December 7th is Pearl Harbor Day. As President Roosevelt said, “a day that shall live in infamy” and the next day we were officially at war. Even though this was America’s entrance into WWII, it really isn’t a day that a lot of people talk about, partially because it wasn’t a “day” until 1993 and partially, I believe, because there are a lot of mixed emotions about that day. Why am I writing about this? Because this January a new book is coming out that I think does an excellent job of presenting a more well-rounded history of what happened in the 1940s. The book is History Smashers: Pearl Harbor by Kate Messner.
This is the third book in a new series by Kate Messner and published by Random House Kids. I did receive a digital ARC from NetGalley, but had previously purchased the book about Women’s Rights, so I also had a basic understanding of the format. So far, I can definitely say that this series is AMAZING!
History is written by the winners, so the history that we have been taught in our schools has always been very pro-White, male, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant American. As many are well aware, that story is not complete, it never could be. These books aim to tell more of the story. For those that think there is a trend in librarians & teachers indoctrinating kids against America, think again. These books simply show a more well-rounded version of events that happened. And Messner tells the stories in a way that is going to be eaten up by middle grade readers.
When we think Pearl Harbor, we often think of the bombing that happened on December 7th followed on December 8th with America declaring war on Japan. By utilizing a number of primary resources, Messner expands the story showing that there were some warning signs that Pearl Harbor was going to be attacked, that there were conflicting viewpoints on the efficacy of the bombing in Japan, and even that the original war declaration was on all three Axis powers. Messner produces a great explanation of the devastation the bombing created and our ensuing response.
But Messner doesn’t end there. What I especially appreciate about this book is that it highlights opposing viewpoints and some of the not-so-great things that America did in the wake of the bombing. There is an entire chapter focusing on Japanese internment. Messner puts it quite eloquently when she writes about the patriotism that was sparked after the bombing:
“But not everyone’s help was welcome. Even as patriotism brought people together, fear, ignorance, and racism drove them apart.”
Readers are able to learn about the troops that went oversea for WWII. Americans from all walks of life joined up to serve their country, though they were not always treated the same way. It was still a time of segregation, so black soldiers were kept separate from the white. Native Americans from many tribes also joined but it was not until the last 20 years or so that many knew of their importance as code talkers. Initially Japanese-Americans were not allowed to enlist, until more bodies were needed and the US had to take them. Still, after internment and ridicule, many men signed up.
We often hear that history is doomed to repeat itself if we don’t learn about the rights and wrongs that happened. As we are teaching students about the past, readable books that tell a more complete story, with primary sources and a bibliography, are of great value. History Smashers looks to be a great resource for today’s students.