U.S. History Detective Book One ~ A Review

Do you children enjoy a good detective story?

What if they could approach American history as if they were trying to solve a mystery?

U.S. Hist Detect Book 1 BannerIf this sounds appealing to you, then my latest review item from The Critical Thinking Co. may be just the thing you’re looking for!  U.S. History Detective Book One (authored by Steven Greif) is a fascinating and user-friendly history book that both teens and parents will enjoy.

What is U.S. History Detective Book One?

Subtitled “Colonial Era to Reconstruction Era,” U.S. History Detective Book One is a history text covering the history of America from pre-1492 through 1869.  An 8 1/2″ x 11″ softcover consumable book, it’s designed for students in grades 8-12.  The book contains reading material, multiple-choice and essay questions, reviews, timelines, vocabulary, maps, and even fun facts that tell the student interesting things that they might not have already known.  Depending on the age and needs of the student, U.S. History Detective Book One can either be used as the main history spine or as a supplemental one.

Am Hist Det pic 4

U.S. History Detective Book One contains 9 history sections, each containing  6-10 individual lessons expanding on different events during that particular era or time period.  Here’s a listing of the different eras covered in this book:

  • The Colonial Era
  • The Revolutionary Era
  • The Federal Era
  • The Nationalism Era
  • The Reform Era
  • The Expansion Era
  • The Sectional Conflict Era
  • The Civil War Era
  • Reconstruction Era

Each era, or section, begins with an overview of the major events, changes, geographical areas or historical figures which influenced or occurred during that time period.  Then, the individual lessons begin, with several pages of reading in each lesson.  Following the reading are multiple choice and essay questions, with a review segment every few chapters, as well as some bonus activities requiring both inductive and critical thinking.

US Hist Det pic 1How we used it:

My son Jackson is in the 8th grade this year, so we have been using U.S. History Detective Book One as part 1 of our American history studies for middle school.  We spent about 3 days per week studying this.  On the first day, Jackson would complete the reading material on his own in the lesson we were studying.  On the next day, he’d work on the multiple-choice questions.  And then he’d complete the essay questions.  This also included a review of the lesson he’d read as he worked on the questions.  On the third day, we’d start the process over again with either reading of the next lesson, or completing the reviews which occur intermittently after one or two chapters, depending on how much information was covered.  Students need to review the chapter/s which the review covers, which will enable them to answer the questions and ensure that they’re learning the necessary points.

US Hist Det pic 2Because I read the lessons before I assign them to Jackson, I have a good idea of both what he’ll be learning as well as what he’ll need to know when he has finished the chapter.  And, I also can tell which parts of each lesson will need further study.  Occasionally, we’d work together on the essay portions, which require students to write short narrative, informative or expository essays as they answer the questions.

Our impressions:

As a homeschooling parent, I’ve found U.S. History Detective Book One to be an exceptional tool for learning history.  The lessons are arranged well and the information is presented in an interesting way.  The questions at the end of each lesson are designed for students to gain the maximum benefit from what they’ve read, as well as enabling them to grow in critical thinking.  The graphics, maps, photos and illustrations are eye-catching and beautiful.

Am Hist Det pic 3

The lesson lengths are just right and very accessible, so that students build knowledge upon knowledge and skill upon skill.  One of the things that I found to be a fantastic benefit to the book is the essay portion.  As students enter the high school years, essay writing becomes more and more important and truly a vital skill.  I really appreciated this important part of each lesson.  It not only gave Jackson many opportunities to write, but for me to discern which parts of his writing needed strengthening.

The text is highly readable and enjoyable, while very informative.  The maps and timelines provide excellent graphic information about the lessons, and benefit the student’s learning process.

Am Hist Det pic 5And, I also loved that U.S. History Detective Book One doesn’t teach ONLY history.  Rather, it interweaves what was happening in art, in journalism, in political writing, in economics, in scientific invention along with what was happening historically in each era.  That even provides rabbit trails for further educational exploration as you study the course!

Lastly, as a homeschool mom, I found the lessons to be very easy to prepare.  (There is also an answer key at the back of the book if you need it.)  I enjoyed the review for myself, but really appreciated how simple my preparation and presentation was.

In conclusion:

As you can imagine from its name, The Critical Thinking Co. creates curricula and resources designed to teach students and gives them opportunities to build and strengthen critical thinking skills.  U.S. History Detective Book One is not just a knowledge-in, knowledge-out curriculum.  Instead, it stretches teens by presenting information and causing the students to think and ask themselves questions.  Why did this event happen?  Why did politicians react this way during this era?  Why did they make this choice rather that that choice?  All of this not only furthers the student’s education but enables him to grow in maturity and understanding.

Am Hist Det pic 6

This design is perfect for the students in grades 8-12, who are at this time in their development, beginning to ask all those “why” questions.  I  believe that’s where the “Detective” part of this book comes in, since the job of a detective is to search for clues and discover mysteries and secrets.  That’s exactly what students will be doing with U.S. History Detective Book One…as they’re putting together a worldview and picture of America and the events that shaped her.

I believe you’ll find U.S. History Detective Book One both fascinating, useful, and integral for teaching history as well as critical thinking skills!  We recommend it highly.

U.S. History Detective Book One can be purchased at The Critical Thinking Co. in both paperback and e-book form for $39.99.

Enjoy!  –Wren

Disclaimer:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share my own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.  We received a copy of U.S. History Detective Book One to review, free from The Critical Thinking Co.



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