October 2003

The story behind the song

By Amy Winstead, illustrated by Bob Dacey & Debra Bandelin
Review by
Share this Article:

The tale of Frances Scott Key, huddled in a prison off the coast of Baltimore, anxiously looking for the stars and stripes of the American flag, is the stuff of legend. Amy Winstead was taken by the story of the national anthem after visiting Washington, D.C., with her family and has written a lovely account of the song's evolution.

Blending fact and fiction, Winstead, who based her book, in part, on research at Fort McHenry, tells the story of Jed and Nathan McTavish, two boys who worked on their father's oyster boat in the Chesapeake Bay. While selling oysters to the American soldiers, the boys are captured by British sailors and taken to a truce ship to wait out the battle. The British sailors assure them that it will not take long for their troops to capture the fort, but Nathan and Jed are not so sure. They are "Yankee Doodles" through and through. From there, the story becomes a tale of watching and waiting. The boys meet others on the ship Colonel Skinner, Dr. Beanes and Francis Scott Key.

Lush watercolors burst into life as the battle begins in earnest. The McTavish boys tell the men that their father is serving in the Maryland militia. As an oysterman, he has a keen knowledge of the bay and the many ships sunk there. All the prisoners realize the difficulty of the battle when the rockets begin to fall, and the patriots' ammunition seems to miss its goal. But, in the morning, as we all know, the flag is still there, and the British are forced to retreat into the Atlantic.

The Star-Spangled Banner is a wonderful tribute to a beloved tune. Little readers will love the detailed pictures, from the soldiers' brightly colored uniforms, to the immense ships, to the red glare of the rockets. Brave and smart, Jed and Nathan are a wonderful pair of protagonists. Together, they help bring an unforgettable era to life.

For young readers who have wondered where the national anthem came from, this volume brings history to life with an exciting story and stunning illustrations. Readers curious about the real facts behind how Key's song came to be will be inspired to find out more.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner

By Amy Winstead, illustrated by Bob Dacey & Debra Bandelin
ISBN 9780824954628

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.