Inspiring the American Dream recently put out an attractive book Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream, and we received a copy for review. This book, written by Kathleen Basmadjian, PhD and Robert K. Basmadjian Jr., retails for $14.99, and is also available via Kindle for $9.99 It is written for ages 7-12.
While it is completely readable by my 7 year old, my 10 year old and 11 year old liked it best. The 11 year old read it in one sitting... and then read it again. :) I also read it aloud to my 7 and 5 year-old children.
This book is 36 pages plus softcover, and is about 10" x 7". The text covers about 1/3 of each page, and the illustrations are somewhat comic book style. There are about 150 words per page, and it could be easily read by a child of the targeted age range in about 20-30 minutes. The final three pages include a glossary of terms and short character biographies.
Before requesting this book, I visited the Inspiring the American Dream website where it expounded:
"It was an ideal in which the individual, through courage, hard work and determination, could become whatever they aspired to be, creating a ‘better way of life’ for themselves and their family... Ironically, the very success of earlier American generations achieving the ‘dream’ has now led to a new generation, with very little, if any, understanding or motivation to pursue it. Attitudes of want rather than need, expectations to have, rather than to have earned, have replaced thrift and hard work as cornerstones in modern day society, threatening the American dream’s very existence." ~ The Dream
So, you can see why I could hardly wait to get this book!
The story follows a young boy, Abraham, whose parents have been laid off from work during the Great Recession. They explain to Abraham that there will be no gifts under the tree for Christmas, and the boy sets out to save Christmas. He begins his adventure by texting friends from his smartphone, to find any odd jobs or work, in the hope of earning Christmas money.
This is when Abraham Lincoln miraculously appears in his phone and he is somehow transported to a world where time does not apply and he meets various characters including:
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Norman Rockwell
- Mark Zuckerberg
- Amelia Earhart
- Bill and Melinda Gates
Each person has a bit of wisdom for him, and spurs the boy along in his journey. He experiences many "aha" type moments.
Along the way, Abraham discovers he loves to paint, and instantly creates a few masterpieces. Immediately after a two page illustration of the Gates' sprawling mansion in the Pacific Northwest, is the scene where Mr. and Mrs. Gates buy Abraham's painting and send him home to buy Christmas gifts. He has enough money from the Gates to fill his living room full of large wrapped presents and enough left over for a few armloads of donations for a homeless shelter.
What I liked:
- The American Dream, especially as stated above, from the website, is an important theme in what I am teaching my children. I think this is a worth-while cause, especially in our culture of entitlement.
- The illustrations were colorful and well done.
- This is an easy read.
- It is very imaginative, and the fanciful story was entertaining to my children, as some of them read it multiple times.
- It did serve as a lead-in to some important conversations about values and messages in our media.
- Tyler's favorite part was Abraham meeting so many notable figures.
- We also liked that the book ended with an act of giving.
- Abraham took his dilemma into his own hands and sought out a solution.
- The "Character Biographies" in the back of the book.
What I didn't like:
- I have only heard the "Great Recession" used as political leverage, and it is not a term my children are familiar with.
- Also, if times were so bleak, why did this pre-teen character have a smartphone? I found this part of the plot very weak.
- The character we most admire, Abraham Lincoln, was only referred to as such once, and then the rest of the book as the "wise old man." He really didn't share much from his life experience, but mainly served to introduce the boy to all of the other characters. I think this could be expanded, as President Lincoln certainly experienced the American Dream, rising from a humble life to great success, through difficult times and a lot of grief and hard work.
- I struggled with the message of instant gratification of instantly creating art and selling it. There was no work at all involved in this boy's success. He did not learn that upward mobility depends on hard work and perseverance, but more on social networking and finding a wealthy benefactor. I think the plot had the right idea when Abraham started out "determined to find work."
- I don't think I would choose Mark Zuckerberg as a role model for my children, and in the story he asks for the boy's email address and "connected" to him via a social network. I have a LOT of issues with this, beginning with the fact that the target age of this book mostly includes children who cannot legally use facebook, or should, for that matter. Nor would I ever allow my children to give their contact information to a person they had just met.
Bottom Line:From my investigation of the Inspiring the American Dream website, I get the message of what they are trying to inspire, and I admire it. I think the Basmadjians missed the mark in conveying that message in this book. As I was reading it aloud to my children, I realized I really didn't want to finish it. It did springboard some good conversations about our values and role models. I also found the price to be a bit high considering the size and reading level of the book.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.
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