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"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
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
A Fourth of July on the Plains,
written by Jean Van Leeuwen and
illustrated by Henri Sorensen, 1997
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.
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
I Hear America Singing,
written by Walt Whitman and
illustrated by Robert Sabuda, 1991
We Are America: A Tribute From the Heart,
written by Walter Dean Myers and
illustrated by Christopher Myers, 2011
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
written by Nancy I. Sanders,
with photographs by many, 2003
written by Kathy Ross and
illustrated by Sharon Lane Holm, 2003
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.)
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.
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!)