"Every so often there is a year when events converge in surprising ways," writes Martin W. Sandler. "And there was never anything quite like 1919." Few will argue with Sandler after reading 1919: The Year That Changed America. In nature and in number, the dramatic happenings of that period in U.S. history were staggering.
Each of 1919's six chapters tackles an event, or series of related events, of that year: Boston's deadly molasses flood; the passage of the Prohibition and women's suffrage amendments; the largest number of labor strikes of any year in U.S. history; hysteria-driven responses to postwar anxiety about the spread of communism, known as the Red Scare; and the Red Summer, the violent and racially charged period during which African Americans were first emboldened to organize against white oppressors.
Sandler, whose previous books for kids include Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II, seems to anticipate young readers' assumption that history is old news by providing "One Hundred Years Later" sections at the ends of most chapters; by connecting, say, the Red Summer's activism with the Black Lives Matter movement, Sandler illuminates the relevance of history. Harbored in 1919's chapters, which are copiously illustrated with photos, are two-page spreads presenting other high- and lowlights of that tumultuous year, such as the World Series scandal, during which the Chicago White Sox threw the contest. Many readers will leave this authoritative and absorbing book wishing 1919 both a happy centennial and good riddance. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author