A readable holiday offering that flows smoothly along in a stream of anecdotes and interesting facts. Giblin launches his short historical synopsis with ""What led up to the Declaration of Independence?""--and ends it with an emphasis on the ""meaning"" of the declaration, that government must be by consent. Meanwhile we see cheering patriots ripping down the king's coat of arms when the announcement is made that Congress has adopted the Declaration, with only New York abstaining. Early celebrations are noted, and the deaths of both Jefferson and Adams on July 4, 1826, on the 50th anniversary. Then come chapters on the evolution of the flag, fireworks, and Fourth-of-July picnics; the composition of particular patriotic songs--and of the famous painting The Spirit of '76; the ""real Uncle Sam""; the official adoption of the bald eagle over Franklin's objections; the Liberty Bell; special celebrations across the country--from kayak races in Alaska to a fence-painting contest in Hannibal, Mo.; and the Centennial and Bicentennial celebrations. Giblin ends, echoing a Bicentennial Committee report to the President, with the reminder that Independence Day is a time both to celebrate and ""to examine ourselves as Americans."" The book's format, with pleasant unobtrusive drawings on every page, gives it a light, inviting look.