JanetHellerJanet Ruth Heller
Fiction Writer, Poet, Playwright, Educator, Memoir Writer, and Literary Critic: Review of Barbara Ann Mojica’s Little Miss History Travels to Mount Rushmore, with illustrations by Victor Ramon Mojica, Eugenus Studios, 2012.

This picture book for children ages 7 to 12 is chock-full of details and statistics about the carvings of four United   States presidents’ faces on Mount  Rushmore, which were executed from 1927 to 1941.  Statistics include the annual number of visitors to the monument, the scale of the carvings compared to an average person, the number of steps that workers had to climb, the amount of stone that was hauled away after carving, and the number of people who worked on the project.

Mojica explains why Jefferson appears on the left side of Washington, instead of on his right.  She also explains why sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved only heads, rather than torsos, as he originally planned.  Readers also learn which historical documents the unfinished Hall of Records holds.  The emphasis on nonfiction presented concisely and energetically should appeal to children and to schools trying to implement the new Common Core standards.

Mojica also explores the Native American heritage of Mount  Rushmore.  A new memorial to honor Crazy Horse will be built near the four presidents.  Mojica points out that James Anaya has suggested that the United States return the lands around Mt. Rushmore to the Native Americans.  She asks readers for their reaction to this idea.  Questions like this will stimulate children to do critical thinking, an important skill for success in school and in life.

The illustrations by Victor Ramon Mojica add humor and colorful details to the book.  He portrays Miss History as a lanky girl with knobby knees and red sunglasses.

Barbara Ann Mojica is a historian and retired educator.  She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history. She taught for more than 40 years in New York City and holds New York State teacher certifications in elementary, special education, and administration. She also spent several years as a special education administrator and principal of a special education preschool for developmentally delayed children.  Her background definitely qualifies her to write about American history for children.

The one criticism that I would make of this work is that the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level of 8.7 is too high for a picture book.

The first in a series of books about American monuments, Little Miss History Travels to Mount Rushmore begins with a rhymed preface and ends with a promise to explore the Statue of Liberty next.