Monday, June 23, 2014

The Star-Spangled Banner and We the People for kids

Just in time for Independence Day, Doubleday Books for Young Readers (Random House Kids) has released two new titles by Caldecott Medalist, Peter Spier. He has taken the words of two of our nation's greatest symbols, the Constitution and "The Star-Spangled Banner," and created two sprightly illustrated, perusable picture books,

We the People: The Constitution of the United States and The Star-Spangled Banner.


In We the People, it is the preamble to the Constitution that creates the story.  Short phrases ("We the people of the United States") appear on each double-spread page, accompanied by many small pen and watercolor vignettes relating to the phrase.  On many pages, such as "promote the general Welfare," the small paintings contrast our past and future.  One set of images shows a man with a three-cornered hat delivering the post on horseback.  The facing image is that of a U.S. mail truck stopping at a line of rural mailboxes.We the People has a copy of the original document as its endpapers, and contains a brief history of the Constitution and its entire text in the back matter. Names and images of the Constitution's signers are also featured.


The Star-Spangled Banner features large, often double-spread paintings for each line in our national anthem. The illustrations depict the 1814 Battle of Baltimore which inspired the lyrics.  The first two verses comprise the illustrated story, while the remaining two verses, along with the sheet music are included in the back matter.  Also included is an image of the original hand-written poem, a receipt for the 30' x 40' flag that flew over Fort McHenry (made and sold by Mary Young Pickersgill for the sum $405.90), a photograph of the battered Fort McHenry flag when it arrived at the Smithsonian Museum in 1907, and of course, historical information regarding the flag and battle.  The endpapers feature "A Collection of Flags of the American Revolution and Those of the United States of America, Its Government, and Its Armed Forces."


At 48 pages each, and a sizeable 12.5" x 9", these books offer young readers plenty of opportunity to peruse their many small characters and details. Both books should have a place in every school.


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