Title: Which Way to the Wild West? Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn't Tell You About America's Westward Expansion
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Illustrator: Tim Robinson
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Concepts: trade, natural & human resources, incentives, property rights, economic role of government, discrimination, supply and demand, entrepreneurship
Review: The drive by American colonists westward involved an enormous effort to explore new territories, purchase land, engage in military force, create travel routes, set up homes in the frontier, and make a living in undeveloped areas. In the process, the country as we know it today gained its national borders, but at an enormous cost: the Native American population was virtually decimated through violence and disease, and those who survived had to relocate to reservations under precarious conditions.
Readers will recognize a range of economics lessons entwined in the historical accounts. These lessons include the establishment of international trade in beaver pelts, the role of incentives and entrepreneurship in fueling the gold rush, the importance of property rights in drawing settlers to the new territories, how cowboys worked to ensure that the supply of cattle met the demand for beef, and the magnitude of corruption during the construction of the transcontinental railroad.
This informative historical narrative uses a number of literary tools to catch the attention of younger readers who ordinarily may not enjoy reading their history books: vignettes, narratives of relatively unknown but fascinating events, puzzles, and cartoon-style illustrations. These techniques work well to help readers gain more familiarity with a tumultuous period of U.S. history.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children