Book Review: The Boys in the Boat: For 8th Grade & Up

Note: If you purchase this book from we will send you the lesson we created to go with this book!

The Boys in the Boat

By Daniel James Brown

Book Review by Kristie Burns

We are adding this book to the 8th grade Earthschookling curriculum because it fits perfectly with the Waldorf Earthschooling method of teaching. It fits the following criteria:

Rudolf Steiner recommends that history is taught through the eyes of people who experienced it. The main characters in this novel experienced WWI, WWII, and the Great Depression – all topics we cover in 8th grade history class.

History comes alive in this book. I have to admit, that even as a teacher, I became more involved in this period of history than I have ever been in my entire life. I have read accounts of men on the front lines. I have taught this class and told stories of this period and have been a fan of Dorthea Lang (a photographer of the Great Depression) since I was a teenager. I even read “Grapes of Wrath”. But this book brings this period of history alive in a way I never thought possible.

This book ties together multiple events in history with ease. As a teacher you probably know that one of the dangers of history is teaching it in parts. Students end up knowing history but not always knowing where history fits into the rest of history. Timelines can help but this book goes beyond that. This book ties together so many significant events in history but instead of studying each one on it’s own, it ties them together in a beautiful way through the eyes of the characters in the book.

This book compliments your WWI, WWII, Great Depression and Industrial Revolution Blocks. This is the first book I have found that ties all these events together with such beauty and ease without being an actual history book.

The moral and social issues explored in this book are the ones our current eighth graders are also learning about in their own lives. This book supports the emotional, moral and spiritual journey of the Waldorf Earthschooling eighth grader. By eighth grade students are ready to assert themselves more in the world. They study the American and French Revolutions and the Industrial Revolution and their consequences. They are encouraged to form more of their own opinions. By the time young people have finished all eight grades at a Waldorf school, they understand something about many aspects of the world they inhabit. The graduating eighth grader is prepared, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to face young adulthood with enthusiasm and confidence. This book will challenge them on those levels in so many ways. You will thank yourself as a parent and/or teacher that this book exists to give your eighth grader such insight into what the life of an eighth grader to college student was like back in the 1930s.

There is a lesson we created to go with this book. Note: If you purchase this book from we will send you the lesson we created to go with this book!

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