Our Colonial Year by Cheryl Harness

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Our Colonial Year written and illustrated by Cheryl Harness (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005) is a unique picture book to introduce the thirteen original colonies in the Americas, using a calendar as a frame. Each month of the year is represented by a different colony, with an illustration to show the way of life in that colony during that particular month. (The thirteenth colony, Georgia, is discussed on the last page about New Years’ celebrations.) The text for each two-page spread is just 2-3 sentences written in a non-rhyming poetic form, a well suited brief form that summarizes both the season and the actions the colonial people are doing in the facing picture, from a family sewing by a fire, tapping trees for maple sap, or gathering in a tavern together to swap news.

Some of the actions make a silent commentary on what the colony’s industry is. These include the maple sap for Massachusetts (which included modern-day Vermont), ship building for Rhode Island, and a print shop for Pennsylvania, among others. In general, though, naming a colony for each picture almost wasn’t necessary, since many of the actions were universal to all colonists, such as milking a cow and hoeing a garden, and children playing marbles and heading toward school.

Our Colonial Year is a gentle book, with a brief introductory feel as well as generic year-is-passing peaceful tone. I really like it and consider it a great book to introduce or summarize colonial American daily life, as well as simply as a pleasant read-aloud to travel through the calendar year from a historical perspective.

Reviewed on July 5, 2024

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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