I’ve loved history since the fourth grade. I time traveled as I read a historical novel or a biography. Years later I realized that these books did far more than tell a good story and taught me much more than history.
My favorite books in fourth grade included a series by Lucy Fitch Perkins. The main characters were twins, always a boy and a girl, who lived in another country. I don’t remember any of the plots, but I know I read The Dutch Twins, The Belgian Twins, and The Scotch Twins. The last was a favorite. The twins had exciting adventure linked to some historic event, and they also had to cope with the problems of daily living, from unfamiliar ways of raising food to familiar ways of dealing with difficult people. Without being conscious of it, I learned circumstances and surroundings change a lot more than people do. You won’t find these books in libraries today, but you can read them as e-books (go to www.gutenberg.org).
Among my other favorite subjects for novels were traveling the Oregon Trail, fighting and enduring the Civil War, and settling the West. Real people have great adventures, too. Biographies were about Sacagewea, Abraham Lincoln, and Andrew Jackson fascinated me. Who would have guessed kids who led simple, isolated lives would grow up to accomplish great things?
Historical novels revealed how individuals fit into and influence great events in a way textbooks never did. Fiction also showed me how major events can change a person’s life and a nation’s path. As a writer and a reader, I still get a thrill from time travel. —Carolyn Mulford