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THE SIGNERS by Dennis Brindell Fradin


The 56 Stories Behind the Declaration of Independence

by Dennis Brindell Fradin & illustrated by Michael McCurdy

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8027-8849-1
Publisher: Walker

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” It’s the most famous line in our most famous political document, neatly expressing what our country stands for. The Declaration of Independence has been called “the nation’s birth certificate” and, as our manifesto of liberty, has warranted many fine studies; this is another. Fifty-six short biographies tell the stories behind the document. Each biography starts with a lively lead sure to lure readers into each story. It’s a volume fun to browse, encouraging dipping in at will and looking for interesting anecdotes. Who was the youngest signer? The oldest? Who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Which signer had a niece more famous than he? Which signer do some historians consider the first president of the United States? The choice of font and the scratchboard illustrations lend a feeling of authenticity, as if the text is straight from a colonial newspaper. The volume is nicely organized, with an introduction providing the historical context for the biographies that follow and the afterword tracing the role of the document in subsequent American history. Fradin (Who Was Ben Franklin?, 2002, etc.) reminds readers of two misconceptions about the Declaration: July 2, 1776, was the day independence was voted on and should be the day we celebrate; July 4th was simply the day the document was adopted. Also, contrary to what most Americans think, the document was not signed by most members until later in August, not in a ceremony on July 4th. The volume, quite similar to Fink’s out-of-print The Fifty-Six Who Signed, will be a great resource for students doing research, though the bibliography only contains works for adult readers and not many recent works. This will be a fine match with Freedman’s Give Me Liberty! (2000) (maps, illustrator’s note, index) (Nonfiction. 10+ )