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Book Review: Voices from Colonial America, California
Reading Level

Ages 9–12

Also in This Series

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

Also on This Subject

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

The history of California is dominated by Spanish and Mexican influences, and it is no surprise that these dominate this book as well. This is a first-rate perusal of the history of California, from its beginnings to its admittance into the Union. The book is part of National Geographic's Voices of Colonial America series.

The missions in California are described in great and fascinating detail, including the strange practices of the missionaries and the powerful influence they had on the Native Americans of the state. Great care is taken to describe even tiny aspects of the mission-pueblo-presidio experience, and this attention to detail is welcome indeed.

The Russians and British are represented as well, as they should be, the former more than the latter. The particularly touching ill-fated romance of Russian trader Nikolai Rezanov and a Spanish girl, Concepcion Arguello, is included. This is a very sad story, and it illustrates not only the hardships that Europeans endured in their trading and settlement efforts in California but also the distance between their new homes and their homelands.

The two or three decades leading up to California statehood are filled with events involving Mexicans and Americans, and the book covers this era adequately as well, examining rancheros and Californios and the Bear Flag Revolt, all essential elements of what would become the Mexican-American War.

No book about California history would be complete without mention of the Gold Rush, and this book does not break that rule. Although the discussion of this momentous is a little on the sparse side, we do learn the ultimate wealth and fate of James Marshall, the one who found those little shiny rocks at Sutter's Mill.

As always, a helpful timeline forms a fitting coda to a wonderfully detailed examination of the pivotal events in the colonial history of one of America's most intriguing states.

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