Book Review: Bright Ideas

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Also in This Series

Cultures Collide
New Beginnings
Independence Now
Freedom Struggle
Railroad Fever
Moving North
Created Equal
Speaking Out

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The National Geographic series Crossroads America keeps getting better. The addition this time is Bright Ideas, and the focus in on inventions in America from 1870 to 1910.

A great many of America's most important inventions came about during this period of time, and the book does an excellent job of conveying what life in America was like before and after these inventions.

The telephone, the incandescent light bulb, the airplane, Levi's jeans, skyscrapers, the automobile—all of these great and fabulous inventions became realities during this exciting time. And this book puts the reader right in the moment, with period pictures and well-thought-out illustrations.

Kudos also to the author for including a section on how the invention of time-saving devices like the electric vacuum cleaner and the automobile increased people's leisure time and led to greater consumption of goods and enjoyment of leisure activities. (Such leisure activities invented during this period of time included the Ferris wheel and the game of basketball.)

And, the author should also be commended for including a mention of how some aspects of American culture did not change during this time. Specifically, the author mentions how women were still treated like second-class citizens. Some things, it seems, even new and bright ideas can't overcome.

All in all, this a great book on two levels: It explains the methods behind and the significance of the great inventions of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and it explains how these inventions changed the way Americans traveled, communicated, worked, played, and generally spent their time.

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White