresh water and creates the first river, how Grandmother Spider brings light to world by stealing the sun, and how Coyote decorates the night by creating the stars. Perhaps the most interesting traditional tale is “Sedna, the Sea Goddess” an Inuit legend about how the animals of the sea came to be.
After covering the creation of America, “From Sea to Shining Sea” moves on to early colonization. Twelve tales from Mexico, Spain, French Louisiana, and the early British colonies. I really enjoyed the story “Why Alligator Hates Dog.” This creole tale explains how dog got on the bad side of Alligator and why Alligator likes to wait in the water like a half sunken log.
The third section, “The Shot Heard, 'Round the World” contains songs and stories from the American Revolution of 1776. The original thirteen colonies were small but they were surprisingly strong in their fight against the British. Perhaps it was due to the strength of their story telling abilities. Along with such traditional favorites such as “Paul Revere's Ride” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” readers will find tales of courageous women and children who choose to help their country.
After the War of Independence America began to grow as it absorbed the territories to the West. The fourth section, “Bridging the Gap” contains some of the wild stories that arose during this tumultuous time. My personal favorite is “Jack and the Two-Bullet Hunt,” a humorous story about an easy going young boy who goes out on a hunt with only two bullets but comes home with much more game than he ever would have imagined!
“From Sea to Shining Sea” then moves on to tales of the sea, and the sailors that traveled it. From Mister Stormalong, to the Salem Ghost Ship the sea was a topic that created some fascinating traditional stories. Also included are such rousing sea shanties as “Blow, Boys, Blow” and “Blow, Ye Winds in the Morning.”
The fifth section, about slavery and emancipation, is entitled “Let My People Go.” It includes famous spirituals, the story of Harriet Tubman, and other tales told by slaves. The interesting thing is that the majority of the stories are filled with hope rather than despair.
Section number six is about railroad tales. After the Civil War railroad played a large role in linking the country together again, and many tales revolve around it. Well known songs such as “John Henry” rub shoulders with fascinating historical stories such as “Death of the Iron Horse,” about a group of Indians who destroy a train.
“O Pioneers,” the seventh section of “From Sea to Shining Sea” is about the pioneers who traveled across the Western lands to create new communities. This mass movement resulted in many stories including that of Charley, the first woman to vote in California.
“From Sea to Shining Sea” then moves on to modern times with fascinating and often humorous tales about tricksters, nonsense, animals, ghosts, baseball and other topics that bridge a wide range of different story genres and styles.
I think that “From Sea to Shining Sea” is a great book for young people because it gives them a broad look at the stories that were written about America and its development. The shear scope and quality writing and illustrations of “From Sea to Shining Sea” make me highly recommend it.
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