A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Red, White, and Books: Celebrating the Fourth

Image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

"Every heart beats true
'Neath the Red, White, and Blue..."
~ lyrics from You're a Grand Old Flag,
written by George M. Cohan, 1906

In just a few days it will be time for those here in the United States to celebrate our country's birthday.  Backyard barbecues, patriotic parades, and fireworks are all great ways to say, "Happy Birthday, America!"  Another way to observe this special holiday is to read about it! :)  Here are a few of the Fourth-related books we've been reading at our house recently:

Apple Pie 4th of July,
written by Janet S. Wong and
illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine, 2002

A Chinese-American girl laments the fact that her parents are keeping their store/restaurant open on  America's birthday.  "No one wants Chinese food on the Fourth of July," she thinks.  In fact, she's dreaming of apple pie.  In the end, she discovers that America truly is a combination of different cultures, including Chinese (they invented fireworks, after all)... and she finally gets a slice of that pie, too.

I liked the way that Wong captures the various emotions of the main character.  I was also delighted by Chodos-Irvine's cheerful illustrations.


Happy Birthday, America,
written by Mary Pope Osborne and
illustrated by Peter Catalanotto, 2003

Osborne gives her readers a snapshot of an idyllic Fourth of July celebration in small-town America -- from a pet parade to a dance show to a firefighter water battle to a concert under the stars, complete with fireworks and fireflies.

I especially liked the last few pages of this book, where Osborne's prose seems almost poetic.


Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney!,
written by Leslie Kimmelman and
illustrated by Nancy Cote, 2003

With rhyming text and bright pictures depicting a multiculturally diverse community (including a family of brand-new citizens from India), this story follows young Jenny and her dog Rags around their town as everyone gets ready to celebrate the Fourth.


A Fourth of July on the Plains,
written by Jean Van Leeuwen and
illustrated by Henri Sorensen, 1997

Based on actual diary accounts and memoirs from people on the Oregon Trail in 1852, this book tells about the holiday celebration of a group of pioneers, through the eyes of Jesse, a lively, creative little boy.  Jesse is too young to go hunting with the men for a 4th of July feast, and can't help the women baking or the older girls sewing a flag.  Eventually, he and his friends come up with their own way to commemorate the day and make it special for everyone.

I appreciated the fact that this story was told from a boy's perspective -- most of the books I've read about this time period were written from a female's viewpoint.  VanLeeuwen does a good job describing life in a wagon train, making readers feel as if they were really there.


Summer Beat,
written by Betsy Franco and
illustrated by Charlotte Middleton, 2007

Summer -- particularly the Fourth of July -- is filled with sound, from the shhh shhh of the sprinkler to the sizzle of burgers on the grill to the fwit, fwit of spitting watermelon seeds to the fooooooooosh boom of the fireworks.  This book presents these sounds in a fun, rhyming text as young Em and her friend Joe play through the holiday.

I relished this playful little book, and so did my son, Ben!  It's one that we will read over and over again.


America the Beautiful,
written by Katharine Lee Bates and
illustrated by Neil Waldman, 2002

Bates's famous poem (later turned into a song) is paired with Waldman's gorgeous, vibrant paintings of well-known sights around the country, including Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Mount Rushmore.  This book also contains the music to the America the Beautiful song.  This book is a treat for children and adults alike!


I Hear America Singing,
written by Walt Whitman and
illustrated by Robert Sabuda, 1991

Whitman's famous poem from his Leaves of Grass collection (written in the mid-1800's) forms the text for this book, and Sabuda provides rich linoleum-cut illustrations for each line.


We Are America: A Tribute From the Heart,
written by Walter Dean Myers and
illustrated by Christopher Myers, 2011

Walter Dean Myers's free verse, his son Christopher's paintings, plus inspirational quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, Emma Lazarus, and others, combine to create a book celebrating "the freedom dream that is America: our struggles, our ideals, and our hope that we can live up to them".

I enjoyed the stirring poetry and the colorful, detailed artwork in this book.  I think it would be a good resource for teachers to use in their classrooms.


Lionel in the Summer,
written by Stephen Krensky and
illustrated by Susanna Natti, 1998

This early reader book provides four short chapters about Lionel, his family, and their summer experiences, including one chapter about the 4th of July.  (The other chapters focus on the first day of summer, running a lemonade stand, and going on a car trip.)  Using typical childhood situations and a dash of humor, Krensky has created an entertaining book for young readers.


Independence Day,
written by Nancy I. Sanders,
with photographs by many, 2003

With chapters about the beginnings of our nation, the Revolutionary War, 4th of July celebrations throughout history, and more, this nonfiction book offers quite a bit of interesting information about the USA's Independence Day, using easy-to-understand language for children.  It also contains several large colorful drawings and photographs.


Star-Spangled Crafts,
written by Kathy Ross and
illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm, 2003

This book is filled with fun, simple-to-create crafts to make your holiday celebrations even more festive!  The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, as well.  Some of the craft ideas inside include a popping firecracker puppet (with bubble wrap for sound effects), Betsy Ross's colonial hat, an Uncle Sam tissue box, and a patriotic antenna tassel.


If you're looking for a middle grade or young adult selection to read for the Fourth (or for any other time!), try the Seeds of America series, by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I've read the first two books in the series -- Chains (2010) and Forge (2010)-- and am eager to get my hands on a copy of the third book, Ashes (2011).  At our library, these books are shelved in both the middle grade section and the young adult section.  (Personally, I would also put them in the adult section!  I highly recommend them to  historical fiction fans of all ages.)

Chains, 2010
Thirteen-year-old Isabel is a slave, sold (along with her younger sister Ruth) to a well-to-do couple, living in New York, but loyal to King George.  Set against the background of the Revolutionary War and the battle of New York, this is a story about the quest for freedom -- the Patriots' fight for a new land without a king and Isabel's own struggle for independence.

I absolutely loved this book, and could NOT put it down!  I've enjoyed other works I've read by Anderson, but this one is my favorite by far.  Before reading it, I don't think I'd ever heard or thought much about the history of slaves in the 1700's, especially not in the northern colonies.  (Most of the books I've read about slavery took place in the South, around the time of the Civil War.) While I was certainly aware that there were slaves during colonial times, I don't remember reading about it before.  Anderson paints a gripping, poignant picture of this history, blending factual events with Isabel's heartbreaking story.

Forge, 2010
This book is told from the perspective of runaway slave Curzon, Isabel's friend.  (It can be read on its own, but readers will gain more insight into Curzon's and Isabel's struggles if they've read Chains first.) Curzon joins the Patriot Army, making his way to Valley Forge.  There, Curzon battles for America's freedom and his own, while all of the soldiers fight to survive the desperate conditions.

Though I preferred Isabel's story in Chains, Curzon's tale is also captivating.  (And in both, I learned more about the Revolutionary War than I ever did in any history class!) Anderson's writing really brings the bleak situation at Valley Forge -- and that of the slaves -- to life.


Have you read any of the books mentioned above?  If so, what did you think of them?  Do you have any other suggestions for good books to read for the Fourth?  I'd love to hear them, if you do!

(Psst... if you haven't read about the Big Blue Birthday Contest yet, please check out this post.  The grand prize drawing will be held tomorrow, so enter now for a chance to win!)

No comments:

Post a Comment