The Industrial Revolution For Kids by Cheryl Mullenbach

The Industrial Revolution For Kids: The People and Technology That Change the World with 21 Activities by Cheryl Mullenbach
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: August 1, 2014

We should make one thing clear here before I even begin. This book should be titled The Industrial Revolution in America for Kids. There is nothing wrong with this, but when I first began the book, I was a little disappointed that only the American Industrial Revolution was included, but it wasn't a major sticking point in the readability of the book. This educational activity book was a great introduction to a period of great change that stays solidly kid-focused. Carefully organized with an Introduction and then chapters on New Ways of Working, New Ways of Living, Kids at Work, Catastrophes, Unions & Strikes, Help and Hope for Better Lives, and the Emerging New Culture. Everything was covered from the Rockefellers to factories, detachable collars and cuffs to one-cent coffee stands.

I felt like the material was presented very well. Even when talking about subjects that were a bit grown-up centric, the author is careful to mention the children that would be involved in the situation. Also, it gave me a lot to ruminate over. A lot. It was a gentle reminder of how different things were and how time, accidents, disaster, protests, and cultural change really are necessary for forming and changing our world. Child labor laws didn't happen overnight, in fact some would probably say that it took far too long for laws to be on the books about child labor. The same could be said for any number of things that were happening in that era. This, of course, made me think of the present and how people continue to fight for change. I am sure that there were people who were fighting for children's rights as workers back in 1850 (the book does mention these) who never lived to see the first laws passed. We look back on it now as a piece of history. How too might people look back on our history? What moment will they say that a certain moment in time was the true catalyst for change?

Included in the book are 21 activities that, although not bad, were disappointing in the fact that the activities would be hard to replicate in a classroom. Most of the activities were things that a child could do from home, which made me think that the real target audience for this book would be homeschoolers or parents who are seeking supplemental instruction for their kids. I can't imagine there is a large subset of kids who pick up books like this just for fun, but my evidence is purely anecdotal so I will leave it be.

The book is a bit text heavy, which is why I think it would be good for homeschoolers, but none of it is written beyond an elementary reading level so I think it could fit easily into a history curriculum.