A handsomely illustrated account of the writing of our national anthem, in its historical context. Beginning with a note on the War of 1812 and concluding with one on the later history of Key and his poem, the prolific Kroll's narrative is straightforward, though sometimes unclear, especially in explaining the intricacies of how Key came to witness the battle as a ""hostage"" (a misnomer: he had arrived under a flag of truce to free a friend -- a mission in which he was successful; but they were simply detained during the battle). Key's approach to the British was courageous and, to modern eyes, extraordinary; unfortunately, the text's lack of clarity undermines its inherent drama. Andreason's formally composed realistic paintings are more effective; his skillful characterizations bring the events to life, while period detail and a nicely understated golden aura evoke the setting and the story's legendary status. Full text with piano score; map; bibliography of 12 children's books, 1935-1988; index.