This is a travel guide with a difference. It looks at America in groupings of historically interesting places to visit. You could use the book to plan a trip specifically to see the sites it covers, or you could keep it with you for fascinating side journeys as you head for your intended destination. Coffee-table size, it’s written in language that older children would be able to understand and includes readably large text, clear driving directions, and 500 color photographs.
When I get a book like this, I do what everyone does: I look up something I already know about. My husband and I travel America a lot, so I didn’t go to the book’s section on my home state of North Carolina but instead looked at the segment on Bedford Village in Bedford, Pennsylvania, an area we enjoy driving through. I learned something new (as you are likely to, on almost every page of this well-organized guide): “Well into the 1880s, children were confined by strict prohibitions during the Sabbath,” so their parents, in sympathy or just to keep them placated, invented “Sunday toys.” These included carvings of Noah’s Ark and a game called Christian Endeavor, which would probably not seem like a hoot to a modern kid, as it “demonstrated the rewards for virtue and the punishments for vice.” This is the human side of history that illuminates and fleshes out the visit to an historical site.
According to the publisher, the Sheumakers traveled 125,000 miles by car to compile this book. Wife Suzanne is a travel writer and biographer; Craig is a photographer and graphic designer,
so the two had the combined skills to bring the concept to fruition. In this collection, with its linkage of maps, directions, and history, you will find well-placed sidebars and groupings of such topics as “America’s Native Peoples” and “Religious and Secular Groups” by region to further amplify the context. You can appreciate not just the place you visit but its heritage. As a traveler myself, I know that even with the best efforts, not every historical venue offers enough information on site, and the link between one piece of the historical puzzle and another is rarely made, even within a state or region. America's Living History fills in a lot of blanks.
If you’re a spontaneous traveler, or if you want to educate yourself and your family as you ride along, this book should be in the map flap of your car. I assume it is planned as the first in a series (this volume covers early American settlement on the east coast), and I envy the Sheumakers as they make their hobby pay their way on the highways of our great, vast and very scenic country. Well done – and happy trails!