One of the first patriotic songs young Americans learn in school is “America,” more commonly known as “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.”
At some point, many also learn it shares its melody with the British anthem, “God Save the Queen.” What is not so familiar is how several different versions of the words have appeared through the years and how many groups and movements used these versions to fuel their efforts for expanded rights. From the tune’s first appearance in 1740s England as a way to support the monarch, during the Revolutionary War and beyond, lyrics were written and rewritten to reflect sometimes-conflicting causes. Murphy introduces various movements seeking civil rights and how they crafted verses to suit their particular causes. Short paragraphs provide context to introduce the variations, while single sentences in a larger type punctuate each spread. Readers are encouraged not only to learn about the song, but to write their own verses. Collier’s watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide an additional level of understanding and complement the narrative. Detailed backmatter, including extensive source notes, bibliography, resource list (including musical links), make this an enlightening addition to social history.
This examination of a well-known piece of music and the activism it inspired makes for a fascinating way to explore history. (Informational picture book. 5-9)