Publisher's Note:  

From the boys who sailed with Columbus to today's young activists, this unique book brings to life the contributions of young people throughout American history. Based on primary sources and including 160 authentic images, this handsome oversized volume highlights the fascinating stories of more than 70 young people from diverse cultures. Young readers will be hooked into history as they meet individuals their own age who were caught up in our country's most dramatic moments-Olaudah Equiano, kidnapped from his village in western Africa and forced into slavery, Anyokah, who helped her father create a written Cherokee language, Johnny Clem, the nine-year-old drummer boy who became a Civil War hero, and Jessica Govea, a teenager who risked joining Cesar Chavez's fight for a better life for farmworkers. Throughout, Philip Hoose's own lively, knowledgeable voice provides a rich historical context-making this not only a great reference-but a great read. The first U.S. history book of this scope to focus on the role young people have played in the making of our country, its compelling stories combine to tell our larger national story, one that prompts Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, to comment, "This is an extraordinary book-wonderfully readable, inspiring to young and old alike, and unique."


We Were There Too! is a 2001 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

We Were There Too!: Young People in U.S. History

by Phillip Hoose

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Overall Review:  

    Can you name ten teens who influenced US history? Five? One? If you’re like me and only Pocohantas comes to mind, this book will help you learn about many others.
    There are famous people like Sacagawea and Bill Gates. And there are those I hadn’t heard of before like Sybil Ludington who rode much further than Paul Revere to muster militia who fought and defeated the British.
    There are the girls who claimed they were bewitched in Salem, Massachusetts. There’s Olaudah Equiano, an African boy kidnapped and sold into slavery who later wrote his autobiography.
    There are child laborers and a civil war drummer boy. There’s a Mormon pioneer who "walked to Zion" and a Chinese teen who came to California to get rich in the Gold Rush. There are boy coal workers and a survivor of the Titanic.
    You’ll read about suffragists and child movie stars, hobos, and heros, ball players and civil rights activists, union organizers and anti-war demonstrators.
    The book begins with Diego Bermúdez who sailed with Columbus in 1492. (The Bermuda Islands are named for Diego’s brother Juan who sailed on later voyages.) It ends with Kory Johnson who became an environmentalist in 1988 after her sister died, probably from the effects of contaminated drinking water. There’s a good mix of stories about boys and about girls.
    For each person or group described, there’s a short chapter about four pages long with pictures, sidebars, and a section about what happened later to that person or group. The book is divided into nine parts, starting with the discovery of the New World and moving forward to the 1990s.
    The information here can lead readers in so many different directions—to further histories of the period, to more detailed biographies, or to historical fiction. The Sources on page 253 to 256 can serve as a starting point for finding more information; books written especially for teen readers are marked with an asterisk.
    Please note that this book shows the United States with all its warts: there are slaves; there’s war; there’re fights for suffrage, civil right, the environment; there’re strikers and union organizers, runaways and war protesters.
    Although the author has found fascinating details about the young people he writes about, not every person in the book will spark the interest of every reader. However, it’s a great book to dip into and explore, looking at pictures, reading sidebars, and picking and choosing the chapters to read thoroughly. Even though it has a high reading level, I recommend it for reluctant readers because it has so many things to intrigue readers on almost every page.
Reading Level: 6.9, range 5.6-8.2.
Also good for reluctant readers
Of interest to boys and girls
Awards: finalist for National Book Award, 2001; Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year; International Reading Association Teacher's Choice

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:  

This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.


G*d; "damnation from a God of wrath"; "hellish Witchcraft; hellish; "My G*d"; when will this accursed thing end?"; "war is h*ll"; G*d; Terry called "Jap"; "go home, n*gger"; called "fag".

Mention that some people sacrificed their lives; mention of boys being thrashed; mention that some kidnapped children froze to death or died of starvation on voyage to Spain; on return voyage, find fort destroyed and all Spaniards dead; Indians were killed if they couldn’t fill their quota of gold; some Indian parents killed their children, so they wouldn’t have to endure life under Spaniards; Indians died of diseases from Europe, smallpox in particular; Indian’s weapons of "spears and poisoned arrows" couldn’t defeat Spaniards’ "muskets, horses, cannons, and . . . smallpox germs"; British settlers in Chesapeake Bay attacked by "aggressive warriors";Pocohontas’s father "drove Spanish settlers away" two times and he may have been responsible for "destroying a British attempt to start a colony in North Carolina"; Pocohantas’s father sent war party of 200 to attack Jamestown, they were repulsed by cannon fire; Pocahontas puts head down on John Smith’s when her father orders him killed, quite graphic; Smith uses pistol, takes seven Indians captive; Pocahontas’s father and some braves plot to kill Smith; Indians surround Jamestown, so settlers can’t get food; "two-thirds of [settlers in Jamestown] were dying from starvation" and disease, "others had been killed by Powhatan’s warriors," including youth who was shoot in heart with an arrow; Indian boy "killed in a quarrel"; Virginia Company asks British government "for permission to ‘imprison, punish or dispose’ of children" who disobey; girl testified of being "violently assaulted" by "taker up of children into ships"; boy sets off homemade firecracker on Mayflower, deck catches fire; sidebar on killing wolves, quite graphic; girl "whipped in public for swearing," children over sixteen could be put to death for "cursing or striking a parent"; preacher advocated corporal punishment; woman in Boston hanged as witch; three women imprisoned in Salem, one died there, one hanged, one freed; five-year-old daughter chained to her mother’s leg in prison; later nineteen hanged as witches, another "tortured to death"; town "raided and burned" by Indians and French six times in ten years; in one raid, families massacred, over 100 people captured and forced to march to Canada, Reverend John Williams’ family taken captive, two sons already killed, mother killed; woodcut shows Indian with tomahawk and man in bed holding gun on him; rewards offered for dead Indians, including women and girls; kidnapped African boy believes he’ll be killed, sees blacks chained together, sees white man flogged to death then thrown over side; two men chained together jump into ocean, preferring to die rather than to be so miserable; boy fears being eaten by whites; mention that "one in six captives died" on slave ships; Olaudah beaten for not answering to his European name; mention of fight between Tory and patriot students at Harvard College; school children throw rocks at British customs inspector, he fires musket into crowd, hitting eleven-year-old Seider and killing him; Samuel Maverick shot and killed in "Boston Massacre" along with four others, somewhat graphic; mention of "bloody battle in Concord"; description of wounded men after battle, men in battle had to swim creek, those who couldn’t swim, drowned; description of "leaping over the bodies of friends" in battle; at age eight, Adams sees "British warship launching cannonballs at the village of Charlestown"; brief description of two battles at sea; mention of slaves from Haiti who fought against British and later "led a successful revolution" against French rulers in Haiti; British soldiers burned Continental army warehouse and some homes too; mention that boy spy could have been "jailed or even executed" if caught; description of naval battle at sea, cannon fire, men screaming, somewhat graphic; James imprisoned for seven months on British prison ship; mention that "more than ten thousand American prisoners died" on the ship; after battle, Deborah has "bullet holes through her coat" and cap, soldier beside her died; Deborah wounded twice, sword slash to her head, and bullet through shoulder; children working in factories who "slowed down or quit" were sometimes beaten; mention of tarring and feathering and fighting; mention of Indians fighting Americans; war; capture of American ships, jailing of sailors, and blockades; Americans declared war on Britain in 1812, lasted until 1815; girls fear house may be "blown to bits" by British warship; British soldiers burn American barges, threaten townspeople with guns, confiscate boats; mention of battle in Washington, D.C., British burning down President’s house and Capitol; British attack Fort McHenry with cannon fire; American forces beat British at Baltimore; mention of Indian tribes "fighting valiantly" for homelands; Cherokees forced to leave land at gunpoint, somewhat graphic; mention of many dying on Trail of Tears; sign threatens Japanese people with execution if they sneak aboard a foreign ship or return to Japan from abroad, Christians who come to Japan will be beheaded; boy watches whale killed, cut up, and drained of oil; boy jumps in ocean, kills sea turtle; cabin boys cleaned "blood, bone shards, and blubber" off decks of whalers; each ship killed "an average of one hundred whales each time [it] went out"; "George Fred’s bunk mate . . . got drunk and slit his own throat"; sailor beat George Fred up until George Fred "smashed him on the head with a club"; picture of "Nantucket Sleigh Ride," showing men falling out of boat as harpooned whale tries to get away; another cabin boy "savagely" beaten, runs away on Siberian coast; Frederick (when a slave) decides he’d "as well be killed running as die standing"; mob attacks Sunday school where Frederick was teaching reading and writing, one man threatened to "fill [him] with bullet holes if he ever caught him teaching a slave to read again"; picture of slave with terrible scars on his back from being beaten; Frederick was whipped every week by his new master; new master proud of being "slave-breaker," whipped Frederick with branch of tree so hard that "he raised welts ‘as large as [Frederick’s] little finger’"; when Frederick passed out, new master kicked him and hit him on head with stick; owner tripped Frederick, "tried to get a noose around his ankles"; Frederick stood up to his master, tried to choke him, fought him for two hours, throwing him to the ground and into "pile of cow manure," drawing blood; runaway slave had pistol, got it out in case he needed it; slave said, "They may kill me, but I intend to kill one of them first"; runaway showed Allen "his lacerated back" from being whipped; Harriet Tubman whipped at age seven for stealing some sugar; "at thirteen [she] bravely tried to stop another slave from being whipped," was hit in head with two-pound weight, "causing blackouts for the rest of Harriet’s life"; "Confederate cannons opened fire on Fort Sumter," precipitating Civil War; "boys who enlisted learned to . . . suffer, . . . kill, [and] bury their friends"; "600,000 soldiers . . . were dead" at end of Civil War; mention that "one soldier in ten died of disease, one in ten was wounded, and one in sixty-five died in battle"; bully in Elisha’s company "cuffed [him] around," Elisha suggests duel, bully backs down; fifteen-year-old Confederate soldier who "went after his tormentor with a cocked pistol, older soldier shot and killed boy; Elisha stumbled over a corpse, "his intestines were all over his legs and several times their natural size"; Elisha hit in back of head by bayonet of man behind him who’d been killed, gets bullet in his arm; of thirty-two soldiers from Elisha’s village, only three alive after war; picture of "shoeless fourteen-year-old Confederate soldier" bayoneted in heart; Emma Sansom guided Confederate forces to river crossing "under heavy fire"; "everyone knew that if you could kill enemy’s drummer, you wiped out your foe’s communications center"; at battle of Shiloh, "shelling was . . . horrible," "cannonball fragment glanced off a tree and shattered [Johnny's] drum"; Johnny killed Confederate officer, hid among dead bodies; drummer boys "helped surgeons amputate and stack up limbs"; almost one third of soldiers in Andersonville prison "died of starvation, disease, or torture," it was "death camp," more than thirteen thousand soldiers died; prisoners who "crossed a rail fence twenty-five feet from the prison were shot by a guard"; prison commander put Billy and Dick on chain gang, had Billy "hung by his thumbs," "[his] tongue swelled, [his] head throbbed," his "flesh was cut to the bone by [his] weight"; commander shot prisoner who tried to give Billy drink, shot Billy twice in leg, commander pulled away by his own men; Billy yelled at commander, "I shall see you hang before I die"; Dick tried to grab officer’s throat, they fought; commander shot Billy in side; commander hanged as war criminal; men horribly wounded in battle, "many men lost arms and legs," mention of "men with their limbs blown off and mangled by the deadly shells"; General Sherman attacked Atlanta by "bombarding it from a distance with cannon fire" and cut off supplies to Confederate soldiers; Carrie reported cannon and musket fire, and shells bursting in their house, one hitting in garden; Confederates set train of ammunition on fire; Union soldiers set fire to homes in Atlanta; math problem from Southern school book about how many Yankee soldiers a Confederate soldier can kill; describing Sherman’s march to the sea, Eliza Frances Andrews wrote, "roads were lined with carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle that the invaders, unable either to consume or to carry away with them, had wantonly shot down to starve out the people"; when Vinnie’s family moved to Washington, D. C., during Civil War, they heard "cries of sick and dying soldiers"; mention of death of Lincoln’s son, Willie; Sacagawea captured at age ten by raiding party of Hidatsa Indians; Sacagawea may have "died of putrid fever"; in response to call for surrender from Santa Anna, Alamo fired cannon, and "Santa Anna’s cannon replied," shot tore through timbers; Santa Anna wanted whites in Texas "to help Mexicans kill the great horse Indians," who could attack "with lances and arrows," they could "dodge gunshots by clinging to the side of a galloping horse, and could even shoot from a sidesaddle position"; "they were finally stopped by . . . Colt’s revolving pistol . . . that could be fired from horseback"; Picture of battle of Alamo, somewhat graphic; Enrique’s father dies before his eyes, unarmed boy next to him killed, body fell on him; Davy Crockett surrendered with five others, they "were executed later at Santa Anna’s orders"; Mary’s baby sister died before they headed west; fourteen members of wagon train died after crossing Platte river; mention of Joseph Smith and his brother being killed by mob; another baby sister and her brother "died of starvation"; mention of Pony Express rider who was shot and killed; Bill claimed he killed 4,280 buffalo in one year; Chinese arrivals attacked by whites, things thrown at them, some pulled out of wagons by their braids, often arriving in China Town "covered with wounds and bruises and blood"; workers on railroad set gunpowder in holes on rock face, lit fuses, and were quickly hauled up, but some were killed; Teddy "kicked like a steer" when his father tried to tie him to his horse before they crossed river; Teddy’s brother loaded broken gun, and "near blew his hand off," his father "smashed [gun] with an ax"; passengers shot buffalo from train windows; man and horse killed in stampede; "U.S. army units . . . gunned down Indian men, women, and children," Indians forced "onto government-controlled ‘agencies’ and then given reservations on the poorest land"; some whites thought Indians should all be killed; Chuka’s father told him not to run away from school because "coyotes might eat you"; mention of Sitting Bull and Crow Foot killed by policemen who attacked them in their home; "armed police" rounded up children of Chuka’s village, forced them to go to school; all of Chuka’s children died as infants; mention of "a hand getting mashed, or a foot," but mill owner not concerned; 477 New York City children "were killed by cars" in 1922; man recalls "defending our playground through force of arms" against those building a parkway; if "breaker boys" in coal mine didn’t remove all the slate from rocks in chutes, boss hit their backs with broom; sometimes boys would throw "pieces of coal at boss who turned his back"; Joseph’s fingers "all cut up and bleeding"; Joseph fell asleep, bib of his overalls caught fire from his lamp;when federal troop sent to quell Pullman strike, "riots broke out," "thirty strikers were killed and hundreds injured"; picture of "six hundred freight cars burning" during strike; newsies "threw rocks at the men . . . hired to replace them"; ship crew member drew gun on boy who refused to get out of lifeboat to allow women and children on in his place; children of one family refused to leave mother behind, all drowned; John’s father died; John committed suicide when he was fifty-one; policeman broke two of Edna’s fingers taking her banner from her; police grabbed demonstrators and "forced them into a patrol wagon"; mention that black person could be shot for not saying "sir" to white man; boy murdered for selling newspaper urging Southern blacks to come to Chicago; mention of "racial fights breaking out"; mention of German submarines "sinking U.S. supply ships"; U.S. declares war in 1917; families displaced by dust bowl encountered "armed guards at the California State Line"; mob attacked German church, smashed windows, smeared "sanctuary with yellow paint"; at school, "students heard horror stories about German atrocities in Belgium and France"; influenza epidemic killed "twenty million people in less than a year," "killing soldiers so fast that doctors stacked up their bodies like wood"; mention of "tracer bullets and anti-aircraft fire"; Peggy’s father "boxed [her] up one side of the face and down the other"; mention that railroad police "had shot a bum off the top of a boxcar"; 2,403 Americans killed at Pearl Harbor; in sea battle, gun crew Calvin was assigned to "shot down seven Japanese planes"; during battle of Guadalcanal, ship "hit again and again," Calvin thrown "down three decks of stairs," mention of "reddened seawater," from "dead and wounded all around," screaming, Calvin hit in head "by a shell fragment," part of his mouth crushed, used belts from dead "to tie tourniquets for the living"; later "fell from a pier and broke his back and leg"; Terry fought "anyone who picked on [her] brother or sisters"; Anna Meyer threw ball to home plate that knocked catcher down; mention of "young people . . . sometimes sacrificing their lives to overthrow segregation laws"; mention that segregation laws "were often enforced by violence"; two policemen dragged Claudette off bus while she struggled "with all her might," "shoved her into a police car, pinned her arms back, and slapped handcuffs on her"; testifying in court was dangerous "because violence was a serious possibility"; <girl spits on her, mentioned twice; mob waiting for Little Rock Nine when they get to high school; police stop holding mob back, some people yell, "Lynch her!"; Little Rock Nine tripped at school, showers turned to "scalding, one "tripped on a broken bottle," deliberately placed; "people threatened to kill Elizabeth’s . . . father at work"; police use fire hoses against demonstrators, knocking children to the ground, into buildings, Carolyn felt like she’d been "slapped really hard" in the face, had to "hold on to a building so [water] wouldn’t push me down the sidewalk"; water rips hole in sweater, takes off all her hair on one side of her head; picture of Carolyn and "two schoolmates" being blasted with water cannon; journalists’ "photos showed young, nonviolent marchers being bitten by police dogs, clubbed in the head, and blasted by water cannons"; Carolyn answers phone, hears someone say, "Three minutes," doesn’t understand what it means—bomb goes off, four girls, Carolyn’s friends, killed by bomb, "twenty others were injured"; "talk show host offered to lend a gun to anyone who would shoot my dad," mentioned twice; mention of anti-war chant: "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?"; mention that President Johnson "was tormented . . . by the deaths of American soldiers"; John notes, "We were dropping bombs onto thatched roofs"; John’s friend asked by vice-principal at school, "Do you want a busted nose?"; someone phoned Tinker’s house on Christmas Eve, "threatening to blow up [their] house"; teacher says "protestors ought to be hung up by their thumbs"; former Des Moines high school student killed in Vietnam; Mexican farm workers’ "average age at death was forty-nine; many child workers died "in accidents that could have been prevented"; at Jessica’s school, "we were stood in a corner, or we got smacked" for speaking Spanish; Jessica’s friend killed "by a speeding truck"; Jessica worked as "translator for a family whose toddler had been killed by pesticides"; Cesar attended segregated school "where getting caught speaking Spanish meant being whacked hard across the knuckles with a ruler"; mention of Vietnam War "destroying the homes and shattering the families of many in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and other nations of Southeast Asia"; at twelve years old, "Arn was given a machine gun and forced into combat" by the Khmer Rouge against Vietnamese; sometimes Arn didn’t know if he "was shooting at a Vietnamese or a Cambodian"; picture of Khmer Rouge boy with gun; Arn finds out no one else in his family "survived the Khmer Rouge"; "AIDS had killed twenty-two million people" by 1997; Justinian Plague "wiped out more than half the people in the world between A.D. 541 and 700; Black Death "killed one-fourth of the population of Europe between 1347 and 1352"; "During the Middle Ages, smallpox wiped out hundreds of millions in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and . . . [in] the New World . . . killed millions of Native Americans"; Spanish flu "killed twenty million people throughout the world in less than a year in 1918"; Ryan died in 1990; picture of AIDS quilt in Washington, D.C. in 1992 with panels for each person "lost to AIDS"; Kory’s older sister "died from heart problems . . . probably caused by well water, contaminated by industrial cleaners."

Diego Bermúdez: picture shows Tainos with only small loincloth, mention that Columbus met by "thirty naked painted people"; The Tainos: mention of naked Indians; Pocahontas: mention that Indian children "ran almost naked in warm weather"; Saints: mention of mother about to give birth; Olaudah Equiano: picture of Africans being kidnapped shows bare-breasted woman, not graphic; Phillis Wheatley: mention that on auction block Phillis was "dressed only in a scrap of rug"; Private Deborah: doctor near end of war removes bandage from soldier’s chest—"got the shock of his career" when he discovered she was female; Manjori: boy "strips naked" so he can swim to ship to be rescued;Sacagawea: mention that Sacagawea was pregnant when she and her husband were hired to guide Lewis and Clark; Sacagawea "began to have unusually violent pains during the birth of her baby"; Mary Goble: mention of practice of polygamy as "husbands having more than one wife"; Chuka: learned at white school that "it is indecent to go naked in the presence of girls"; mention that a woman was pregnant; Arn’s Khmer Rouge uniform was "so badly torn it was almost like being naked"; subtitle, "Going to School with AIDS," (which Ryan contracted because of tainted blood in medical procedure); mention that AIDS "is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person"; sidebar, states, "[AIDS] can be transmitted by having sex with an infected person."

Mature Subject Matter:  

Many mature subjects covered; non-fiction overview of U.S. history.

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Diego Bermúdez: Even boys drank "strong white wine"; The Tainos:Indians "gave Spain" "tobacco (cigars that they smoked through their noses)"; Orphans: 2500 pounds of tobacco "exported to England in 1616," 50,000 pounds in 1618, in 1776, a million pounds; brides from England sold for 120 pounds of tobacco, called "tobacco wives"; Saints: mention of "barrel of wine" being spilled; Sybil Ludington: mention of liquor stored in warehouse and of drunken soldiers; James Forten: mention of boy receiving "thirty-five gallons of rum" as part of his payment for service on privateer; Caroline Pickersgill: mention that huge flag was sewn together at a brewery, beer kegs shoved aside to make room; George Fred Tilton: "George Fred’s bunk mate . . . got drunk and slit his own throat"; Maria Weems: slave owner was violent drunk;One Nation: "boys who enlisted learned to . . . smoke [and] drink"; Billy Bates: prison commander "hard-drinking" man; Sacagawea: Sacagawea’s husband "hard-drinking" man; William Cody:mention of Pony Express rider killed in saloon; Ng Poon Chew: arriving in US, Chinese workers were "frisked for opium"; Teddy Blue Abbott: sixteen-year-old Teddy "staggered out of a saloon" and had his picture taken, showing him with cigar in his mouth; at fifteen, Teddy started hanging out in saloons; Rose Cohen: "most workers smoked, so a thick blue haze hung over the shop"; "peddler brought in beer and whiskey from time to time"; Joseph Miliauskas: mule drivers would sometimes share his tobacco with his mule, and sang about chewing and spitting; Peggy Eaton: Peggy and friend show someone how to roll cigarette; Calvin Graham: mention that stepfather "drank heavily"; Joe Nuxhall:mention of women baseball players who smoked and drank;Ryan White: sidebar mentions that AIDS "can be transmitted . . . by sharing needles or syringes with an infected person."

Reviewed By CleanTeenReads
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