Ah, fall. Every part of the country has ubiquitous reminders that the seasons are turning and summer is gone. In the north and East, leaves are turning and the air is crisper. The South is watching the horizon for hurricanes. In California, we have few weather-related reminders that summer is ending. We have to rely on the school calendar to remind us of what the rest of the country already knows.

School is in session, and here that means that a new generation of California third-graders will be introduced to a unique part of California history: the Missions. Part of the fun will be re-creating in miniature the works of the Spanish and the Native Americans who built these Missions.

We are lucky here to have the Queen of the Missions available any time we want to visit, but still, how many of us can cite facts about its past? How many of us know where the cemetery is, or why the structure was built as a quadrangle.

The Lerner Group has reworked and reissued its popular series on the California Missions. Central Coast Missions in California features clean, clear layouts of each mission, always a great help for school projects. Each book in the series also features short chapters on the history of California in general and each mission in particular. The main difference between the updated version and the older edition is the simplicity of the language.

These books are designed for second- and third-graders and serve as a simple introduction to life at the Missions. The author tries to present the viewpoints of the Spanish, Mexican and Native American peoples who lived and worked these Missions.

For the most part, the answers are appropriate for the target audience, though somewhat simplistic. Older children will not be satisfied to hear that the Native Americans were upset with the Mission structure because they didn’t like all those rules. The conflict between Spain and Mexico is mentioned, and the author gives a clear explanation of the land grabs that occurred after the United States won its war with Mexico.

Lerner’s Exploring California Missions series is a wonderful introduction to California history and is the perfect aid for any student re-creating a favorite Mission for school. This series is not meant to supply all the answers your child will ever need, but to whet his or her curiosity.

» Central Coast Missions In California

» By June Behrens

» ISBN: 9780822508977

» Library Binding, 64 pages

» Lerner Publishing Group

» November 2007