Give the Grandkids the Gift of Montana

[MONTANA FOR KIDS: THE STORY OF OUR STATE; ALLEN MORRIS JONES, BANGAIL PRESS, 2018]

By AARON PARRETT

If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas gift for your grandchildren, I think I may have found it for you. It’s called Montana for Kids: The Story of Our State, written and illustrated by Allen Morris Jones.

From Bangtail Press in Bozeman comes this lovely book for children in the 4- to 10-year-old range that tells the basic story of Montana in simple, straightforward language.

Each two-page spread features a significant facet of Montana history, ranging from the “The First Peoples” and “Horses” to “Steamboats,” “Butte, America,” and “Ranching.” Other spreads focus on significant historical events that every Montana kid should know about, such as “The Flight of the Nez Perce,” and “Vigilantes.”

Jones uses an interesting mix of historical paintings and photographs laid over a background of kid-friendly, collage-style art to illustrate the text.

The combination is just the right blend of engaging imagery for kids, reminiscent of Jon Klassen or Bill Martin, Jr. The narrative is bright and economical, which is perfect for introducing kids to history.

Consider this example of Jones’s deft prose, from the spread on Vigilantes: “A new sheriff, Henry Plummer, promised law and order. But when the crime wave only got worse after he was elected, some people thought that Plummer himself must be a road agent. They formed a “vigilance” group. These vigilantes began hanging people they thought were outlaws. Henry Plummer was one of their first victims. The crime wave slowed down, but the cure may have been worse than the illness. The vigilantes hung enough people that no doubt there were some innocents among them.”

Kids tend to be hard on books, and I am delighted that the publisher used heavy stock for this one, so that the pages are both easy to turn and will resist tears. A solid book feels good to hold in the hands, and too often production values get ignored when it comes to children’s literature. This is the kind of well-made book that tends to outlast more than one curious mind and a few sets of grubby hands — the sort of book that your grandkids will have to pass on to their own kids, eventually.

As this delightful journey through the important stories of Montana history is presented in such clear and plain language against the backdrop of such engaging illustrations, I’d be surprised if this book doesn’t end up in classrooms and libraries all across the state soon. MSN

Click here to order Montana for Kids: The Story of Our State

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