AMERICA

A PATRIOTIC PRIMER

What does it mean to be an American? In her first effort for children, Cheney attempts to answer this question as well as encapsulate the entire history of the US through the familiar device of an alphabet book. Glasser’s (You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts, below, etc.) cheerful watercolor-and-ink illustrations are the greatest strength of this ambitious project, with endearing children of all colors, kinds, and cultures, and dozens of historical figures and sites rendered in carefully researched detail. Each page or spread includes a topic sentence, several smaller related vignettes, a large initial letter framing a related illustration, and often a border incorporating a hand-lettered quotation. Packing all this information onto the page requires a crowded, busy design (a challenge met quite well by the designer), and some very small treatments of type, which are really too small for most children to read by themselves. The multiple illustrations on each page preclude reading the volume aloud to a group, although the information and the concepts will work well in elementary classrooms. The most likely use for this is for teachers and parents who want to teach their children about US history, citizenship, and patriotic concepts, probably focusing on just a few pages rather than the whole volume at once. Though the concept and busy design require some extra effort, this well-meant exploration of our history and heritage packs a huge amount of information between its covers. (author’s note) (Nonfiction. 6-11)

Pub Date: May 21, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-85192-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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TWENTY-ONE ELEPHANTS AND STILL STANDING

Strong rhythms and occasional full or partial rhymes give this account of P.T. Barnum’s 1884 elephant parade across the newly opened Brooklyn Bridge an incantatory tone. Catching a whiff of public concern about the new bridge’s sturdiness, Barnum seizes the moment: “’I will stage an event / that will calm every fear, erase every worry, / about that remarkable bridge. / My display will amuse, inform / and astound some. / Or else my name isn’t Barnum!’” Using a rich palette of glowing golds and browns, Roca imbues the pachyderms with a calm solidity, sending them ambling past equally solid-looking buildings and over a truly monumental bridge—which soars over a striped Big Top tent in the final scene. A stately rendition of the episode, less exuberant, but also less fictionalized, than Phil Bildner’s Twenty-One Elephants (2004), illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (author’s note, resource list) (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-44887-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few...

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT FREEDOM

Shamir offers an investigation of the foundations of freedoms in the United States via its founding documents, as well as movements and individuals who had great impacts on shaping and reshaping those institutions.

The opening pages of this picture book get off to a wobbly start with comments such as “You know that feeling you get…when you see a wide open field that you can run through without worrying about traffic or cars? That’s freedom.” But as the book progresses, Shamir slowly steadies the craft toward that wide-open field of freedom. She notes the many obvious-to-us-now exclusivities that the founding political documents embodied—that the entitled, white, male authors did not extend freedom to enslaved African-Americans, Native Americans, and women—and encourages readers to learn to exercise vigilance and foresight. The gradual inclusion of these left-behind people paints a modestly rosy picture of their circumstances today, and the text seems to give up on explaining how Native Americans continue to be left behind. Still, a vital part of what makes freedom daunting is its constant motion, and that is ably expressed. Numerous boxed tidbits give substance to the bigger political picture. Who were the abolitionists and the suffragists, what were the Montgomery bus boycott and the “Uprising of 20,000”? Faulkner’s artwork conveys settings and emotions quite well, and his drawing of Ruby Bridges is about as darling as it gets. A helpful timeline and bibliography appear as endnotes.

A reasonably solid grounding in constitutional rights, their flexibility, lacunae, and hard-won corrections, despite a few misfires. (Informational picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-54728-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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