Reviews of 60 American Heroes Every Kid Should Meet

Most kids (and most adults for that matter) skip the introduction when they read a book, but if you are buying this book for your child or your students, be sure to share at least this paragraph from the introduction with them: “Because they are real people, these heroes are not perfect. Sometimes they made dreadful choices and did things that harmed others. Some of our greatest heroes–our country’s founders–made the terrible decision to enslave others. While we wish our heroes always did everything perfectly, they are real people who can make serious mistakes.” The need for a “disclaimer” like this was brought home to me (literally) as I heard my spouse (a well-read history buff) every 15 seconds shouting “Why did the authors pick X, Y, or Z as a hero?” as he perused the Contents pages. The two pages of text devoted to each person featured in the book focus on what aspects of their character and their accomplishments earn them inclusion in a book about heroes, and rightly so. However, if the child digs deeper into the life of a particular person, (and this book provides suggestions of other books to read to learn more about each hero) they are likely to discover flaws as well.

As a classroom resource, this book provides engaging text and enough information for students to select a hero for a “wax museum” type project. In addition, when I was teaching (I am now retired) short biographies like these would have been perfect for the read-aloud activities I conducted as part of the district’s character education initiative. For those activities, I gave my students a worksheet with the school district’s 12 featured character traits and their descriptions, then asked my students to listen for (and stop me reading) when they heard information from which they could make an inference as to character traits the person may have had. For example, while the word “perseverance” does not appear anywhere in the two pages devoted to Thomas Alva Edison, there are several statements from which students could infer that he possessed that character trait. The most valuable short biographies for this activity were those in which students could make inferences about three or four different character traits. In reading this book, I found that most of the biographies would have worked well for that activity. 1

I highly recommend this book as an engaging read for an upper elementary age child and/or as a valuable classroom resource.

  • Connie – retired educator