Sheila Cole

To Be Young In America: Growing Up With The Country, 1776-1940

When looking through old picture albums, I always pause at the pictures of young people and wonder who they were and what their stories were. Did they go to school? To work? What kinds of games did they play? What happened to them when they grew up? Most American history books are silent when it comes to young people’s lives. They do not tell you what it was like to be fifteen years old in 1776 and to join the militia to fight the British. Nor do they tell you what happened to children when they broke the law, became sick, went to school, or went to work. This book does. It offers a more human perspective on U.S. history and how real children experienced the growing pains of a nation—from its humble beginnings to industrialization to the eve of World War II.

Using topics such as the family, life in an orphanage, sickness and health, work, school, play, crime, and war,To Be Young In America shows how life has changed for young people over the course of our nation’s history. Each chapter opens with a description of the experience of an actual person drawn from their memoir or autobiography, giving the reader an opportunity to learn about life through an individual’s story.

Embellished with nearly one-hundred photographs and illustrations, as well as sidebars which highlight interesting facts, this book is a virtual time capsule that not only transports and teaches but encourages readers to take a fresh view of their lives as young people in contemporary America.


“This is a fascinating book, and also a beautiful one...The list of citations and sources shows the extensive research that has gone into the book, and the readers will feel the author’s passion for her topic. A rich resource for bringing history alive.”
Jane G. Connor for School Library Journal

“…[T]his is a work of impressive density and scope. A bibiliography more than 100 titles strong attests to Cole’s command of her material….”
Jennifer Mattson for Booklinks



Selected Works

"An exceptional job of showing readers what life was like for children in times past." School Library Journal
“Solid, truthful writing about a teenager wrestling with the greatest of dilemmas”
-Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
A portrait of a Mary Anning, who in 1811, when she was only 13 years old, discovered the first complete fossil of an ichthyosaur.
Lisa learns that meaning well is not enough. It's the doing that counts. "A common peer group situation...dealt with bluntly and convincingly." Booklist
Eleven-year-old Zachary tries to stop the development of the local canyon he loves.