Book Review: Voices from Colonial America, New Jersey

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Also in This Series

• California
• Delaware
• Georgia
• Louisiana
• Massachusetts
• New York
• Pennsylvania

Also on This Subject

• The 13 Colonies
• U.S. States
• The Making of the 50 States

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The latest in an extremely solid series of books on the making of the American Colonies, this book shines the magnifying glass on colonial New Jersey, which, many people (especially in New Jersey) would argue, was as overlooked in favor of New York and Pennsylvania then as it is now.

New Jersey, in fact, was a very important colony, the linchpin that kept the New England and Middle Colonies together. This book explains why.

In patient prose designed to entice younger readers, the author, Robin Doak, tells the engaging story of the building of New Jersey—from its earliest days as a Native American heartland through its Dutch and English colony days to its harrowing days during the American Revolutionary War and to its battle for statehood and its role in the ratification of the Constitution. Along the way, the reader encounters a number of high-quality maps and other illustrations (the National Geographic trademark) that illuminate the words and present an overall picture that makes learning interesting.

And it's not just politics and wars that get the focus here. Doak includes all manner of examples of everyday life in colonial New Jersey, discussing jobs and cultural roles and medicine and economics and transportation and many other aspects that present a whole picture of a colony in flux but trying to maintain its equilibrium. We even get to learn how children and adults had fun. Slavery is discussed, of course, since New Jersey, like many other states that would later be labeled as Civil War "North" states, allowed the abhorrent practice in the early years of the colony.

Sprinkled throughout as well are brief profiles of important New Jersey residents, among them William Franklin, more famous as the father of Benjamin Franklin. A fascinating example of these profiles is that of Patience Lowell Wright, an artist who sculpted wax figures and is alleged to have operated as a spy during the Revolutionary War, hiding secret messages in her figures.

Like New Jersey itself, this book can stand alone, as a picture of vibrant colony coming into its own time and again during the formative years of the United States. The book is also intended to be part of a series, many of which are already published.

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