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Walker, Sally M.: Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation.

3Q * 2P * J * S

Walker, Sally M. Boundaries: How the Mason-Dixon Line Settled a Family Feud and Divided a Nation. Candlewick, 2014. 208p. $24.99. 978-0-7636-5612-6. Index. Biblio. Author's Note. Source Notes. Photos. Epilogue.

The American colonies offered religious freedom to many, including the Calvert family (proprietors of the province of Maryland) and the Penn family (Pennsylvania). Once settling began, however, boundary disputes between these two adjacent colonies could not be resolved. Two astronomers, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, were hired for their surveying skills. Even with state-of-the-art instruments, the science of measuring latitude and longitude was still developing: "Imagine trying to draw a straight line from your home to the doorway of one specific building located eighty miles away with no reference points in between to guide your direction." The terrain was often difficult and unsettled, and frontier tensions were high. The task was finally completed, however, and the book concludes with a reflection on the public perception of the Mason-Dixon Line as a larger boundary between the slave and free states.

In Boundaries, nonfiction author Walker (Secrets of a Civil War Submarine [Lerner, 2005/VOYA June 2005]) discusses boundaries as a broad theme, from the early colonists' religious persecution to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Readers familiar with the popular perception of the Mason-Dixon Line as the divider between the North and the South may be surprised to find the bulk of the book focused on the origin of the line: the much smaller boundary dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania. Though primary sources abound, and there is plenty of excitement (the riot in Christiana stands out), lack of visuals make this a challenging read for those not especially interested in the topic. Additional maps would be helpful. This reviewer turned to the Internet at several points along the way. Still, it is a useful, informational text with strong science and math connections for middle and high school and public libraries. --Rebecca O'Neil.


5Q Hard to imagine it being better written.

4Q Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses.

3Q Readable, without serious defects.

2Q Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q.

1Q Hard to understand how it got published, except in relation to its P rating (and not even then sometimes).


5P Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday.

4P Broad general or genre YA appeal.

3P Will appeal with pushing.

2P For the YA reader with a special interest in the subject.

1P No YA will read unless forced to for assignments.


M Middle School (defined as grades 6-8).

J Junior High (defined as grades 7-9).

S Senior High (defined as grades 10-12).

A/YA Adult-marketed book recommended for YAs.

(a) Highlighted Reviews

(G) Graphic Novel Format

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Author:O'Neil, Rebecca
Publication:Voice of Youth Advocates
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2014
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