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Reading 'around' American West Unit


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#1 Hetty

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 08:58 AM

I have some terribly lovely and terribly keen Yr10 girls (and a few boys!) this year hwo wouldl ike to supplement their American West learning with some reading - anyone have any ideas of books (preferably fiction??) that would be relevant? I have 'the 49th wife' about early Mormons, but beyond that i got a bit stuck... I think non-fiction would be ok but they will find DeeDee Brown a bit heavy... Any advice V welcome!!
Thanks
Hetty

#2 Mark H.

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:18 PM

A book that helped to spark a lifelong interest in the History of the American West was what would now be called a 'young adult' novel: 'North Against the Sioux' by Kenneth Ulyett (Puffin books, 1969). This is a factually-based account of the Powder River War of 1866-67. It's presumably long out of print. Probably the best writer of Historical Westerns was Will Henry (aka Henry Wilson Allen). His most famous novel 'From Where the Sun Now Stands' is a moving (and very accurate) account of the flight of the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, in 1877, told from the perspective of a young warrior. It contains a couple of 'adult situations' but I would think it would be perfectly OK for intelligent teenagers. Amongst his other classic novels are 'No Survivors', about the Battle of the Little Big Horn and 'I, Tom Horn' the supposed memoirs of a real-life cowboy and bounty hunter, hanged for murder in 1903.
These books may now, sadly, be difficult to track down but Caroline Lawrence, the best-selling author of the 'Roman Mysteries' series of novels, as dramatized for CBBC, is apparently beginning a series of 'Western Mysteries', set in Virginia City, Nevada (where the TV series 'Bonanza' was set, incidentally) in the 1860s.

Edited by Mark H., 04 May 2012 - 04:58 AM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#3 JohnDClare

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 04:50 PM

This was why eventually I moved from SHP to MWH.
It's a noghtmare, isn't it!

The problem is that you cannot just send them to the library or the internet.
I spent a fortune buying various 'further-reading' materials - and cheap westerns such as Chisum, Dances with wolves, Wyatt Earp etc. - but you end up being a librarian as much as a teacher.

#4 Mark H.

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 05:17 PM

As I said, I developed a lifetime interest in the American West at school but I can't help thinking that its continued presence in the SHP GCSE Specification is primarily a relic of the topic's one time prominence in popular culture through TV series ('The High Chaparral' was my childhood favourite), films , books and comic strips. That position in the public consciousness was declining even in the early 1970s and has now pretty much vanished. Most modern kids (and adults) have never even heard of Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett, Geronimo etc.

Edited by Mark H., 29 April 2012 - 06:15 AM.

In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.

#5 Alex Ford

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:04 PM

Empire of the Summer Moon? On a side note I think a chapter or two of Dee Brown would be great. There are loads of brilliant books about the American West out there and overall, they are not that hard to access. I think a lot of the stuff that has been on TV will be inappropriate. Can I suggest that they watch Ken Burns' "The West" on PBS though - should be on Youtube or PBS site. This programme is largely based around Richard White's "It's your misfortune" but is really accessible and tells a great story. Sometimes the fact is better than the fiction too.

Teaching this at A Level at the moment and loving it!!


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#6 Sally Thorne

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 10:20 AM

Also an American West fan!

Cloverand In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge are both excellent background reading and free if you've got the Kindle app. They're ancient now and unlikely to be in a library, though - and probably not appealing to boys...you don't need to have read the first three of the series to understand them, they're pretty light. They maybe paint homesteading in a slightly more positive light than you teach it...

I can also recommend the short stories of Annie Proulx, particularly Fine Just The Way It Is, which contains one (very bleak) story about young homesteaders starting out. The other stories are not helpful from a historical point of view but Proulx lives in Wyoming and I found the whole lot very helpful for giving me a better understanding of context. Bad Dirt has a good story referencing the Battle of the Little Big Horn: "The Indian Wars Refought". They are not teen fiction, though - they'd have to be good readers to get something out of it.

There are some good primary sources: the memoirs of Elizabeth Custer are available in Kindle edition, as are the writings of Francis Parkman, but I haven't got round to reading them yet so can't make a personal recommendation.

Will come back and add more if I think of them.

#7 Mark H.

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 02:58 PM

Not a written source but have you used the excellent BBC Education series 'Seven Jouneys in the American West' series? It can be accessed (with accompanying notes and links) from the producer Andrew Chater's 'Timelines.tv' website. The episode from the BBC series 'Seven Wonders of the Industrial World' about the building of the transcontinental railroad is also very good.
In memory of my boyhood hero Jim Clark (1936-1968): 'Chevalier Sans Peur et Sans Reproche'.




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