The flags that began flying right after September 11 might have faded a bit in the sun, but the feelings of patriotism they symbolize remain as strong as ever. Just in time for Independence Day, BookPage spotlights a number of books that will remind kids of what makes America so special.
Lynne Cheney, besides being the wife of the vice president, is an author and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Along with noted illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser, she has written America: A Patriotic Primer. This alphabet book follows the familiar routine, starting with A is for America, the land that we love. Each page is jam-packed with information about our nation its history, symbols and people. Cheerful watercolor-and-ink illustrations are filled with details about everything from how to fold Old Glory to the concept of patriotism to the philosophies of Jefferson, Madison and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As with many alphabet books, some letters work better than others, but readers will forgive the occasional awkward letter ( X marks the spot, Z is the end of the alphabet. ) because the illustrations are so interesting and marvelous. Children will pore over the pages and find new details in the borders each time they look at this book. Who would have thought a children's book would mention the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act?
Kids like to know about presidents. They remember that Abe Lincoln was skinny and wore a tall hat, and that George Washington had wooden teeth. After reading Michael Garland's hilarious The President and Mom's Apple Pie, they will never forget that William Howard Taft was an enormous man with an equally big appetite . . . and an excellent sense of smell. In Garland's charming tale, the rotund Taft pays a visit to a small town in order to dedicate a new flagpole, and everyone is all a-twitter. After the young narrator gets over the shock of seeing the president fill the doorway of the train (and I do mean fill), the whole town gets into the act of walking with Taft to the flagpole. Just as he approaches it, he suddenly sniffs the air and moves in the direction of a mysterious, wonderful aroma. Everyone follows the 27th president as he runs down the street and samples the variety of foods the city has to offer. From a big pile of spaghetti at Tony's Italian Village to ribs at Big Ed's Barbecue to steamed vegetables at Mrs. Wong's Hunan Palace, Taft is up to the task of searching for the marvelous aroma! Who cares if he has a little snack on the way? Well, Taft eventually finds the source of the intoxicating aroma: an apple pie baked by the narrator's mother. Garland's drawings are impossible to forget: Taft's enormous body looks like a bowling ball with tiny legs, and his handlebar mustache bisects his square head. A rollicking, memorable story.
Poet and author Janet S. Wong's newest offering, Apple Pie 4th of July, will make young readers reconsider the significance of the nation's birthday. The story is told from the perspective of a young Chinese-American girl whose family owns a Chinese restaurant. Like many children, she does not think her parents understand the world. Even though my father has lived here since he was twelve, even though my mother loves apple pie, I cannot expect them to know Americans do not eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July. Although the restaurant is open for business on the Fourth, the day wends on with nary a customer, and the sun lowers in the sky. But eventually patrons do arrive. They buy picnic food: chow mein, egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork, among other things, turning the Fourth of July into a celebration of America's multi-culturalism. Brightly painted illustrations that resemble collages reveal more details of the story. The narrator is decked out in all-American red, white and blue, and one of the customers is carrying a pie into the restaurant. The family, after feeding so many other families, climbs the steps to the rooftop of their restaurant, where they watch fireworks and eat their own apple pie. This vivid book is the perfect menu for a patriotic celebration.
Happy Birthday America!