Welcome Cheryl Mullenbach, a former middle and high school history teacher and state education department consultant, to the Mixed-Up Files!
Cheryl is here to talk about her new book, The Industrial Revolution for Kids, which introduces young readers to the Industrial Revolution in a “revolutionary” way—through the usual people, places, and inventions of the time: the incredibly wealthy Rockefellers and Carnegies, dirty and dangerous factories, new forms of transportation and communication. In addition, readers experience the era through the eyes of everyday workers, kids, sports figures, and social activists whose names never appeared in history books.
MUF: This is your second nonfiction book for young readers. Given your teaching experience, American history is a logical choice of subject mattter. But what made you decide to focus on the Industrial Revolution?
CM: I like to tackle traditional topics in history by exploring them through new, fresh perspectives. The Industrial Revolution is usually a popular topic for middle school and high school history courses. The focus for studying the Industrial Revolution in America is usually on the “greats” – Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilt. The era had such a major impact on the way we live today. I wanted to scratch below the surface and feature some of the ordinary and overlooked individuals (including kids) who made the Industrial Revolution possible. That’s why readers of The Industrial Revolution for Kids will learn about the contributions of Andrew Carnegie to the steel industry at the same time meeting an 11-year-old boy who was thrown into a room with rats when he was caught breaking windows.
MUF: The Industrial Revolution is a big topic. How did you narrow it down to information that would be most relevant and interesting to kids?
CM: It was challenging to present an overview of 100 years of American history in only 40,000 words! The role of immigrants could hardly be overlooked in any book about the Industrial Revolution. Labor unions. Child labor. Urbanization. And while those at first blush may not be appealing to kids, the stories of real people who were affected by immigration, unions, child labor and urbanization reel in young readers—the five children of Thomas Healy who lost his life in a gunpowder factory explosion in New York; 12-year-old Charles Neudinger whose body was pierced by needles when a machine in a textile factory accidentally trapped him; a group of school boys in Massachusetts who vandalized their principal’s house when they were banned from associating with the local factory girls.
MUF: Wow, those are some incredible stories. Thank you for giving them a voice. The inclusion of twenty-one hands on activities and crafts really extends the learning opportunities provided by the book. Was it hard to come up with ideas? Can you give us a short description of your favorite example?
CM: Well, I think anyone who has taught middle school kids becomes quite skilled at designing resources that capture the attention of those little darlings! One of my favorite activities in the book is “Listen to Talking Walls.” It incorporates local history and language arts as well as research skills. Kids are asked to focus on a section of buildings in their community. They analyze the exteriors and interiors to learn about architecture and history. My hope is that kids will look at their surroundings and realize that there’s history all around them.
MUF: Who is the target audience for your book?
I hope middle school history and language arts teachers, public and school librarians, and home school educators will use it as a resource for their students. I think parents will find it a helpful tool to pique a child’s interest in the past. Children who are learning English as a second language will find stories and activities that they can relate to. As educators look for resources to infuse informational text into their curricula, they seek out text in content areas that will motivate students. I think stories of real people, places, and events from the past can intrigue young readers. The format of the “For Kids” series by Chicago Review Press benefits struggling readers. Text is “chunked up” or pulled out in the sidebars woven throughout the chapters. Reluctant readers are pulled in by the archival photos. Many of the photos capture images of young children—getting dimes from John D. Rockefeller, stuffing sausages in a meatpacking plant, selling newspapers on city street corners, and playing on tenement roofs. A college instructor told me she plans to use The Industrial Revolution for Kids with her undergraduates to give an overview of the Industrial Revolution!
MUF: That’s great! According to your website, you have another book forthcoming in 2015. Can you tell us a little bit about that title?
CM: It’s another in the “For Kids” series. The Great Depression for Kids: Hardships and Hope in 1930’s America tells the stories of everyday Americans struggling to live, work, and play during this troubled time. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Readers meet packhorse librarians; Bossy Gillis, the Massachusetts mayor who encouraged kids to skip school to attend the circus; Scotty, a film star’s dog that had his own pink satin sofa; and 7-year-old Betty Jane Kolar, the “world’s youngest magician.”
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Cheryl Mullenbach, and offering a copy of The Industrial Revolution for Kids to one lucky reader. To enter the draw, please follow the rafflecopter link. Winner announced September 23rd. Good luck!
Yolanda Ridge is the author of Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2012) and Road Block (Orca Book Publishers, 2011).