Title: Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag
Author: Ann Weil
Series: Childhood of Famous Americans
Major Themes: Betsy Ross, Philadelphia, Quakers, Sewing, Biography, Colonial Era (US)
Synopsis: This is a wonderful story about the girlhood of the woman who designed the first United States flag.
I have always enjoyed the Childhood of Famous Americans books. Back in the early- or mid-1980s, our family found a couple dozen or more of the old hardcover ones for 25c each when our local library discarded them. We snatched up every single one, and I remember reading them more than once. These are great stories about children who lived at various times in the past and grew up to make a difference in American history. I’ve come to realize, now that I am a mother of children who struggle to read, that these books are actually written fairly simply, so they’re easy for struggling readers to handle, yet they are so interesting that they catch the children’s attention. My own collection of these books must be over a dozen now!
I read Betsy Ross aloud not too long ago, as part of our study of American history. All the boys enjoyed this very much. The subtitle mentions that she was the designer of the American flag, but the only mention of that is in the last chapter. This book focuses on her childhood, growing up as a Quaker girl in Philadelphia in the 1750s and 1760s. She wanted to make furniture, but when she hurt herself instead, her mother helped her to appreciate what she could do. She loved to help bake bread, and she enjoyed school—but she didn’t want her oldest sister to get married and leave the family!
Betsy spent much time sewing, and became an expert. I was fascinated by the school schedule she had. There were several hours set aside each day, in her school, for each of the girls to pursue a craft they were interested in. Her life was not all spent at school, though. She also had time to visit the print shop and chat with Dr. Franklin, as well as explore a ship and make new friends. By reading this book, you will almost feel as though you are in colonial Philadelphia!
There is no dry history in this book. It is practically a historical novel, based on the life of Betsy Ross. Every chapter is an engaging story, with the common thread through most of it of her sewing. Try this book, and others in the series, for your children who want a “true story” and need something fairly easy to read! I would say these books are written at about a 3rd-grade level.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12