Book Reviews

Praise for “50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet”:

In their introduction, Denenberg and Roscoe challenge readers to name fifty people whom they view as heroes. The one requirement all fifty must meet is that “all must have made an exceptional positive contribution to our world.” Denenberg and Roscoe’s own list consists of doctors, inventors, teachers, conservationists, and politicians, among others. Many of their subjects are well known, but some might not be as familiar to young readers. Each hero is introduced in a double-page spread that includes information on the person’s most famous accomplishments, a “Power Word” quote, the title of a book for further reading, and photographs. The authors also include website addresses and snail mail addresses of organizations that readers can contact for further information. 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet is not intended to be a biography; rather it is intended to be used as a springboard that leads children to learn more about the book’s subjects. It also encourages young readers to turn away from idolizing only athletes and pop-stars and learn more about people who have really made a difference in the world. Denenberg and Roscoe present a racially and ethnically diverse group of heroes. Some of the heroes they discuss are George Washington, Ben Franklin, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Tecumseh, labor activist Dolores Huerta, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. The authors encourage readers to find a way to make a difference in their community, offering suggestions as to how they can do this. Overall, this is an exceptional reference work.

AnnMarie Hamar

“My kids have devoured the ’50 American Heroes’ book. I’ve got the Hero Wall in my reading corner — as we analyze the people, we post the traits they possess. It’s really cool! I’m constantly learning and you sparked it for me. Thanks.”

-Ronda Okonen, Hurley K-12

“I just wanted to thank you for your book. My seven and nine year old children argue over who gets to read it at times! We keep it in the car and take turns reading. I’m going to have to buy another copy for my classroom, because my personal copy is dog-eared already. Thanks for a wonderful book that has helped my children get interested in American heroes and history!”

-Jennifer Hoffmann, Northwood School, Minong, WI

Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscoe are right: we all need heroes. Real heroes. This book is a great place to meet some. Children (and parents) will love it because it’s full of great stories, great deeds, great men and women who set examples worth striving toward.”

– Dr. William J. Bennett, Former Secretary of Education, Author of “The Children’s Book of Virtues

“50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet” will be a delightful addition to every child’s bookshelf and to every classroom library. It is packed with wonderful stories about our nation’s leaders, and kids will find that it is fun to read again and again.”

– Diane Ravitch, Senior research scholar at New York University, Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute

“Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscie know that kids today need authentic heroes more than ever before. Their choices show how varied – and how human – heroes can be, and their enthusiasm is catching.”

– Russell Freedman, Award-winning children’s book author

From a review by Julia Bookman, Cox News Service (May 8, 2002):

Olympic track champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee competed in her first race at age 9 and finished last.

Milton Hershey, who built his fortune with Hershey chocolate, was a “terrible failure in the candy business” in cities across the country. Finally, he was selling caramels off a pushcart on a Pennsylvania street when a British candy importer happened to taste his goodies — and go nuts. The rest, of course, is sweet history.

There’s nothing like losing yourself in a story of fiction. But real life — nonfiction — can be pretty cool, too, especially when it means finding out about people who’ve done amazing things.

Off the top of your head, how many American heroes can you name?

Just to get you going: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison, Susan B. Anthony, Cal Ripken Jr., Rosa Parks, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Christopher Reeve, Bill Gates…

So how many full-length biographies on heroes are you going to read? Many kids read biographies only when required in school. That’s why News for Kids likes “50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet” by Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscie (Millbrook Press). This large and sturdy paperback rounds up 50 famous Americans from all walks of life, including all those named above. It’s written in a fun and chatty style — not stiff and boring like many textbooks.

Each of the 50 heroes gets a two-page spread. You get a glimpse of that person, a recap of his or her accomplishments, and “Power Words,” which give you a great quote from each.

From the NHA Educator, December 2001, reviewed by Sallie Schaaf Borrink:

Who was Matthew Henson? What has Yo-Yo Ma contributed to America? Which trail did Elizabeth Blackwell blaze for American women? Why should we appreciate the career and accomplishments of John Muir?
Are these significant Americans unfamiliar to you? If so, you would benefit from reading 
50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet!

Dennis Denenberg (a frequent presenter at NHA training events) and Lorraine Roscoe have chosen a diverse group of Americans they believe are real heroes for children – people who have made significant contributions to our lives in various ways. These men and women cover a wide variety of accomplishments – statesmen, artists, activists, entrepreneurs, inventors and entertainers.

The layout of the book makes it especially helpful for teachers. Along with an overview of the person’s accomplishments there are photos, a significant quote, and recommended books for further research and reading. Where appropriate there are also relevant addresses and phone numbers where teachers can look for further information. Lastly, there is a hero hunt at the end of the book that you can adapt for your own purposes for your students.

Overall, this is a thumbs-up book from one of the NHA’s most loved and appreciated presenters

Collective biographies are often a source of stories that might inspire or suggest behavior for young readers to emulate. One such collection is 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet by Dennis Denenberg and Lorraine Roscoe (Millbrook, 2001). This book contains fifty short biographical entries focused on people who lived early in our history and those who are still living. Jimmy Carter is included as a peacemaker, Roberto Clemente as a humanitarian, and Milton Hershey as an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Readers will need to think about the character traits and decide what traits were part of each subject’s success. Denenberg and Roscoe also include additional references for each of their subjects which will help inquisitive readers learn more about the lives of those who interest them. Great discussion starters for those who want to focus on what makes people great.

I have no vested interest in the sales of 50 American Heroes, and don’t even know the authors but I think many of you will enjoy this book as a resource for character education – and frankly even if you are not interested in character education per se these are interesting stories to read aloud or for intermediate readers and older to read for themselves. I recognized the names of most of the subjects but did have to turn to the pages for *Yo-Yo Ma,” “I.M. Pei,” and “Elie Wiesel” to find out what and who they were. And then there was a joint entry for Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. Those who know baseball are probably aware that Rickey was the general manager of the Dodgers during the time that baseball was integrated and Rickey had a major role to play in that integration. Fascinating story fbr a non-baseball fan. Each biographical sketch includes a section “Explore” which prods young readers to learn more by posing questions, providing related information, and suggesting additional sources. Such was the case in the Robinson and Rickey entry. The authors briefly detail the color barriers that are still part of sports — mentioning Tiger Woods’ tnumphant golf career as an example of more recent barriers that are being broken.

-Sharron McElmeel, author of “Character
Education: A Book Guide for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents”

“My students and I look forward to the Heroes serial every week. It’s very interesting to read and discuss the biographical information about these great Americans. The outstanding diversity that these individuals represent is a lesson in and of itself. The heroes serial has complemented our social studies curriculum many times and in many ways. It has provided a very effective springboard for values education as well. My students and I truly appreciate the opportunity to learn more about these wonderful role models whose legacies continue to live on..”

-Craig Knupp, 4th grade teacher, Eagle View Elementary, Somerset Area School District

I was one of the very lucky parents to hear you… I absolutely loved your presentation. I would have been happy to hear you discuss all 50 heroes! I bought your book for my daughters last year when Lorraine Roscoe came to the school. One of them (the other is still learning to read), Mary Beth, has really enjoyed it… Your book has truly inspired an interest in biographies. She’s read more about Thomas Edison, Elizabeth Blackwell, Benjmain Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and the Wright Brothers. She’s even gone beyond your 50 heroes to Lauara Ingalls Wilder and Amelia Earhart. Thanks so much for piquing her interest. We’ve both learned quite a bit, with no end in sight!

-Stephanie Palee

Comments from audience members at the 2003 Colorado Core Knowledge Conference:

• What an inspiration! I appreciated that he gave us practical suggestions and not just theory.

• I loved Dr. Denenberg. I have new eyes for heroes!

• Excellent presenter! Highlight of the conference!

• Wonderful speaker! Brought history alive!

• I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Denenberg’s presentation! I can’t wait to bring biographies into my classroom now!

• Inspiring, uplifting, emotional and rejuvenating. Dr. Denenberg was incredible.

• I laughed, I cried, I bought his book!