By: Brian P. Cleary
Publisher: Millbrook Press
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2010
Almost everyone knows that "Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred ninety-two." That's pretty easy, but how about learning the names of all forty-four presidents, the important facts about the Mayflower Compact, or important battles of the American Revolution? Those facts, you may think to yourself, are not as easy to memorize, but after you read this book you may find they can be easily crammed into your head with a minimum of effort. One of the ways we can accomplish this is by the use of a mnemonic device, a device or trick that will "help us memorize important facts."
One such way is by the use of rhyme (think Christopher Columbus here). Many of us use the first letters of a list of words or places in order to easily bring them to mind. Take for example the list of the great lakes. By rearranging the first letters of each lake we come up with the word HOMES . . . Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Visual mnemonic devices are also great aids to memorizing seemingly diverse or difficult facts, making them almost as easy as pie. If there are social studies facts that need to be learned, this book will show you how to work with them, learn some ready-made, "painless tricks" to memorize them, or perhaps even encourage you to create your own by looking at the examples.
In addition to Columbus, you'll get to take a look at several other explorers such as Marco Polo, Erik the Red, Ferdinand, Magellan, Jacques Cartier, Daniel Boone, Zebulon Pike, and Lewis and Clark. For example, we see a fellow seated at a restaurant. He was "mainly responsible for the Exploration and settlement of Kentucky in the 1700s." The waitress turns to the cook, Dean, and shouts, "Dean, Boil One!" Unscramble the letters of her request and you'll know who was seated at that table. In addition to learning about explorers you will learn facts about the founding of the United States, you'll learn the names of all forty-four presidents, facts about the Civil War, and will learn facts about several important U. S. trailblazers.
This is a fun, fascinating and innovative book that even the most reluctant reader can grasp and learn social studies facts from. Mnemonic devices do help many people memorize facts, but Brian Cleary has taken this form of learning to a new level. The sometimes wild and wacky rhymes or use of the number of letters in a short string of words to memorize a date make memorization just that much easier. For example, take the sentence - Abe Lincoln says as he points to the White House: "I released slaves now." Count the letters in each word and you get 1863, the date he released them." Some of the mnemonic devices are a bit more difficult to remember than others, but all are fun and make learning social studies facts a whole lot easier. Every now and then we see a googly eyed elephant in the corner of a page who encourages the student to read more or get a bit of extra credit by learning an additional fact. In the back of the book is an answer key, an index, a glossary, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: This is a fun, fascinating and innovative book that even the most reluctant reader can grasp and learn social studies facts from.