Monday, July 3, 2017

Celebrating the 4th of July: Picture books perfect for the moment (ages 3-8)

As we head into the 4th of July holiday, I'd like to share two picture books that are perfect for the moment. In my mind, this holiday celebrates the strength and independence of our country, as well as the values upon which our country was founded. I want to remind myself of the key phrases from the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
I want to find ways to talk with children about what it means that all people are created equal, that all people not only have the right to freedom but also the right to pursue their dreams. And that we must do so while respecting everyone else's rights.
Blue Sky, White Stars
by Sarvinder Naberhaus
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Dial Books / Penguin, 2017
Amazon / Your local library
ages 3-8
Inspiring paintings complement spare text perfectly, creating a stirring portrait of America. Naberhaus, an Indian American immigrant, and Nelson, an African American illustrator, begin with iconic images of our country, showing how elements of the American flag resonate today.
"Blue Sky / White Stars"
Paired images make clear associations between America's values and the diversity of our people, honoring all who have helped shaped our country.
"Well Worn"
The layered meanings of the text and images will lead to interesting conversations--about why the artist chose these images, and how they show our country changing and evolving.
"Stand Proud"
Sarvinder Naberhaus has put together a wonderful collection of resources to complement this beautiful book: Blue Sky White Stars website. Teachers will especially enjoy using this to deepen conversations with students. I especially appreciate this beautiful book's message of unity and diversity, together as one country.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
by Chelsea Clinton
illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Philomel Books / Penguin, 2017
Amazon / Your local library
ages 5-8
Chelsea Clinton's picture book is definitely building on the momentum of the current political climate, but it also captures an important value for this generation--encapsulating what it means to be a feminist.
"Sometimes being a girl isn't easy. At some point, someone will probably tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don't listen to them."
Inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren's stand against the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, Clinton uses the word "persisted" as she describes the contributions of 13 American women who stood up for change. The selection ranges from familiar icons, such as Harriet Tubman and Helen Keller, to lesser known leaders such as union organizer Clara Lemlich and physician Virginia Apgar.
"Clara Lemlich...wrote that the factory's conditions made women into machines, and so she persisted, organizing picket lines and strikes that ultimately helped win better pay, shorter hours and safer working conditions"
The real value of this book will come from conversations it might lead to, about these different women. Clinton limits her descriptions to two sentences, just touching on some of each woman's achievements. While some critics say that this makes the broad strokes ineffective (see this Kirkus review), I would argue that it allows the conversation to develop between the child and adult. I do wish that Clinton included an author's note and some sources for further reading, precisely because this might help guide an adult and child who might want to learn more to talk more deeply.
"Ruby Bridges... wouldn't be treated like a second-class student, and she persisted, walking for weeks past angry, hateful protesters to integrate an all-white elementary school"
I am struck by how the history books I read as a student ignored so many of these women. Only two of the thirteen were mentioned in my schooling. This is precisely why this is an important book to share with our young readers--to foster these conversations, so young readers will want to learn more.
"As the first woman to serve as both a U.S. representative and a U.S. senator, Margaret Chase Smith could have let that fact alone be her legacy. Instead, she persisted in championing women's rights and more opportunities for women in the military, standing up for free speech and supporting space exploration."
Illustrations © Kadir Nelson 2017, and illustrations © Alexandra Boiger 2017, shared with permission from the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Penguin Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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