________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 29. . . .March 28, 2014

United States: The Culture. (The Lands, Peoples, and Cultures Series). Rev. Ed.

Lynne Weiss.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2013.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-9837-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-9834-7 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
United States-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.
United States-Civilization-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Sherry Faller.

**˝ /4



The culture of the United States has spread around the world. People in many different countries watch American movies and television series, listen to American music, wear American-designed clothing, and drive cars designed in the United States.


Bobby Kalman’s team has informed and intrigued readers with their series of culture, land, and people books from many different counties. This updated edition of United States: The Culture has been revised by Lynne Weiss. The first section is aptly named ‘An Influential Culture’ because the melting pot of America has, in turn, influenced the rest of the world. So what makes America, America? This book is a comprehensive overview of many aspects of the country’s culture – faiths, celebrations, music, art, literature, TV and movies and legends and lore. As always, the coloured photographs splash the pages, enhancing the content and demonstrating the changes in American culture.

     The intended audience is for students interested in studying about other countries. Middle years students will enjoy reading about the inception of some of their everyday essentials like Facebook, iPods, telephones, TV and movies. Because America is made up of so many different peoples, various faiths and celebrations are combined to create something uniquely American. Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas, and Ramadan are only a few of the special days.

     American music has evolved over the years, boasting ownership of the spirituals, gospel, blues, jazz, country and bluegrass. Composers and song writers like Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein and even Elvis Presley are noted. Paintings, photography, sculpture and architecture are all artistically recognizably American. The influences of other languages to make up American English are featured in a chart. For example, words like alligator, hurricane and canyon originate from Spanish while blink and ketchup come from China.

     Perhaps most entertaining to the younger reader will be the section on literature with the well-known authors Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder, authors of Huckleberry Finn and Little House on the Prairie, respectively. The tall tales of Paul Bunyan are showcased while Brer Rabbit and Johnny Appleseed are just two of the well-loved American imaginary heroes also mentioned. The section on TV and the evolution of Hollywood movies is well researched, beginning with the variety shows on black and white televisions, Academy Award winners, and Sesame Street to Disney animation and movies like E.T. and Toy Story.

     Producing a book which completely describes the multiculturalism of America is not an easy task. The influences of so many other cultures have been enmeshed into something that has become ‘American’. Readers from other countries will certainly recognize aspects of their own lives that have been influenced by America. Conversely, Americans have a multitude of outside cultures creating or blending with their own. This book attempts to provide the reader with a quick overview of what it means to be an American. Joining Bobbie Kalman’s other books in the countries series, this book will be welcomed in any school library. Canadians will enjoy finding out more about their neighbours to the south who seem to live just as they do, but differently.


Sherry Faller is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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