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|Capital days : Michael Shiner's journal and the growth of our nation's capital|
Author: Bolden, Tonya
Tells the story of Washington, D.C., through the story of an African American man, Michael Shiner, who lived there from approximately 1805 to 1880 and who kept a journal, excerpts of which are interspersed throughout the heavily illustrated text.
School Library Journal (+) (02/01/15)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (A) (02/15)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 02/01/2015 Bolden continues her documentary journey across less trodden African American territory, sketching a picture of Washington, D.C.’s growth from the War of 1812 to the post–Civil War era. She centers her account around the memoir of eyewitness Michael Shiner, which covers the years 1814 to 1869, but she adds details gleaned from other period sources that extend and enlarge the story. Shiner begins with the burning of D.C. by the British (when he was about nine) and ends with the claim that he had seen 11 presidents inaugurated. In between, he chronicles a rough-and-tumble life, but without any discussion of his time as a slave and few facts about his later years; despite Bolden’s efforts, he remains a shadowy figure. That’s in contrast to the robust picture of the city, with its colorful parade of fires, riots, political figures, and grand building projects. Along with plenty of period maps and images, the narrative is enhanced by multiple time lines and sidebars, a note on the manuscript’s history, and sources about Washington, D.C., and its African American populace. A broad, tantalizing glimpse of history in the making. - Copyright 2015 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2015 Among those serendipitous treasures unearthed in the Library of Congress archives is Michael Shiner His Book, the journal of a Washington D.C. Navy Yard worker who began life as a slave, died a free man, and kept a remarkable account, not of his own life, but of the places and activities around him. Bolden uses this journal as the framing work for her story of the early days of the nation’s capital, from roughly the time of its invasion and burning by the British in 1814 (which Shiner witnessed as a boy), through its reconstruction, and up until the time of Shiner’s own death in 1880. Bolden makes a laudable attempt to balance Shiner’s story with the capital’s, but Shiner’s precise vantage point as a laborer means that readers learn more about the details of daily work at the Navy Yard and less about the design and construction of the city, despite what the title implies. To redress the problem, Bolden includes timelines of D.C. events at the end of each section and lengthy quotations that reveal the change in attitudes toward the city as it morphs from makeshift meeting places amid a swamp to the formal layout of dignified government edifices we recognize today, additions that are informative but only tangentially connected to the journal. Period illustrations and maps supplement the text; an index, source notes, bibliography, and concluding remarks on Bolden’s research and Shiner’s family are appended. EB - Copyright 2015 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2015 Gr 4–6—This well-designed read details the story of Michael Shiner (1805–80), a slave in 19th-century America who eventually gained his freedom and who left a diary behind detailing an account of his life. Born into slavery in Maryland, Shiner came to Washington, DC as a child, where he was later leased by his owner Thomas Howard to the Navy Ship Yard. Shiner eventually purchased his freedom, started a family, and learned to read and write—skills that would allow him to start writing his journal. Bolden tracks Shiner's life, giving readers a unique view into the history of America's capital. Shiner wrote about major historical events, such as the burning of Washington, DC in 1814, as well more personal anecdotes that shed light on attitudes of the day, such as facing aggression from those who erroneously assumed that he was a runaway slave. Artifacts and documents from the time period are mixed in as well, and each chapter ends with a time line, effectively putting Shiner's life into context. VERDICT Well written and impeccably researched, this excellent title offers a uniquely personal look at history. A must-have.—April Sanders, Spring Hill College, Mobile, AL - Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.