Daniel Boone


 Daniel Boone
James Daugherty (1940)

Read to:  3rd - 4th grade
Read independently:  5th - 7th grade

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      The book begins with a letter from the author to Mr. Boone (as if he'll ever read it) updating him somewhat on all the lands he walked and displaying the author's appreciation not only for the area's natural beauty but also for the historical contributions of Mr. Boone and his associates.  Following the letter is a one page poem titled "Pioneer Babies".  It seems a bit random but provides a nice supplement to the opening letter.  Between those two pieces a nice insight into Daniel Boone's pioneer life is provided.  The additional 84 pages that follow, divided into five chapters, is an overly detailed and rather boring account of Mr. Boone's victories and failures, conveyed through rich, wordy descriptions.  I felt like I was reading a biography report by a fifth grader who has the ability to research and pull pieces together but lacks the skill to make it interesting yet somehow manages to write with the vocabulary of a fifty year old.

     The version we read included "Original Lithographs in Color by the Author".  Well - low budget color anyway, just browns and greens.  A nice idea but Mr. Daugherty's artistic skill is worse than his ability to make history exciting.  he does okay with nature and animals but his people are rather creepy looking.  Especially the en with misshapen noses that look like they belong on the face of a fairy tale witch. 

          Chapter 1:  "Of a Frontier Family"

     The chapter begins with Daniel as a boy but quickly progresses to his young adult hood.  In the beginning of the book there are several Biblical references such as, "The land was more beautiful than they or anyone else who has not seen it could dream.  It was like the stories in the Bible they knew so well, of the wanderings of God's chosen people and of Abraham int he land of Canaan." (p. 15)

     Throughout the entire book Mr. Daugherty drops names like a socialite at a black-tie fundraiser.  For example, in just two paragraphs the reader is bombarded with:  

  • Alexandria's streets
  • red-coated troops of His Majesty, King George the Third
  • General Braddock
  • the Peytons
  • the Randolphs
  • the Lewises
  • junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela
  • Potomac valley
  • Fort Cumberland

American history was never my favorite subject so these names are only barely familiar to me.  I imagine to a young reader it's like a foreign language.  While reading this book I often thought that it was great for bedtime because it was probably so above my 6y8m old that it lulled him (or bored him) to sleep. 

     By the end of Chapter 1 Daniel has married and started his own family and moved a couple of times.

     Chapter 2:  "Transylvania"

     In this chapter we experience the settling of Kentucky with Daniel aiding Colonel/Judge Richard Henderson and his Transylvania company while war is beginning along the east coast.  My favorite sentence in the whole book occurs on page 46, "One was to be a nation of money-counters and machines, the other a barefooted rail-splitting, haranguing, horse-racing democracy of lean mule-drivers and land-poor, camp-meeting corn-huskers".  It is a fun sentence but certainly daunting for a young reader.

     Chapter 3:  "Boonesborough"

     Life in the fort - learning to co-exist with Indians.

     Chapter 4:  "Kentucky Rises"

     With all the settling and frontiering Daniel did, oddly he had a hard time becoming an official land owner of his own.

     Chapter 5:  "Long Afternoon"

     The Boone's move into Mississippi and St. Louis.  Again the land he thought he owned was taken from him.  It is also in this chapter that Daniel Boone meets up with John James Audubon.

     The author casually refers to Audubon's interest in birds and ability to draw them.  What is missing for me is some sort of aside, footnote, or explanation indicating that Mr. Audubon goes on to make significant contributions to bird studies.  I think it would add a whole other dimension to this book that the young reader could benefit from.  It's not in the author's style but it would have been beneficial in so many spots in the book, instead of just name dropping.  It certainly would not have made the book any more boring and quite possibly would've made it more interesting.

     The ending of the book is a nice tribute and shows that America respected Daniel Boone's contributions but I still feel that this book is too high-level for history novices to get any decent idea of who Daniel Boone was or what he did.


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