Mention "The American Dream" today and you're likely to get either eye-rolling or an enthusiastic endorsement of the welfare state. To our parents and grandparents, though, The American Dream (yes, it needs to be capitalized) meant something quite different. It meant opportunity. Independence. Freedom from oppression and economic dependence. Sometimes in the politically correct world we live in, it is nice to be reminded of that. Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream from Inspiring the American Dream is a creative and unique book designed to remind all of us, but especially our children, just what The American Dream is all about.
Written by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian, this book is available both as a physical book (for $14.99) and as an eBook (for $9.99). I reviewed the iPad version and the book looks great in iBooks!
Abraham's Journey takes place during the Great Recession (like, today!) and features a boy named, yes, Abraham, whose parents tell him and his siblings that they won't be able to afford Christmas that year. While texting his friends looking for odd jobs, Abraham's phone is visited by another Abraham -- Lincoln! Through the magic of the smartphone (or imagination!), both Abrahams time/space travel to meet various inspirational entrepreneurs and innovators in American history. As a result of his interactions with these historical figures, Abraham discovers a hidden talent (this is a spoiler-free review!) and is able to provide a Christmas for his family. More importantly, he learns to find what he is good at and to go for it! You don't become great by sitting back and waiting for someone to come to you and hand the world to you on a silver platter. You have to believe in yourself and take risks.
Abraham's Journey and Michael
I wasn't sure which of my kids would end up reading this book, but I wasn't very surprised when Michael (8) was the first one to open it on the iPad. He read straight through the book. Overall, he really liked it. Of course, anything dealing with Abraham Lincoln is great, and time travel is even better. He needed several things explained, though. For example, in the picture above left, the two Abrahams meet Bill and Melinda Gates. Michael didn't know who they were, even though he could follow their conversation. In the picture above right, Michael knew Amelia Earhart, but had no clue who Mark Zuckerberg was...until I said that magic word: Facebook. What he couldn't understand, and I had trouble explaining, was how the two of them could be together in history. Suspension of disbelief! We do it all the time when we read, right? Overall, I don't know how much of The American Dream Michael took away from this book, but he definitely enjoyed reading it.
Abraham's Journey and Me
I'll confess that I was really excited to read this book primarily because the author, Kathleen Basmadjian, got her Ph.D. in Biology from Catholic University in DC. I have a special love for Catholic U, plus one of my dear friends was also working on her Ph.D. in Bio there. It was for those completely irrelevant reasons that I was looking forward to this review! Having said that, though, I think there is a lot that is quite good about this book, although I don't think that homeschoolers are the target audience. I think that those of us who homeschool are already all about The American Dream. Many (if not most) of us do it on one income. Many (if not most) of us do it because we want to counter the prevailing cultural currents promulgated by the schools and the state. I would love, however, to see this book required in schools. Too many kids are too far removed from the immigrant experience to hear about The American Dream at home (my husband is first generation American, so that's definitely not true for my kids), and those kids that are the sons and daughters of immigrants are often so conflicted about the *politics* surrounding immigration that the idea of The American Dream can get lost in the shuffle. This concept is one that all of us can use a refresher on. Frequently.
Although Abraham's Journey is told in a non-traditional way that may put some people off, it is a clever story that is well worth reading. It may work best as a read aloud so that some of the more confusing aspects of the tale can be discussed as the story progresses. As a read aloud, I would say this book would be good for 2nd - 5th grade, but it is certainly appropriate for older kids (or younger, depending on how mature your kids are). Also, there is an extensive glossary and biographical section in the back, just in case you're not too sure about some of the people or terms in the book! Too see how other Crew members read this book, be sure to check out the other reviews!